President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to participate in a National Day of Prayer “wherever they are” on Thursday, 26 March, the eve of the 21-day nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.
In a statement on Wednesday evening, Ramaphosa urged citizens “to observe two minutes of prayer, reflection or silent meditation on Thursday, 26 March, 2020 between 18:00 and 18:30 hours.”
He said, “These are challenging times. We are traversing a path we have never travelled before. There are many amongst us who are fearful, uncertain and vulnerable. I call on our people to offer a prayer and a thought for the protection and healing of our land and its people from this disease.”
‘Show of social solidarity’
The President said because the nationwide lockdown and national state of disaster prohibit large gatherings, “our prayers must be offered from our hearts and in our homes.”
The proposal for a National Day of Prayer emerged from a meeting Ramaphosa had with religious leaders last week and is aimed at showing solidarity with those affected by COVID-19 in the country and around the world.
Ramaphosa said, “The international occurrence of the coronavirus pandemic has affirmed yet again that the challenge we face is a global one and one we cannot overcome alone.
“I call on all our people, whether they are religious or not, wherever they are, on Thursday the 26th of March to observe a moment of silence in a show of social solidarity.”
The President said the thoughts of South Africans should particularly be with those who are in hospitals, quarantine or self-isolation.
He also urged citizens to keep healthcare workers, emergency personnel, police, traffic officers, military and members of the media in their thoughts.
Ramaphosa further urged South Africans to “demonstrate their solidarity with fellow South Africans by displaying our inspiring national flag on social media (#PrayForSouthAfrica), outside their homes and other prominent places as an act of compassion and unity during the national lockdown.”
“The coming weeks will sorely test our resolve and patience. For millions of South Africans for whom faith is a source of hope and courage, this difficult time must strengthen and unite us as never before,” he said.
The lockdown will begin just after midnight on Thursday night and will be in force for 21 days until midnight on Thursday, 16 April.
According to the lockdown regulations gazetted on Wednesday, people will be confined to their residences for 21 days “unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency, life-saving or chronic medical attention.”