Vusumuzi Dube, Senior Reporter
AT least 50 churches in Bulawayo have been offered to the provincial Covid-19 taskforce for use as quarantine centres at a time when the country’s cases have breached the 5 000 mark.

According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, as of yesterday the country’s confirmed cases were standing at 5 176 and 130 deaths.

“104 new cases and two deaths were reported in the last 24 hours. All 104 cases are local cases. All two deaths are from Bulawayo Province. Active cases go up to 2 999 today and 49 new recoveries were reported,” said the ministry in its update.

Harare remains the epicentre of infections with 1 947 confirmed cases with Bulawayo also a hotspot with 1 170. In Bulawayo, churches said they would also offer health personnel working at church-run hospitals to be deployed at the quarantine centres.

The church facilities will go a long way in easing the pressure to the taskforce which also recently identified Gifford and Townsend High Schools as standby quarantine centres in the city, in case designated hotels and lodges fill up. Quarantine centres are used to accommodate residents returning from other countries to ensure they are free of the virus before joining their communities. The returnees are tested for Covid-19 before being readmitted to communities to prevent transmission of imported of cases.

Speaking at a donation of Personal Protective Equipment for quarantine centres from the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance on Friday, Bulawayo Metropolitan Minister of Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Cde Judith Ncube commended the churches for providing their facilities as quarantine centres.

The list of the identified church buildings was not availed as authorities said they wanted renovations to be done in some of them before releasing the full list.

However, an official said some of the churches that have availed their premises are Brethren in Christ Church (various stations), Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (Makokoba) and United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) in Njube.

“We all know that Bulawayo has been identified as one of the hotspots in the country hence the work that is being done by the church is highly commendable.

“As it is, we recently spent an entire day with the church leaders where they showed us a number of facilities that can be used as quarantine centres, as it stands, they offered 50 of their churches for this use. Further, the churches also offered health works in hospitals which they operate to man these quarantine centres which I feel will effectively boost service delivery and help us contain this pandemic,” said Minister Ncube.

Zimbabwe Christian Alliance board member, Bishop Patson Neta revealed that they had already come up with a bill of quantities to ascertain what needed to be done at the identified facilities so that they start operating as quarantine centres.

“Working with other churches and relevant ministries we are exploring church structures that could be used as quarantine centres. Bill of quantities have been done to ascertain the level of construction and repairs that may need to be done to make them suitable for accommodating people. Further, we have come up with a facility where every Thursday we will be delivering vegetables which include 200 cabbages, a crate of tomatoes, 100 kilogramme peas, 50 bunches of onions and 50 bunches of green vegetables to all quarantine centres operating in the city to assist them during these tough times,” said Bishop Neta.

He said the organisation would train some of the church leaders to help provide psycho-social support to people that had been affected by the pandemic.

“We realise that people who are housed at quarantine and isolation centres urgently need psycho-social support. There is rise in mental health issues due to the pandemic and in that regard the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance has trained 200 church leaders to provide psycho-social support to affected people. Our structures in different hubs across the country have offered prayers, counselling to returnees in quarantine and isolation centres and affected families in the community. We are also engaged in awareness activities,” said Bishop Neta.

Among the PPEs that were donated by the faith based organisation were face masks, latex gloves, buckets, disinfectants, hand sanitisers and liquid soap.