Despite lifting the ban in religious activities, the Federal Government has advised people with health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, HIV, among others, to stay at home to worship.
The government stated this through the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 Control in released newly released guidelines for states to follow in discussions with religious leaders before the reopening of churches and mosques for worshippers.
The government said the protocols made available would be the baseline which the states are not expected to go below while firming up agreement with religious leaders.
Nigerians have been pressuring the government to reopen worship centres in spite of the spike in COVID-19 positive cases, leading to easing of restrictions on religious centres.
The PTF National Coordinator, Dr. Aliyu Sani, who announced the guidelines said religious centres should keep a record of attendees.
Dr. Sani said this would allow for contact tracing in the case of virus spread.
He urged worshippers experiencing common symptoms of COVID-19 to stay away from churches and mosques.
He said: “We are strongly advising vulnerable individuals such as those with underlying conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV, cancer and those above the age of 55 years to please stay at home and consider remote participation or non-contact attendance.
“When we look at the death rate for persons who have died from COVID-19 in Nigeria, the case fatality rate; more than half of those that died were above the age of 50.
“Secondly, the case fatality rate if you are above the age of 50, is 17 per cent. If you are above the age of 55, it is 18 per cent. It is almost a one in five chances of dying if you catch COVID-19 and you fall within that group.
“Worshippers should be reminded not to attend in person if experiencing common symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath or have had close contact with an infected person in the last 14 days.
“All worshippers noted to have temperature or are symptomatic should be turned back and not allowed admission.
“Places of worship should ideally keep up to date record of their staff including contact details and if possible, a record of attendees of church services for instance or a even small mosque to enable contact tracing in the event that somebody comes up positive.
“Considering the dangers posed by the pandemic, we strongly recommend that religious visits to homes by religious clerics should be discouraged.”
The national coordinator said: “It is important to note that due to the nature of religious congregations, places of worship are particularly recognised to have a major potential for spreading COVID -19 infection among worshippers and this has been clearly demonstrated in several outbreaks globally linked to religious gatherings.
“Places of worship that are unable to comply with these measures should not be allowed to operate by state governments.
“Churches are to open from 5am and close by 8pm. Each service should be for a maximum of one hour with an interval of 20 minutes in-between services to allow time for disinfection.”
He added that the task force will not hesitate to shutdown religious centres if they fail to comply with the protocols developed for their reopening.