Rural communities struggle to adhere to lockdown funeral limits

COVID-19 has brought significant changes in the culture and lifestyle of rural communities. The pandemic has changed the way in which people mourn and bury their loved ones as only a limited number is allowed to attend funerals.

The regulations put in place to curb the spread of the virus in public gatherings limits the number of mourners to not more than 50 people.

Living and working together is the lifeline of rural communities and limiting the number of people attending funerals seems to be a challenge. Habakkuk Trust Community Advocacy Action Teams in parts of rural Matabeleland indicated that villagers are attending funerals in large numbers.

While it has been easier for the urban populace to adhere to lockdown regulations, rural communities are reportedly going out in their large numbers to give a send-off to their dearly departed and in most instances failing to exercise social distancing and wearing of masks.

Over 200 community members reportedly attended a burial in Matobo Ward 1. Community Advocacy Action Team members who also attended the funeral expressed concerns over the limited understanding of the need to adhere to the COVID-19 precautionary regulations. They observed that few people were wearing facemasks and social distancing was not being practiced at this funeral.

“People were just following burial proceedings without giving attention to the government regulations which seek to protect the larger community. Few of us had facemasks, social distancing was not practiced and people were seen greeting each other using handshakes and hugs during and after the funeral,” said Sibinginkosi Ndlovu, a Habakkuk Trust Action Team member in the area.

In Matobo Ward 14, a funeral wake in also attended by large numbers of people with few individuals wearing masks.

Bulilima Ward 10 also had a funeral recently which was well attended. “Some people were being turned away but it was difficult,” said Linos Khumalo, Convener for Bulilima Ward 10 Action Team.

At a funeral in Nkayi Ward 29, an Action Team member observed that community members were coming to sympathize and going although the burial was attended by over 50 people.

Pastors and local leaders have been playing a key role in providing information and raising awareness on Coronavirus at funerals.

Facemasks have become expensive and beyond the reach of many. While some are using improvised facemasks others listened to conflicting messages on social media platforms which discouraged villagers from making home-made masks citing that they cannot prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

Statutory Instrument 77 of 2020 introduced a blanket ban on large gatherings including funerals, but this has been difficult to enforce in most rural communities. Habakkuk Trust continues to encourage citizens to adhere to the lockdown regulations that seek to protect the public and prevent the spread of the deadly pandemic.

Source: Habakkuk Trust

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