Monday, 13 September 2021

UNVACCINATED CONGREGANTS FLOCK TO CHURCHES


THERE was excitement among congregants in Bulawayo after Government lifted the ban on public gatherings and gave churches the green light to accommodate unvaccinated members during services.

In the past few weeks churches in the city had a low turnout of congregants as they only allowed vaccinated people to attend.

However, yesterday the numbers  increased because everyone including unvaccinated people such as children, were allowed to attend.

Cabinet last month gave churches the green light to resume physical services with only those fully-vaccinated against Covid-19 allowed to attend and this resulted in a low turnout.

The regulations have since been relaxed in line with Level Two protocols 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 can now take up to 100 people.

Vaccination cards can, however, be demanded only in areas that have been designated as Covid-19 hotspots.

President Mnangagwa last week also met representatives of church bodies during which 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.

Worshippers throughout the country had gone for months without congregating in their places of worship in line with the renewed Level Four lockdown regulations initially announced in January by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Health and Child Care Minister.

Some churches had resorted to conducting virtual services and livestreaming their services.

A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited selected churches in Bulawayo and observed that there was largely some form of adherence to the prescribed measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 such as maintaining social distancing and hand sanitising.

At Brethren in Christ Church (BICC), Bulawayo Central where Women Affairs, Community and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Minister Dr Sithembiso Nyoni was also in attendance, the news crew observed that congregants were being sanitised and their temperatures were also being checked at the gate.

Inside the church, congregants maintained social distancing with less than 100 people in attendance.

Senior Pastor in charge of BICC Bulawayo Central, Rev Ndabezinhle Nyathi said they conducted three services with all health protocols being observed.

“Our numbers were low and the first service had about 60 people and the other two had less than 50 and this was caused by the confusion revolving around the issue of vaccination. Most people wanted to come but because they are not vaccinated, they couldn’t as they were not yet sure,” he said.

“By next week, we expect to have more people attending our services since the issue of vaccination has been clarified. We are however, continuing livestreaming and posting our sermons and musical audios on various social media platforms so that we reach out to everyone.”

Rev Nyathi said as a church they continue to urge their members to get vaccinated.

“People were quite excited when we resumed face-to-face services. What touched me mostly is that some of our congregants lost their loved ones to Covid-19 hence today’s service centred on comforting them. The services were more of a memorial session as we remembered our congregants who succumbed to the coronavirus,” he said.

The Apostolic Faith Mission of Africa (AFMA) leader Reverend Rosewell Zulu said they were excited to congregate at their traditional place of worship and thanked President Mnangagwa for easing the lockdown regulations by lifting the ban on church gatherings. Chronicle

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