Following a “worrying rise” in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, Togo’s government has ordered all houses of worship to close for one month starting on Friday.

The eight-million-strong West African nation has documented just over 23,000 cases and 203 fatalities, but due to poor testing rates, the real number might be higher.

On Wednesday, Didier Koumavi Ekouevi, head of the country’s scientific council, warned, “The number of deaths keeps growing.”

“We had four deaths in June, on July 22 and August 23. We’re registering four times the number of patients.”

Weddings and funerals, as well as cultural, sports, and political activities, will be prohibited beginning Friday, according to the administration.

Bars and nightclubs have been forced to close for the time being.

Those who break the new rules will face punishment, according to the authorities.

“Due to an alarming increase of COVID-19 instances in our nation… the administration would like to warn the public that restriction measures remain in place,” the government stated in a statement on Thursday.

Since March 2020, Togo’s borders have been closed.

Togo now has over 4,800 active cases, and officials have warned that hospitals are overburdened.

The capital’s main treatment center, Lome, has a capacity of 200 people, including 30 in critical care.

“Right now, even for people with significant symptoms, it’s one in, one out,” Ekouevi explained.

He went on to say that the majority of new cases are caused by those who have not been vaccinated.

Togo has received around 1.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccination to date.

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