The Cathedral parish of Ruhengeri in Musanze District risks being closed after priests, on Sunday, October 11, were found holding services contrary to the issued safety and standard COVID-19 prevention guidelines.
On Sunday, Police and local leaders conducted an inspection in various churches that were permitted to hold religious services in the region, to assess their compliance.
Countrywide, majority churches have continued to follow the recommended safety guidelines during their respective services.
"Out of 72 churches that were inspected in Musanze, Gakenke, Gicumbi and Burera districts, only one--Ruhengeri Cathedral--was found holding services contrary to the directives; it was simply a chaotic situation... everyone there was at high risk of infection," ACP Reverien Rugwizangoga, the Nothern Region Police Commander, said.
He added: "In the main Cathedral, benches that are designated for two people had four; there was also another chapel, where only the elderly had congregated, congested, praying and in total disregard of social distancing. This was quite absurd, subjecting such a vulnerable group to this level of risk."
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 is often more severe in the elderly, especially people who are older than 60 years or who have health conditions like lung or heart disease, diabetes or conditions that affect their immune system.
The two priests; Father Emmanuel Ndagijimana, who was presiding over the service inside the main Cathedral, and Father Felicien Nsengiyumva, who was heading the service for the elderly in the chapel, have been penalised accordingly, for the violations.
"Our role as the Police is to implement the directives and ensuring that any issued guidelines are followed. We have equally informed other relevant authorities, and any decision that will be taken against this church for violating the directives... we will ensure that it is implemented accordingly," ACP Rugwizangoga said.
We remind religious denominations particularly those that were permitted to resume services, to follow strict safety guidelines as issued by relevant authorities and to be responsive in preventing the spread of COVID-19.