Nigeria Arrests Pastor, Ghana Halts Funerals to Curb Virus

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Nigerian police arrested a pastor and raided churches as the West African nation stepped up efforts to enforce a ban on large gatherings and contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In the past week, dozens of African nations have shut their borders, grounded planes and closed schools and bars as the case count across the region increased to more than 1,200 people. Rwanda went a step further, banning travel between cities and any “unnecessary movements and visits outside the home” from Sunday.

Still, there’s been resistance from religious leaders on a continent where millions of people frequent churches and mosques regularly, with several ignoring the call for social distancing.

In Nigeria, which identified the first patient with the coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa on Feb. 27, police without face masks or gloves stormed into churches in the southern Ogun state to enforce the ban, according to videos on the state government’s Twitter account. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, with about 200 million people.

“We had to shut down a few services today as some pastors have not complied with the order,” said the spokesman of Lagos Police Command, Bala Elkana. “We cannot allow the virus to spread beyond the level that the health facilities can handle. We will continue to enforce the ban until we have full compliance.”

The number of cases in Nigeria has almost tripled this week to 30. The state governor of Lagos, the country’s commercial hub, ordered most state workers to remain at home for two weeks.

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In nearby Ghana, a security task force stopped a funeral service in the Nanumba North municipality and a pastor was arrested in another region for not complying with the restrictions, local media reported.

— With assistance by Saul Butera

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