Authorities of the Lutheran Church in Liberia have suspended all public gatherings of church members to help combat the spread of the coronavirus across the country.
The church’s decision, which took effect, March 19 and lasts until the end of the month, means that all Sunday and midweek services are canceled for more than 10,000 Lutherans across Liberia.
“I call on all pastors and staff of projects and programs of the Lutheran Church in Liberia to suspend work beginning March 20 and work from home until March 31, 2020. During this period, an assessment will be made to determine further actions,” Rev. D. Jensen Seyenkulo, Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia said.
The move by the Lutheran church came a few days after Providence Baptist and the United Methodist Church in Liberia have taken similar action to suspend congregational services. It also follows a call by President George Weah for Liberians to avoid public gatherings and large crowds.
The move by the UMC to suspend all church activities came after members from one of its branches got in contact with a suspected carrier of the coronavirus, who was eventually tested negative.
“As of today, all meetings that involve more than 10 persons are canceled until April as well as activities of the Lutheran School System, and the church’s central office Liberia,” Bishop Seyenkulo said. “Only essential staff will be working.”
Bishop Seyenkulo further indicated that in the absence of church activities, each congregational pastor and church councils should work out ways to maintain pastoral care and spiritual growth of the members.
“Congregation members are urged, with the guidance of their pastors, to work, worship, and stay in the center of the word of God in your homes with your families, ” he said.
Meanwhile, Bishop Seyenkulo has instructed the church pastors to conduct funerals at homes with no more than 25 people present as well as burial.
“There will be no repast or funeral meals at this time,” the Lutheran Bishop said. “If desired, a later memorial service may be held when this crisis is over.”
Currently, Liberia has two cases of the virus and the government says it has documented 127 contacts — 23 high-risk and 104 low-risk contacts since the former EPA Executive Director was diagnosed positive with the virus.
However, the government has disclosed that it has run 18 other tests from the high-risk category and all came out negative but one is “indeterminate” and will be repeated.
Despite this, experts say the country is still at risk of a major spillover from the two coronavirus cases because of the 23 high-risk individuals identified by the government.
They added the fact that some people may carry the virus without showing any symptoms, though the incubation period for the coronavirus is 2 to 14 days after exposure, which is another reason why there is huge potential for a larger outbreak in the country.