Edison Mapani/Nyasha Kunyiswa
For the second year running Zimbabweans go for Easter holidays under a cloud as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected and killed millions of people across the world.
The virus emerged from China, in the Wuhan Province in November 2019, but spread quickly across the world with Zimbabwe recording the first case in February last year.
Case 1, a Victoria Falls’ resident recovered, but within a month, authorities were, in March 2020, forced to impose a nationwide lockdown including travel restrictions while gatherings were totally banned.
Easter Holidays in 2020, arrived with all people confined to their homes and there were no celebrations across the world.
Traditional Easter gathering start with the Palm Sunday a week before the holidays while most Christians gather for overnight vigils ahead of the Good Friday before church services lasting up to Easter Monday.
However, these activities, potential super-spreaders of the COVID-19 virus, have all be cancelled due to the pandemic.
And for the second year running, Christians will not enjoy these activities and members of the clergy calling on Zimbabweans never to lose focus and strive to be closer to God especially during the pandemic.
Similar to what happened during the same period in 2020, the Easter holidays would be low key owing to the COVID-19 restrictions and WHO guidelines that prohibits large gatherings so as to curtail the spread of the novel virus.
Government has also set a maximum of 50 people at a gathering while imposing a 10pm to 5:30am curfew since the beginning of March.
In various interviews, church leaders confirmed that the Easter Holidays in 2021 were totally different and difficult for most Christians in Zimbabwe and the world at large.
Family of God Churches’ leader and founder Revered Andrew Wutaunashe said the commemorations this year were severely affected by the challenges brought about the pandemic.
“Some people lost their loved ones, some lost their jobs and the economy took a battering. So quite naturally this will be a difficult. The nation must be closer to God and fervently pray for his comfort and restoration,” he said.
Pastor John Bates Munzara from the Salvation Gates said they would try to celebrate the Easter holidays albeit under the guidance of government regulations of at least 50 people attending services.
“This year’s celebrations, just like in the previous year, are going to be different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so very citizen must take heed of the government regulations and steadfastly stay in prayer for the mercies from God. He listens and will definitely reply us,” he said.
Respected and revered Roman Catholic clergyman, Father Fidelis Mukonori said: “Jesus sacrificed himself just like Abraham sacrificed Isaac. So as Zimbabweans we need to make the sacrifice like what Jesus Christ did.”
He added: “This Easter must make us remember that there is life after this so we must adhere to the government’s regulations on pertaining the issue of gatherings. That is the privilege we have of having scientists who follows the developments on viruses hence science will ultimately provide safe vaccines.”
Government this week issued fresh regulations to be followed during the holidays including barring children from boarding schools not to break for the long weekend holiday.
In a statement on Tuesday, President Mnangagwa issued a statement Tuesday night announcing additional lockdown amid fears of a third wave of the pandemic.
The wearing of masks, sanitizing of hands and social distancing remain mandatory, while bars and nightclubs remain closed over the holidays.
Travellers to Zimbabwe, according to the new regulations, have to be cleared for COVID-19 infections through PCR tests at least 48 hours before their entry into the country.
“Those with a valid PCR negative certificate will self-quarantine at home or in a hotel for 10 days from the day of arrival into the country,” he said.
Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to get vaccinated so that the country attains herd immunity.
He said tourists who volunteer to be vaccinated can access vaccination available in the country at their own cost.
Zimbabwe experienced a second wave of COVID-19 infections and rising deaths between January and February following the Christmas holidays when people were allowed to travel across borders and throughout the country.
As of Monday, the country had recorded 1,520 deaths from 36,839 infections.