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World News

Zimbabwe reopens churches for fully vaccinated only

by Kelly Valencia

Authorities in Zimbabwe have announced all churches in the country are allowed to reopen but only to those fully vaccinated. 

The government argues the measure is an attempt to encourage vaccine take up in the country as religious groups represent the community with the highest jab hesitancy. 

"Churches can now allow sit-in congregants, who have been fully vaccinated - or those that have taken two doses of the vaccine subject to Covid-19 protocols adherence," Government spokesperson, Nick Mangwana said. 

He continued: "All ministry of health and WHO protocols have to be adhered to and those found in breach will be arrested including leaders of churches."

No guidance as to how many people are allowed to gather in church has been released but Mangwana said health authorities will be deployed to make sure all regulations are being met. 

Places of worship had been closed for six weeks as the country was under a very strict lockdown battling a third wave of the pandemic. On Monday, the government announced the lockdown was being extended for two weeks, with some restrictions easing, including churches reopening.  chu

But church organisations have criticised the measures saying it raises "both theological and practical challenges."

In a statement, Zimbabwe Heads of Church Denominations (ZHOCD), said: "Theologically, the Church is an open and welcoming space for everyone with no restrictions. No one qualifies for Church service as it is a place of God's grace. The Church will find it very difficult to turn people home because they do not have a vaccination certificate. However, would it be responsible to meet in an uncontrolled environment where possibilities of spreading the virus are high?"

"Practically, less than ten percent of the population has been vaccinated. There is a group of citizens that does not get vaccinated due to age or because they have not yet had a chance to be vaccinated. It will be difficult for the Church to deny people to receive the means of grace simply because they have not been vaccinated when access to this vaccination is restricted."

The ZHOCD, which is comprised of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and the Union for Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe Africa, recommended the government address issues such as covid vaccine certificates and how the measures affect those under 18, both of which had not been included in the announcement. 

The group also argued churches had been complying with all coronavirus restrictions in places of worship, such as mask-wearing and social distancing, and urged Christians in the country to keep "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." 


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