Churches can resume services, but only for fully vaccinated congregants who have had both doses of Covid-19 vaccine, and even then those attending must be masked, observe social distancing and sanitise on entry, Cabinet decided yesterday.
Church leaders and congregants who breach the rules requiring double vaccination and other precautions will be arrested as services will be monitored to ensure compliance. By Tuesday 1 061 238 people had received both doses of Covid-19 vaccine and these are the only people who are allowed to attend a sit-in service.
No limit was placed on the number attending a particular service, but the social distance requirements mean that the church leaders will have to limit numbers so that this need is met.
Speaking after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa stressed only whose who have received both doses of vaccine would be allowed to attend church services.
She also stressed that “all Ministry of Health and Child Care and WHO protocols are adhered to and all those found in breach will be arrested, including the leaders of the churches”.
The re-opening of churches comes as Zimbabwe continues to beat back the third and worst wave of Covid-19 infection although infection rates are still high, which is why President Mnangagwa announced a fortnight extension of the level four lockdown on Monday and why schools are to remain closed until infection rates fall further.
The Cabinet noted that deaths fell to 367 since the last meeting and the number of new infections over the week fell by 42 percent from 11 652 to 6 781.
This indicated that the infection prevention and control measures were yielding results,” said Minister Mutsvangwa, but more efforts were needed to contain the third wave, especially in Midlands which had seen the number of new cases rise. “Concerted efforts will be made to address the situation in that province as well as in other known Covid-19 hotspots.”
While hospitals had been coping with the dramatic rise in Covid-19 case loads, work to increase the bed capacity at several Covid-19 treatment centres throughout the country was continuing.
On Tuesday there were just 498 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 76 classified as severe and only 20 needing intensive care.