The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
CHURCHES have been given the green light to accommodate members who are not vaccinated up to a maximum of 100 people as long they adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols on preventing the spread of Covid-19, Sunday News has established.
Further, funeral gatherings are now also allowed to accommodate a maximum of 100 mourners. Before the latest measures, churches were only allowed to accommodate 50 congregants after showing proof of vaccination.
Funeral gatherings were also limited to 30 mourners. These relaxations are part of Level Two regulations that were announced by President Mnangagwa last week.
According Statutory Instrument 228B of 2021 of the Public Health Act (Covid-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (Number two) (Amendment) Order, 2021 (No. 34) gatherings inclusive of church services and burials that were permitted 50 and 30 people respectively now can take up to 100 people. Vaccination cards can, however, be demanded only within areas that have been designated as Covid-19 hotspots.
“All gatherings which under the principal order were restricted to 30 or 50 persons are permitted up to a maximum of 100 persons, subject to strict adherence with all measures in the principal order with respect to the wearing of face masks, temperature checks, sanitising of hands and social distancing, for the purpose of verifying which any enforcement shall have unhindered access to the gathering.
Provided that the convener of the gathering may, or at the direction of an enforcement officer acting to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease in or adjacent to a declared hotspot, shall, refuse participation at the gathering to persons who fail to exhibit proof of having been fully vaccinated,” reads the SI.
However, the Government directed that no workshops may be held except virtually, or otherwise as directed from time to time by an enforcement officer in a specific case. Regarding the provision where people must provide proof of vaccination so as to enter restaurants, the SI points out that in the event that they either fail to produce the vaccination cards or proof of being Covid-19 negative, it is now the discretion of the owner of the food outlet whether to allow the individual access.
“If any person is unable to exhibit proof of full vaccination as a condition for his or her entry to any place or gathering, but, being asymptomatic, is able to exhibit proof that he or she has been tested negative for Covid-19 within the preceding 48 hours by means of a PCR or rapid antigen test, then entry into the place or gathering shall be permitted at the discretion of the person responsible for the place or the convener of the gathering.”
The SI has also repealed the special order declaring lockdowns of Hurungwe, Kariba, Kwekwe and Makonde Districts and replaced it with the powers of the Minister of Health and Child Care to declare hotspots.
“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law, the minister may make a Covid-19 infection hotspot order . . . A hotspot order shall have effect for a specified period not exceeding 14 days, subject to renewal once. In addition a hotspot order may restrict any gathering in a public place to those persons who exhibit proof of having been fully vaccinated,” reads the SI.
Meanwhile, the President last week met representatives of church bodies and it is reported that among other things it was agreed that churches could meet, without necessary demanding vaccination cards, as long as they adhere to the WHO prescribed guidelines and the Government cap of 100 people.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches general-secretary Reverend Dr Kenneth Mtata revealed that during their meeting with President Mnangagwa, they had noted that it had become difficult for churches to only accommodate the vaccinated. He said it had been further agreed that representatives of church organisations will continue engaging the Government.
Zimbabwe has continued to score major strides in the battle against Covid-19 with a decrease in number of infections and deaths. According to latest Covid-19 statistics as of Friday Zimbabwe had 126 163 confirmed cases, including 118 431 recoveries and 4 532 deaths, this was after 107 new cases and 11 deaths were recorded. To date, a total of 2 824 596 people have been vaccinated against Covid-19, in the country.
In addition, Government will use the subsiding Covid-19 third wave and relaxation of restrictions as a window of opportunity to aggressively ramp up the national vaccination programme in order to stave off the probability of a new wave of infections. Authorities plan to expand the inoculation programme by opening up additional vaccination centres as well as build up vaccine stocks.
In the four days to Monday, Zimbabwe is set to take delivery of two million vaccine doses from China. Yesterday, a consignment of 500 000 vaccine doses landed at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, while an equal number of doses are set to be delivered today. Retired nurses are also being rehired to man vaccination centres as part of the plan to expand the programme, which has also been extended to private health care centres.