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Some churches welcome reopening

by Staff reporter
13 Aug 2021 at 06:39hrs | Views
Christian church leaders yesterday unanimously welcomed the resumption of services for fully vaccinated members saying they have been consistent in encouraging vaccination, but noting that some congregations facing theological or practical challenges might decide to remain with only online services.

In their statement, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations urged all churches to continue adhering to all safety precautions as well as noting that encouraging more people to get vaccinated will contribute to herd immunity. ZHOCD represents all four strands of the Christian community: The Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which groups the older protestant and reformed churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, and the Union for the Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe and Africa.

It thus represents the entire Christian community in practical relations with the wider society. On Wednesday, Cabinet said churches could 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.

As of Wednesday, 1 084 392 people had received both doses of the vaccine, and numbers are likely to rise fast since hundreds of thousands of people who received their first dose in the last two weeks of last month are now starting to line up for their second dose. 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 the need is met.

In its statement ZHOCD said: "The churches cautiously appreciate the process of opening up of society, business, and public life after almost two years of restrictions because of Covid-19. Though welcome by the churches, this staggered opening of churches on the condition of being vaccinated raises both theological and practical challenges."

The ZHOCD said the church had demonstrated from the beginning of the pandemic its commitment to minimising the spread of infections, and inspired by its theological commitment of care for one's neighbour and the sanctity of life, it has promoted the WHO measures of putting on masks, keeping social distance and sanitising.  

"The ZHOCD recommends that its member churches adhere to these WHO protocols if they choose to open their churches.  "The churches have been consistent in encouraging their members to get vaccinated. Church leaders have led by example in this regard. We are confident that getting more people vaccinated should contribute to herd immunity.

"We encourage our members to demonstrate leadership and responsibility as we open our sit-in worship services. We also respect those churches who may choose to continue conducting online services until the nation reaches herd immunity.  

"We are confident not only the church, but wider society will be opening up sooner than later if we contribute to the minimising of the spread of the virus," said the organisation.

The ZHOCD called on its members to continue praying for the nation and the world to find healing and to discern on appropriate actions "as we continue to deal with this virus and its effects". ZHOCD proposed that they be included in the National Covid-19 Taskforce to allow them to contribute to decision-making from "their lived experience".

The call by ZHOCD for congregations to follow fully the Government rules or not reopen was backed by National Covid-19 response chief coordinator Dr Agnes Mahomva who said Government would ensure strict enforcement of regulations as churches conduct their services.  

"People should follow protocols. Law enforcement agents will also assist to ensure that people are following the recommended measures to contain the spread of Covid-19."
The police stressed that they were continuing to enforce all Covid-19 regulations and would include the church services in their checks and monitoring.

In a statement yesterday, police said church services will be monitored to ensure compliance.  National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they will also be assisting health officials to ensure compliance. "Churches are implored to strictly comply with the vaccination directive for congregants as stipulated by the Cabinet on August 11, 2021. The Zimbabwe Republic Police will assist health officials to ensure compliance and arrest anyone defying the safety protocols.

"Police will also take action against those who might try to take advantage of the directive and produce fake vaccination certificates," he said. Asst Comm Nyathi reminded the public that the Level 4 lockdown regulations had been extended and would be enforced.

"We urge the public to be responsible and observe the health and safety protocols at all times. The wearing face masks, social distancing and sanitising should be prioritised in all public places. Since August 1, 2021, the Zimbabwe Republic Police has arrested 24 027 people for not wearing face masks.

"Bar, beerhall and night club operators are once again reminded and implored to strictly comply with Covid-19 regulations particularly the ban on operations. Police will ensure no bar, beer hall, night club and shebeen operators disregard the Government's safety measures.  

"Raids will continue being conducted on those drinking beer/alcohol whilst parked at bars, night clubs, and beer halls in the country. No excuses will be entertained by the police from those arrested," said Asst Comm Nyathi.

Police have also warned those holding parties at night and illegal bus operators plying intercity routes to stop their activities as they will be arrested.

Citizens have been implored to report anyone violating lockdown regulations to Harare Operations on 0242 748836, Bulawayo Operations on 0292 885479, national complaints desk on 0242 703631 or WhatsApp number 0712800197.

Source - the herald