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Saskatchewan minister deletes tweet saying people should ‘pray and repent’ to rid COVID-19

Saskatchewan Minister of Highways Greg Ottenbreit.
Saskatchewan Minister of Highways Greg Ottenbreit. File / Global News

A Saskatchewan cabinet minister who tweeted an Old Testament passage where God tells people to pray and repent to cure an epidemic says he deleted it out of concern it may have sent the wrong message.

As the province responds to the COVID-19 outbreak, Minister of Highways Greg Ottenbreit tweeted a photo early Saturday where a section of scripture is highlighted and circled with the text “Pay Attention Children.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan sees biggest jump in COVID-19 cases, 30 reported Saturday

In that particular passage God says when he sends an epidemic onto his people, if they “pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing” they will be forgiven and their lands will be restored.

Ottenbreit says in the tweet “I guess it worked a few thousand years ago …couldn’t hurt.”

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In a statement, the Yorkton-area MLA says his Christian faith is important to him and he intended to encourage those inclined to pray to do so.

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He says he realized the picture framed it harshly and felt it could be interpreted to mean that’s all one should do, which is why he deleted it.

As of Saturday, Saskatchewan has reported 134 cases of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Coronavirus ‘ghost towns’: Saskatchewan trucker has isolating view of pandemic

“I believe faith and prayer to be important, however, everyone needs to follow the direction being provided by governments and health officials regarding safe protocols, self-isolation and social distancing in order to reduce the risk to themselves and others,” Ottenbreit said in the statement.

Last year Ottenbreit, who opposes abortion, drew criticism in his previous portfolio as Minister of Rural and Remote Health when he told a convention of others opposed to abortion in his home constituency that he would “continue the fight.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.