Zimbabwe has banned families from transporting their dead relatives between cities, a custom where families take the dead to their areas of birth for burial rituals and ceremonies.

Monday’s announcement is part of new measures to stop traditional funeral rites that are believed to be increasing the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Police have also banned public viewing of bodies and the tradition of having a corpse stay overnight in the family’s home before burial.

“Police will only clear body movements for burial straight from a funeral parlor/hospital mortuary to the burial site,” police spokesman Paul Nyathi was quoted as saying in the state-run Herald newspaper.

Zimbabwe, like many other African countries, initially recorded low numbers of COVID-19, but has recently experienced a spike in cases.

There are fears that a new, more infectious variant of the coronavirus arrived from South Africa when thousands of Zimbabweans living there returned home for the festive season.

The strain has been imported into Zimbabwe but we are in the process of conducting genetic sequencing to confirm this,” Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Portia Manangazira said.

Zimbabwe tightened its coronavirus restrictions earlier in the month.

It recorded 21,477 cases and 507 deaths on January 10, up from the slightly more than 10,000 cases and 277 deaths at the beginning of December, according to government figures.