Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, Chronicle Reporter
CONCERNS have been raised over laxity in rural areas as community members continue to flout Covid-19 regulations, a development which has been identified as one of the main contributors to an increase in cases being recorded in rural areas.
Villagers are reportedly gathering in churches, at business centres while shops operate beyond stipulated hours and people move around without wearing masks among other things.
The Covid-19 pandemic has jumped the urban-rural barrier during the third wave as more cases are being reported in rural areas. During the first and second wave Covid-19 cases were mainly reported in urban areas.
Stakeholders who spoke during a Gwanda Local Peace Committee (LPC) virtual Covid-19 awareness meeting said there was need for law enforcement agents to tighten their grip for the rural folk to observe Covid-19 regulations.
Gwanda LPC member, Mr Bekithemba Ndlovu said there was need for continuous engagement with people in the rural areas and strict supervision by authorities.
“People in rural areas are still holding gatherings such as churches. There is laxity when it comes to wearing of masks while others share masks. People also gather at business centres to chat or drink while some of the shops remain open till late in violation of Covid-19 regulations. People in rural areas are also conducting their funerals as though everything is normal.
“They turn out in numbers for burials and they flock bereaved homesteads to console the bereaved families not realising that they are putting their lives at risk. If there is laxity in a particular area resulting in an upsurge of cases, it means that the entire nation is affected,” he said.
Another LPC member, Ms Esther Nyoni said some of the Covid-19 protocols such as self-isolation, social distancing and testing were still foreign to some of the rural folk hence the need for continuous engagement. Ms Nyoni said some religious and traditional practices conflicted with Covid-19 protocols. She said sharing of water points in rural areas could be a major source of the spread of Covid-19.
“In rural areas there is a challenge as people share common resources such as water sources. In such cases people must be fully aware of the need to sanitise and wash their hands. Traditional and community leaders have a huge role to play,” she said.
Statistics which were presented during the meeting showed that cases reported in rural communities were now exceeding cases in mining areas which had been identified as hotspot areas.
Urban centres in Gwanda now account for 66 percent of cases reported in the district while rural areas account for 22 percent and mines 12 percent. Areas that were previously classified as safe infection free pockets across the district are fast dwindling.
Gwanda District Medical Officer, Dr Blessed Gwarimbo said there was need for a multi stakeholder approach to ensure that communities complied with Covid-19 regulations.
“Covid-19 is now equally affecting people in the rural areas as urban areas but it seems people are ignorant of that. More and more people are now dying of Covid-19 in rural areas. In Gwanda District for example, we now have business centres and villages which have become hotspots, something which was not there before. Despite seeing dead bodies some people are still reluctant to believe.
“Traditional leaders have a lot of influence in rural areas and we need them to come on board and help drive the message home. There is need for more law enforcement agents to be deployed in rural areas. If we are going to be successful in fighting this pandemic, we need to work collectively,” he said. — @DubeMatutu