Gaborone — The maximum number of people allowed at a church service as per COVID-19 regulations is set to increase from 50 to 100, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi has said.

Welcoming faith-based organisations leaders to the Office of the President yesterday, President Masisi said cabinet had agreed to the change following a recommendation by the COVID-19 presidential task team.

While the state recognized the important role of the church in society, public health considerations had to be given the utmost priority given the threat COVID-19 posed, Dr Masisi said.

He explained that while some had argued for churches to be allowed to host an even larger number of congregants at services, their capacity to respond in the event of an outbreak and for contact tracing when a large group of people was involved had to be considered.

President Masisi said Botswana continued to take the pandemic seriously because of its adverse effects on the country’s economy.

The general public as well as organisations were urged to similarly always take necessary precautions.

Botswana Network of Christian Communities (BONECCO) and Botswana Christian Council (BCC) president, Bishop Metlhayotlhe Beleme said the church had been engaged in the battle against COVID-19.

Bishop Beleme however said the Christian community had struggled during the pandemic.

With restrictions on the number of people allowed at church services and movement of people generally constrained, he said the church was handicapped in performing its duty of spiritually empowering society and promoting moral regeneration.

He said the organisations had hoped for at least 300 people per service given that different churches had varying carrying capacities.

The bishop said faith-based organisations would continue to engage government on their plight.

Accompanying Bishop Beleme were Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) president, Apostle Moffat Lubinda, Organisation of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) president, Mr Mookami Motlhagodi and BCC general secretary, Rev Gabriel Tsuaneng.

BONECCO unites the three main Christian bodies in the country – BCC comprising mainline church denominations such as Roman Catholic, UCCSA, Lutheran and Methodist; OAIC a fellowship of African instituted denominations such as Zion Christian Church and Spiritual Healing Church as well as EFB constituting Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

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