By JEFFREY MUVUNDUSI in Bulawayo

Zimbabwe church leaders have joined the fight against COVID-19.

ZIMBABWE’S church bodies have stepped up efforts to fight against Covid-19 by urging their members to embrace the vaccination programme. 

This comes as four clerics succumbed to the virulent pandemic inside 24 hours, leading the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) to issue a warning to their members to guard against the virus.  

The four were Reverends Tichaona Chigazera, Rachel Makwara, Roderick Shoko (all Methodist) and Elias Maponga (Baptist Convention). 

The ZCC president Kenneth Mtata said the church had been plunged into mourning following the quartet’s death. 

The ZCC president Kenneth Mtata has called on church leaders to encourage vaccinations.

“We are getting overwhelming messages regarding the devastating effects of the third wave of the Covid-19 with several losses of both our church members and the clergy. We got messages from our member churches that we have lost four clerics who succumbed to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours,” Mtata said. 

Mtata called on clerics to take their leadership role in their communities to encourage their congregants to get vaccinated. 

“We must conduct funerals in safe ways and continue to mask up, sanitise and keep physical distance.  

“Those who suspect they may have been infected must get diagnosed early so that they don’t get complications.  

“We are working, in conjunction with the Health ministry, to have more PPE (personal protective equipment) in our church hospitals which constitute about 60 percent of the health delivery system in rural areas. 

“We are also planning a National Day of Prayer to commit this country before God to help us fight this pandemic,” he said. 

This comes as the Health ministry has rolled out a mass Covid-19 vaccination campaign across the country as demand for the jab shoots up despite earlier reluctance from the general citizenry. 

However, the country still has a long way to go to achieve the herd immunity target of 10 million with about 1, 2million people having been vaccinated against Covid-19 so far. 

The country is battling a devastating third wave of the Covid-19 Delta variant as statistics show that the case fatality rate has been increasing with double deaths on every single day. 

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Christian (Alliance ZCA) has also revealed their interventions against the pandemic.  

“We have mobilised church leaders themselves. We are working on 13 church leaders at our house, that’s at provincial and at district level to get everyone vaccinated. 

“We have engaged the ministry of Health, the centres where vaccination is being done and to get the church leaders to book our members and this has been going on very well,” ZCA director Usein Sibanda told Daily News yesterday. 

He noted that they have been using church leaders to advertise the vaccination centres while also rallying every member to get the jab. 

At the moment we are covering eight provinces. We also intend to do a massive campaign that would also involve other faith community leaders, like traditional leaders, Muslims, Hindus and others so that we don’t leave anyone outside.” 

Sibanda admitted that a lot still has to be done to deal with vaccine hesitancy. 

The government this week announced that Covid-19 testing is mandatory for civil servants boarding Public Service Commission buses. 

The government has also reduced to 10 percent its workforce at various departments from the initial 40 percent to stem Covid-19.  – Daily News