March 21, 2020 / 6:06 PM / 14 days ago

Kenya holds day of prayer as coronavirus fears grow

NAIROBI, March 21 (Reuters) - A week after Kenya announced its first coronavirus case, President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted Muslim, Hindu and Christian clergy on Saturday for an inter-religious service marking a national day of prayer.

The East African nation has seven confirmed cases of the virus and many other people are in isolation awaiting test results.

Kenya’s government has cancelled flights and barred entry to people from countries affected by the outbreak. Only its own citizens and permanent residents are being allowed back in, and they must undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Schools and universities have also closed their doors, while religious organisations have been told to limit gatherings and if possible cancel them. From Monday, restricted opening hours for bars and nightclubs will come into force.

“I know there are those who are saying that we should depend on science, not prayers. But I want to reassure you, that even science needs God,” Kenyatta, a Roman Catholic, said during Saturday’s service at his official residence.

Kenyans were encouraged to watch the service on television and online, or listen on the radio, in order to avoid gathering in places of worship.

As an extra measure to protect those who attended the service, spaces were left between the seats and hand sanitisers were provided at entrance.

Worldwide more than 274,800 people have been infected and 11,389 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

In Africa, at least 25 people have died from the virus, which has infected more than 1,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

The continent has been slower to feel the virus’s effect than Asia or Europe, and most of its reported cases have been foreigners or people who have returned from abroad. (Reporting by Reuters Television Writing by George Obulutsa Editing by Helen Popper)

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