Siaya thrust into anxiety after clerics’ blunders

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020 00:00 |
Rome-based priest Father Richard Oduor interacts with residents and faithful in various functions in Siaya. Photo/PD/FILE

Eric Juma 

In a clear, ungodly act borne out of the recklessness by three clergymen, Siaya county residents have been thrown into anxiety and panic over a possible outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in the area. 

 The villagers are sitting on the edge following revelations that another cleric, who closely interacted with Rome-based priest Richard Oduor has been airlifted to Nairobi with Covid-19-like symptoms.

 Fr Odour had flown into the country from Rome, the now global epicentre of the pandemic which has been claiming up to 700 lives a day.

Another cleric, pastor James Oyoo,  jetted into the country last week and  ignored the 14-day self-quarantine directive and engaged in preaching on Sunday at Jesus Celebrations Centre in Siaya.

 The actions of the three shepherds who have taken oath to alleviate human suffering have exposed hundreds of vulnerable lives to grave danger.  

Revelations about the yet-to-be identified Ugunja Catholic priest, who spent the better part of last Saturday with the colleague who tested positive for coronavirus has alarmed authorities prompting his quick transfer to the capital.

 Godwin Omolo, a resident, who hosted Fr Oduor during his stay in Siaya has also been isolated.

Also isolated are 30 nuns visited by the priest at a convent in Lwak and members of the family where the cleric presided over a funeral mass.

 Siaya deputy county commissioner Joseph Sawe, acting on a tip-off from the public, questioned the pastor through the phone before security and health teams were dispatched to his residence.

“We quickly mobilised coronavirus surveillance and response team and ran several tests. Our worry is that he failed to observe the 14 days either in Nairobi or Siaya,” said Sawe.

But the clergyman defended his movement, saying health teams at JKIA cleared him.

 “I jetted into the country from US last week aboard KQ flight 510 and was subjected to thorough screening at the airport and did not test positive that’s why I boarded a bus to Siaya,” said Oyoo, who also admitted to being in church on Sunday but has since remained in the house to monitor his situation.

Ban services

The series of blunders has thrust Siaya county right in the thick of coronavirus hotspot as authorities work round the clock to round up and isolate every individual known to have made contact with the infected.

“We are still tracing those who went to the burial including those that were served sacrament by the Rome-based father,” said County Commissioner Joseph ole Tialal.

Meanwhile, the Siaya County Church Leadership forum has warned pastors against defying the government’s ban on gatherings.

Led by their chair James Opiyo, they said the order is not a strategy to glorify works of the devil but concise efforts to mitigate spread of Covid-19.

“All worshippers will stay home and hold prayers as a family in their houses as that is the only way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 that has engulfed parts of Siaya county,” said Opiyo.

This comes only three days after the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) termed as impractical directives being issued by the government in the fight against the spread of coronavirus.

Bondo ACK  Bishop David Kodia  termed as impractical and illegal, directives being issued by various county governments in the wake of the coronavirus cases.

Speaking on Friday, Bishop  Kodia of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) said most of the orders were not anchored in law and cannot be implemented.

The bishop, who leads the Bondo diocese, cited banning of church services by some county bosses as illegal.

 “It was also impractical to have people buried the same day in some communities because of culture,” added Kodia

The government on  Sunday banned gatherings in all places of worship in a renewed bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe banned weddings and communal worship, saying it was illogical for people to attend gatherings where they risked infection.

“Let us not forget that Italy began its unfortunate experience through the decision of some people to continue attending gatherings, including religious ones, as if nothing had happened. 

“On Sunday, Italy lost 784 people within 24 hours. We will not escape a similar fate if we do nothing to address the risk in such gatherings,” he said. 

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho directed administration officials to ensure all places of worship remain closed.

“Ensure all churches, mosques and temples are closed. If any are found open within your area, you will be held personally responsible,” said the PS

More on National