Unvaccinated congregates to attend church

Source: Unvaccinated congregates to attend church | Sunday Mail (Local News)

Bulawayo Bureau

CHURCHES have been given the green light to accommodate unvaccinated congregants but gatherings are limited to 100 people, as long they adhere to the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols on preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Further, funerals can similarly have up to 100 mourners.

Before the latest measures, churches were only allowed to accommodate 50 congregants after showing proof of vaccination, while funeral gatherings were limited to 30.

The regulations have since been relaxed in line with Level Two protocols announced by President Mnangagwa last week. According to 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 can now take up to 100 people.

Vaccination cards can, however, be demanded only in 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.

The new regulations make it discretionary for owners of foot outlets to allow access to individuals who fail to produce vaccination cards.

“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.

“Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any other law, the Minister (of Health and Child Care) 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,” adds the SI.

Meanwhile, the President last week met representatives of church bodies, where it was agreed that church gatherings could take place without 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 said representatives of church organisations will continue engaging Government.