Churches in Bulawayo have taken heed of President Mnangagwa’s directive to minimize gatherings to combat Covid-19 but some have misinterpreted the less than 100 people per gathering rule.
The Government recently declared the coronavirus a State of National Disaster and postponed major social events including the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), the 40th Independence Day celebrations, religious and public gatherings of more than 100 people for the next 60 days.
Some churches seem to believe they can safely gather as long as congregants number less than 100.
However, even three people who do not keep the recommended 2-metre social distance from each other can pass the virus to each other, if one of them is infected.
Some Pentecostal churches observed the less than 100 rule and social distance but congregants gathered outside churches after service to hug and greet each other, thereby increasing the chances of getting infected.
A snap survey by the Chronicle around the city yesterday revealed that some churches had split services to about two or three a day, each with 100 people or less.
In some instances, congregants had their hands sanitized when entering or exiting the church.
An apostolic sect near Luveve Road and Masiyepambili Drive that usually worships in an open space had occupied their usual spot in smaller numbers but the congregants also failed to observe the social distancing rule.
“We are safe because we are less than 100,” a congregant declared cheerfully.
The Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church closed its branches on Saturday and congregants had services at their homes.
The church’s West Zimbabwe Conference live-streamed services for congregants to follow on social media.
Prophet Magaya’s Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries (PHD) which usually occupies the Small City Hall did not meet.
Harvest House International located at Corner 9th Avenue and George Silundika Street had split services into three to accommodate only 100 people or less and chairs had been spaced for about a meter or more apart.
At the entrance, ushers with masks and gloves were sanitizing those entering or exiting the church.
Pastor Tinashe Gwarimbo said they were taking serious precautions to combat the spread of the virus. “We have limited our services to accommodate only 100 people. Our chairs are a meter apart, there is no laying or shaking of hands. We have also banned people from hugging, those who want to greet each other can do so using their elbows.
“All our microphones, chairs and any other equipment has been sanitized. We are making sure that after each service we sanitize everything to prepare for the next service,” he said.
“For those with the offering, they will put their money in the offering baskets then our ushers who will count the money will be putting on gloves and masks in order to also protect themselves.”
Word of Life Church located along Robert Mugabe Way had also split services into six to accommodate at most 100 people.
Pastor Cyprian Mkhwananzi said they had split services to every day so that they accommodate everyone.
He said services will run every day at different intervals and they will get the same attention just like all the other Sunday services.
“We now have three services on Saturday and six services on Sunday, three at the auditorium and the other three at our Chapel. We will also be having mid-week services in the evening and lunch hour services that are going to run every day,” he said.
Pastor Mkhwananzi said social distancing during the service also applies to couples regardless of the fact that they will be coming from the same house.
He added that they had only managed to get everyone sanitized as they enter and leave the church but are still short of the necessary equipment to clean the church in preparation for other services.
At Guta Ramwari Zvimiso located in Mpopoma suburb, there were just a few congregants unlike the other Sundays when the church will be packed.
The secretary-general, Mr Barnabas Benson Chimoto said the church had taken heed of President Mnangagwa’s directive and minimized the number of congregants.
He said this was beneficial to both their congregants and the country as a whole.
Mr Chimoto also added that they had only come to church because they wanted to celebrate their branch which has existed for the past 17 years.
“We had no service today. We only came because we wanted to celebrate the presence of our branch which came into existence on March 16 in 2003 with Mai Juliet Nkuswa Chamoto as its elected leader.
“We could not let the day pass just like that. We intended to invite other branches and have a big service, instead of with the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to limit our number and only about 50 or so people came.
“As a church, we have also taken this opportunity to educate our congregants on the importance of hygiene and social distancing in light of this pandemic,” he said.
However, at St Patricks Roman Catholic Mission located in Makokoba it was business as usual.
Congregants queued for holy communion but they crowded together without maintaining the recommended social distance.
Sources who spoke to the news crew on condition of anonymity said services had been split into two with each service comprising less than 100 people.
The government on Saturday confirmed two cases of Covid-19 in the country.
A 38-year-old man who tested positive was quarantined in Victoria Falls.
The Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Obadiah Moyo announced the first confirmed case saying a foreigner, resident in Victoria Falls, had traveled back into Zimbabwe from Manchester, United Kingdom.
The second case of a 30-year-old man from Harare was recorded on Saturday.
He had traveled to New York in the United States of America on February 29 and returned home on March 9 through Johannesburg.
Dr Moyo urged the nation to remain calm and practice the best hygiene as his Ministry continued tracing all contacts.
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