Vic Falls churches defy govt ban, some divide congregations

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By Matabeleland North Correspondent

SOME churches in Victoria Falls Sunday conducted service, defying a government ban on public and religious gatherings of more than 100 people.

The Victoria Residents Association appealed to residents to adhere to guidelines while also calling upon government to open a Covid-19 centre in the resort town saying the tourism destination was more in danger that any other part of the country.

Zimbabwe Friday confirmed its first case of coronavirus in the resort town in a 38-year-old resident who had recently returned home from the United Kingdom.

In a statement, Victoria Falls Residents Association chairman, Morgen Gazza Dube urged fellow residents to self-isolate and keep social distances as advised by health authorities.

“Victoria Falls is at high risk considering that the tourism hub receives multi-nationals,” Dube said.

“It is against this background that we urge residents to seriously take heed of prescribed precautionary measures and cooperate with health authorities.

“Government should also up its game and prioritise Victoria Falls as an endangered location and set up a mobile Covid-19 centre,” said Dube.

A Victoria Falls Covid-19 Hotline has been activated to be used for emergencies.

Dube said the coronavirus will leave the majority of residents poor as it is the major employer accounting for around 90 percent of the population in the resort town.

Most hotels and tour operators have since terminated contracts for workers while some have resorted to cutting salaries to manage costs at a time when hotel occupancy has fallen to five percent.

Dube appealed to property owners and landlords who charge in foreign currency to review rentals.

Property owners should also revise rentals.

As for churches, while some separated congregants so there could be different services, in keeping with the need to manage numbers, others went ahead with service as if there was nothing happening.

A snap survey showed that few churches were encouraging members to wash hands or sanitise before service.

At the Methodist church, people were washing hands from a bucket put at the entrance.

Some divided members into groups to attend separate services.

Pastor Ronny Mwale of Zaoga church said: “Some brought their sanitisers and we are encouraging people to wash their hands. We couldn’t forego service, but we decided to group our members, so we have separate services.”