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Sanction clerics who make COVID-19 faith healing claims

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Sir: The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should put in place measures to punish all clerics – pastors and prophets, mallams/imams, traditional priests and others who claim to have healed or could heal coronavirus patients through faith or prayers. Such claims represent the height of collective insensitivity and irresponsibility at this critical time in history. They undermine the efforts of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other public health agencies to contain and combat this vicious pandemic. 

Recently, a growing number of clerics in Nigeria have made claims of healing COVID-19. While some pastors claimed to have already healed some patients, others have offered to pray for those who have the disease. For instance, Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church a.k.a Winners Chapel stated that 114 members of his church had been healed of COVID-19. “We have recorded 114 coronavirus healing testimonies. We got 10 this week,” this cleric reportedly said. 

In a related development, Pastor T B Joshua of the Synagogue of All Nations has expressed readiness to pray for coronavirus patients.

Apostle Suleman has made similar proclamations. He claimed to have healed persons who had the virus and went further to urge the government to allow him into the COVID-19 isolation centres to pray for the patients. Another pastor in Calabar popularly known as My Father is selling COVID-19 preventive oil for a hundred dollars. He has urged the governor of Cross River State to allow him to pray for the coronavirus patients including those who have died as a result of the infection.

Other pastors have made similar reckless and irresponsible claims about healing COVID-19. They have been trying to give Nigerians false hopes and spurious remedies for the disease. In a country with limited capacity to test and manage the pandemic, it is unconscionable for clerics to promote bogus healing claims.

COVID-19 is a public health emergency that requires uttermost care, diligence, expertise, and evidence-based knowledge. Coronavirus faith healing claims constitute a dangerous public health trend that must be nipped in the bud.

In many countries, the spread of COVID-19 infection has been linked to activities of clerics and other faith healers. Some faith healing pastors have contracted and died as a result of the virus. Thus it is imperative to call these faith healing pastors to order and help bring an end to the scourge of misinformation about the pandemic in Nigeria. NCDC should penalise clerics that make these claims, deregister churches that peddle coronavirus faith healing testimonies and other wacky healing propositions or rituals. WHO has declared that there is no cure for the coronavirus. The global health agency has outlined directives for the management of the pandemic including social distancing, washing of hands and the use of face masks. Faith healing is not reckoned as an effective and proven means of containing the pandemic.

Instead, faith healing enables the spread of the infection and goes contrary to evidence-based mechanisms for combating the virus.

NCDC and other relevant agencies should rise to their duties and responsibilities and sanction clerics who violate the guidelines for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leo Igwe.


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