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Govt ban on gatherings faces tough test as schools, bus termini, parly stay open

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By Leopold Munhende

GOVERNMENT may have a tough job enforcing its ban on gatherings of over 100 people with schools, bus termini, churches and parliament likely to be major challenges.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa Tuesday announced government’s decision to suspend public gatherings of over 100 people but maintained schools should remain open.

Almost a thousand pupils are enrolled in a lot of Zimbabwean schools.

Parliament, which houses over 210 members, will also not be suspended according to Local Government Minister July Moyo.

The overpopulated Mbare Musika bus terminus and other termini in the country will continue to operate while government engages operators on how to prevent a potential outbreak.

“We have looked at it and want to have programmes that can touch the lives of those people in Mbare because we realise it affects their livelihoods.

“Government has not banned people from carrying out duties that make them earn a living (in Mbare),” Moyo said Tuesday.

He was speaking at a post cabinet briefing.

Moyo could not share details of what government will do to churches that would ignore the call for them to suspend Easter programmes which usually attract large numbers of people.

“Cabinet is aware of a number of gatherings that normally take place especially during Easter, we are appealing to the churches to have less gatherings.

“We have to do a lot of work to make sure they comply,” he added.

The Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe Tuesday suspended mandatory obligation to attend mass for the elderly, sick, children and vulnerable.

It has suspended shaking of hands as a sign of peace and decreed the holy communion will now only be shared by hand while its Easter programme will only be determined by developments in the coming week while proposing alternative methods for celebration.

Mnangagwa is facing massive pressure to close schools which various sections of society feel could be breeding grounds for the flu-like bug.

Moyo told journalists there was no immediate need to close schools as they did not want to disturb the school calendar.

He added: “Schools are not being closed but through the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, there will get standard operating procedures for all headmasters and teachers so they can help the children.

“The reason we are not closing the schools is the virus feeds on cold weather more than hot weather, so if we close schools now and open them towards the second term, we are not sure.

“We will continue to monitor, if anything happens before they open schools in the second term then other measures can be taken but for now, we do not want to disturb the school calendar.”

Neighbouring South Africa which has recorded 85 confirmed cases of the virus has closed all schools and colleges.

Zambia, which is yet to record any case, has also followed suit and closed all schools Tuesday as a precautionary measure.

Government will also have to deal Zupco buses that usually transport over 100, border points and airports.