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Churches change customs amid coronavirus fears

Churches change customs amid coronavirus fears

Monday 09 March 2020

Churches change customs amid coronavirus fears


Churches in Jersey are changing their Holy Communion practices to minimise the risk of spreading coronavirus.

The custom involves members of the congregation eating a consecrated wafer handed to them by the priest and drinking wine from a common chalice.

However, many local churches are no longer offering the chalice – or are considering withdrawing it – to avoid the transmission of coronavirus within their community.

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Pictured: Some churches are now only allowing the priest to drink from the chalice, which is usually shared during Holy Communion.

Some are going so far as to consider suspending the shaking of hands as a peace greeting.

St. Ouen’s Parish Church is among those to have changed its practices. 

In a communication to churchgoers sent on Friday, the Church Administrator explained: “The Dean has provided advice on how to minimise the spread of Coronavirus given that it is now highly likely to make it to the Island. We therefore need to minimize the risk as we have people in our church community who are in the vulnerable list of those who will have pre-existing conditions or who are elderly and therefore more at risk.

“We will therefore be following the Dean’s advice until further notice which includes the following:

  • suspend the administration of the chalice and offer Communion in one kind only i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host, with the priest alone taking the wine;
  • suspend handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the peace and on arrival and departure;
  • suspend direct physical contact as part of a blessing or ‘laying on of hands’.” 

The administrator added that hand sanitiser would be made available in church buildings and that cleaners would be paying “regular and close attention to cleaning door handles and hand rails”.

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Pictured: Hand sanitiser is being made available in most churches.

The measures come as coronavirus becomes a ‘notifiable disease’ in Jersey. 

The order, which was signed by the Health Minister and came into effect on Saturday, means that doctors, nursing and care staff must report and provide patient information for suspected cases of Covid-19 to the Medical Officer of Health.

It came into effect on Saturday, following a week of briefings to Ministers and States Members, as well as meetings between the government and hospitality, digital, transport, utilities and supermarket industry representatives.

Officials said they will be offered a ‘business continuity toolkit’, but provided no details of what this would involve when asked by Express

On Thursday, the Emergencies Council will meet to discuss ongoing management of the pneumonia-like illness.

More than 50 tests have been carried out in Jersey, but so far there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, commented: “The Government of Jersey has been holding regular meetings to keep ahead of the global situation and to ensure that the island is ready if a case was to arrive here. Plans have been in place for some time to ensure that if we are needed to deal with a case of coronavirus, our efforts are well-coordinated.”

In the meantime, islanders are being urged to regularly wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze through a major hygiene awareness campaign is launching today. 

The campaign involves a number of informative ads featured in local media, including Express, as well as digital screens at the bus station, Co-op, Library and Customer and Local Services.

The government is also pledging to update islanders on social media at 14:30 every day with the number of people tested for coronavirus and those confirmed to be negative or positive with the illness.

Despite there being no confirmed cases, islanders have been stock-piling quantities of hand sanitiser with multiple supermarkets and pharmacies selling out of the product.

Last week, Boots limited the number of bottles islanders could buy to two per person.

Meanwhile, DIY merchant B&Q was sold out of most face masks over the weekend.

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Pictured: B&Q was sold out of all of its disposable dust masks, and the majority of its more heavy duty models too.

For more information about coronavirus, including the list of affected countries and advice on when to self-isolate, click HERE.

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