SEVERAL churches have issued notices to their congregants stating that they will not reopen just yet, despite President Edgar Lungu’s directive yesterday.

Noting the resistance, Minister of Religious Affairs Reverend Godfridah Sumaili has issued a statement via PF sponsored Facebook page, Smart Eagles, saying churches will receive further guidelines on how to protect their members by midday today.

Addressing the nation for the third time since COVID-19 was detected in Zambia, President Lungu announced that Zambia had recorded eight new cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, four of which were health workers.

President Lungu, however, decided to reopen churches with a condition that they adhered to prevention measures like social distancing and wearing of masks.

“Based on the lessons and experiences learnt from the last one month where we have generally done well with containing the COVID-19 pandemic, we now know that we need to be cautious in reopening the key areas of our economy subject to public health regulations, guidelines and certification.We are still determining the extent of the disease through escalated testing and screening to assess when we shall reopen our economy fully,” said President Lungu.

“However, I have decided that some activities such as the following may continue being undertaken normally subject to adhering to public health regulations, guidelines and certifications: Places of worship may congregate while observing social distancing, mandatory face masks and sanitizing and hand washing guidelines; sporting activities such as golf and tennis, which do not involve physical contact between players where the sport is played in non-crowded space, can begin to be played but bars in those premises will remain closed; barbershops and salons may continue to operate with strict adherence and observing social distancing and regular sanitizing and hand washing.”

But some churches, led by the Catholic Church, have resisted the reopening order.

Archbishop of Lusaka Alick Banda issued a notice saying public celebrations would not resume until further guidance was issued by the ministry.

Northmead Assembly of God executive board secretary elder Gibstar Makangila also issued a notice, saying the church would continue holding online services.

“We welcome and appreciate the resumption of these services, as announced by the Republican President H.E Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, we are proceeding cautiously with necessary preparations to ensure a healthy and safe environment that takes into account the prescribed public health regulations currently subsisting. We will advise the date of reopening in due course,” stated elder Makangila.

Meanwhile, the Seventh Day Adventist Church also issued a notice that there would be no services today.

Noting the resistance, Rev Sumaili said clarity on how to protect congregants would be issued today.

“Following the pronouncement by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu to allow Churches to worship normally subject to strict observance of the measures put in place by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs will, in greater detail, give clarity by outlining what is expected of the Churches in ensuring protection of Congregants and the prevention of human to human transmission,” Smart Eagles reported.

“This will be done in Consultation with the Ministry of Health, the Church Mother Bodies and other Religions Organizations. In this regard, guidelines will be ready by mid day tomorrow, Saturday, 25th April, 2020. We profusely thank His Excellency the President for His wise leadership and for the respect and confidence he has in the Spiritual Leadership of this country.”