“The faith community is an integral part of South African life and has made a great contribution in the fight against the coronavirus,” said South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa on a televised broadcast as he led the National Day of Prayer on 26 May.

With over 20,000 infections and 500 deaths in South Africa, he recognised the important role of the faith community in the provision of spiritual support and social relief, acknowledging that “much of it has been done under extremely difficult circumstances and with minimal resources.”

During the broadcast streamed online and on radio, he spoke about their “responsibility to take care of the spiritual, psychological and emotional well-being of all South Africans”, and his belief that “prayer will comfort and strengthen us as we continue to confront this pandemic.”

The President went on to highlight how noble values were exemplified by faith communities in the crisis, as they offered their facilities for quarantine, screening, testing, and school lessons, or as places of shelter for survivors of gender-based violence. In addition, they contributed to charitable works of helping the needy, feeding the hungry and caring for the sick.

Mr Ramaphosa also paid tribute to their efforts during the nation-wide lockdown, where they encouraged people to remain focused and consistently reminded people that the lockdown regulations were in place for the common good and the welfare of all.

With the move to coronavirus alert level 3 on 1 June, he gave an update on provisions for the religious sector following a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council which considered the inputs made by the sector in recent consultations with interfaith leaders. With careful easing of current restrictions, places of worship may resume services for up to 50 people or less, with protocols to ensure social distancing, sanitation, and avoidance of any religious ritual that could pose a risk to worshippers.