MUTARE- Villagers in Marange are in danger of being exposed to the Corona virus, as plans to hold an annual two week religious Passover ceremony by the Johanne Marange Apostolic sect in the area are allegedly on-going despite COVID-19 restrictions put in place by government to discourage gatherings.
Also worrying, is the fact that there has been a low uptake of vaccines in the province.
Reports from the community indicate that Johanne Marange members have already started gathering for a programme scheduled to last up to July 17, without regard for Covid 19 regulations-physical distancing and mask wearing among the others.
Similarly, the sect led by Noah Taguta, also gathered last year under police guard, despite other churches being pinned down by Covid 19 regulations.
When asked for a comment on the matter, Manicaland Provincial Police spokesperson Inspector Luxon Chananda, said he could not divulge much as his office is sized with the matter.
“My office has recieved a lot of inquiries around that issue but at the moment we are still ascertaining what is on the ground before we can respond,” he said.
Ironically, more that 10 000 people have been arrested countrywide, for contravening the enhanced Level Four national lockdown regulations introduced last week to curb the rising tide of Covid-19 infections.
Zimbabwe Republic Police show that 10 252 people were arrested in the three days to July 1 countrywide, on a 3 000 people daily for offences ranging from failure to observe social distancing, wearing face masks, and participating in unsanctioned gatherings among others.
Villagers are anxious that this could turn into a major health catastrophe in an area whose health facilities are already resource –constrained.
Billian Matambo, who resides in Marange said the community is worried as the congregants are flocking in numbers from across the country.
Others have travelled from neighbouring countries mainly South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique.
“The congregants have begun flocking in their numbers to Mafararikwa area in Marange where they customarily hold their Passover celebration yearly every July.
“What is really happening is confusing to us. Marange is under threat if one amongst them is positive there is a high probability that the Covid virus will spread like veld fire,” said Matambo.
She added, “Our laws and regulations are now implemented selectively depending on who is hosting the gathering Churches like Johane Marange congregation is one above the laws of the land. The Marange community is endangered because of the zeal to gain political mileage, by political gimmicks especially now that we are approaching elections.”
Manicaland’s Provincial Medical Director Dr Simon Nyadundu, was evasive on the issue, only revealing data on the roll out of vaccination program in the province in the midst of an increase of both cases and deaths from COVID19.
Dr Nyadundu said he could not comment on lockdown enforcement, as it was not under the Epidemic response pillar which covers health issues.
“The other issues (enforcement) are for other pillars. Lockdown enforcement in under Police, health is epidemic response pillar while information covers social mobilisation,” said Nyadundu.
According to the PMD vaccinations have commenced in all the districts of Manicaland, at health facilities and mobile points, for both Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines.
“Cumulative number of persons which have received the first jab 111 700 for the first dose, while 79596 have been inoculated with the second dose of the two Chinese vaccinations which are being administered.
“Hot spots include Mutare Urban, Zimunya, Chiadzwa, Rusape, and Makoni Rural, Nyanga urban, Chipinge Urban, Checheche, Mt Selinda, Chimanimani urban, Nyanyadzi, Birchenough Bridge, Murambinda and Hauna, ” said Dr Nyadundu.