President Cyril Ramaphosa has reached an agreement with religious leaders to postpone or cancel all large church gatherings ahead of Easter weekend services.
This follows a meeting with inter-faith religious leaders at the presidential guest house in Pretoria to discuss ways on how to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in South Africa.
There are 116 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, according to the department of health.
However, there are no confirmed deaths from the virus.
Around the world, countries are adopting sweeping measures to stem the spread of the virus, including shutting down airports, imposing travel restrictions and closing borders.
Ramaphosa said the agreement with interfaith religious leaders to postpone religious activities followed long and protracted negotiations.
The meeting was attended by representatives from the Methodist Church, Muslim Council and Reverend Barnabas Lekganyane of the Zion Christian Church, which boasts over 16 million members.
“The announcements by the Methodist Church cancelling Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, by the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) that the Friday prayer has been cancelled, and by the Zion Christian Church that the annual Moria pilgrimage has been cancelled were no doubt reached through great difficulty,” said Ramaphosa.
“Our focus is on keeping people safe and healthy. Millions of South Africans are at risk of contracting coronavirus not just in places of worship, but in buses and taxis, in the workplace, and even in their homes. This risk is greater in poor communities, many of which do not have access to safe and clean drinking water, and who are forced by circumstances to live in close proximity to others. Given the high prevalence of HIV, Aids and tuberculosis, COVID-19 could have a devastating impact on our society.”
Meanwhile, Presidency distanced itself from a Facebook group titled President Ramaphosa SA, posted on Wednesday evening and calling all South Africans to stay indoors at 10:00 on Thursday because “there will be helicopters spraying chemical solutions the whole of South Africa. (sic)”
The Facebook page has since gained over 80 000 followers.
The government has also warned citizens about criminals pretending to be department of health officials conducting COVID-19 home screenings.
News24 reported on Thursday that Netcare Group, Netcare hospitals and Netcare 911 and Medicross have warned that no staff members from their group are conducting home testing for coronavirus.
“Please note that staff members from the Netcare Group, including Netcare Hospitals, Netcare 911 or Medicross medical and dental centres, are NOT doing door-to-door COVID-19 screenings,” said Netcare in a statement.