Don’t come to mass or religious services if you are sick- that is the advice of both the Catholic Diocese of Cork and Ross and of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.
The newly published advice comes as organisations around Cork continue efforts to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In guidance issued for parishes, the Catholic Diocese of Cork and Ross said that when seasonal flu or ‘a more serious epidemic’ is circulating, a number of precautionary measures can be taken to limit the spread of infection.
It stressed that people with flu symptoms are “dispensed from their Sunday obligation to attend mass”, and that those with flu symptoms should stay at home for seven days from the onset of illness.
It highlights how the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has previously said receiving Holy Communion directly on the tongue “should be discouraged” during flu season, and says that when it occurs, priests or Ministers of the Eucharist should clean their hands using an alcohol based hand gel.
The advice also recommends that parishes should supply tissues and hand-washing gel at church services/gatherings.
The Church of Ireland’s Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross has issued similar advice.
In a post on social media, it says the advice from the Church of Ireland is that physical interaction during services, including the Sign of Peace, should be suspended. Instead it says clergy may choose to allow people to carry out an alternative action that does not involve hand contact such as ‘a smile, nod or bow’. Shaking hands on greeting and leaving religious services/gatherings should also be suspended, it adds.
It stresses that the Church’s duty of care extends to members of the clergy, and says people who have influenza-type symptoms should not call the clergy for pastoral visitation.
It comes as the number of cases of COVID-19 globally continues to soar with almost 89,000 cases now confirmed around the world. Last week, Pope Francis cancelled a number of events due to illness. According to reports by Italian media, he has however tested negative for the coronavirus.