Lome – Togo’s government has ordered all places of worship to shut down for one month starting on Friday, following a “worrying upsurge” in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
The West African nation of about eight million people has recorded just over 23 000 cases and 203 deaths but the true tally could be higher given low testing rates.
“The number of deaths keeps increasing,” Didier Koumavi Ekouevi, president of the country’s scientific council said on Wednesday.
“In June, we had four deaths, in July 22 and in August 33. We are recording four times more patients.”
From Friday, weddings and funerals are banned, as well as cultural, sporting and political events, the government said.
Outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the capital Lome, Delphine Oudjor said she was against the closure of churches.
“But I am for raising awareness, because if people are educated, they will know how to avoid getting covid,” she said.
A spokesperson for the cathedral, Robert Aytevi, said the shutdown was “a bit difficult, financially” because “the church has to continue operating”.
Bars and nightclubs have also been ordered to close temporarily.
The authorities warned that sanctions would apply to those who violate the new measures.
“Due to a worrying upsurge of Covid-19 cases in our country… the government would like to issue a reminder that restrictive measures are still in place,” it said in a statement on Thursday.
Togo’s borders have been shut since March 2020.
There are currently more than 4 800 active cases in Togo and officials warned hospitals are overwhelmed.
The largest treatment centre in Lome has a capacity of 200 with 30 in intensive care.
“Currently it’s one in, one out, even for those who have serious symptoms,” said Ekouevi.
Most new cases, he added, are people who are not vaccinated.
Togo, with a population of 8.8 million people, has so far received about 1.6 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
Picture: Getty Images