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/ 7 February 2020

Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance for parishes

To: Parish Clergy
From: Archdeacon of London
Date: February 2020
Re: Guidance note in the event of Pandemic Virus.

We Pray

Pray for those infected by the coronavirus, (now renamed Covid-19 by WHO), in China and around the world, for those who care for them, for health specialists and authorities who are combatting the spread of infection, and of course for all who at this time are feeling anxious, especially for those with friends and family in China.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

The World Health Organization has declared that this is a public health emergency of international concern. This enables resources to be targeted at countries which have a weak public health infrastructure. The risk to the public in the UK is currently set at moderate. This permits the government to plan for all eventualities. The number of cases in the UK is very small and good preparation is in place.

Most people recover from the illness after experiencing heavy cold / flu like symptoms for 6 – 8 days, but as this is a virus and not flu no vaccine is available. It is now being understood that death rates are much lower than was first thought – initially only the serious cases were reported, and not the ones that just seemed like flu. Deaths are most likely to occur where there is a pre-existing condition.

Any change to public health advice will be published here first.

This paper offers advice to churches. There is no immediate risk or need for action, but it is as well to be prepared for what we hope and expect will not happen.

What to do now

If someone is ill then call 111. Do not soldier on. This will help prevent the spread of disease. Those who are assessed as being at risk (which currently means those who have travelled back from a number of Far Eastern countries the last 14 days) are asked to self isolate at home while tests are done.

Keep an eye on the daily updates from official sources, not the heightened concerns sometimes seen in the media.

Holy Communion

While it is our faith that the sacraments are means of grace and not of sickness, they are physically ministered, and we should take physical care. As well as the specific concern about Coronavirus, this advice is generally applicable for all infectious disease.

  1. Wash Hands. Priests presiding at the Eucharist, communion administrators and servers are reminded to wash hands. We strongly advise the use of hand sanitizers immediately before the Preparation of the Table and Eucharistic prayer.
  2. Do not intinct. Because hands can be as much a source of pathogens as lips, intinction is no safer than drinking and can introduce germs into the cup. Intinction (dipping the bread into the wine) can also threaten those with certain immune or allergic conditions. For instance, those with gluten intolerance for whom traces of gluten can be hazardous are at greater risk when other communicants have dipped their communion wafer into the wine.
  3. Consider receiving Holy Communion in one Kind. It is Anglican teaching that to receive the sacrament in one kind only (ie. just the bread) is to receive the sacrament in its entirety. The celebrant should always receive from the Chalice. Should a communicant feel ill or not wish to drink from the chalice then he or she ought to receive the consecrated bread alone. There is no need at this stage to cease offering the chalice to the congregation.
  4. The Peace. At this time there is no need to refrain from sharing the Peace. Possibly further advice will need to be given were the virus to spread widely in the UK.
  5. Visiting. Pastoral visitors to homes and hospitals should observe all precautions in personal hygiene before and after such visits.

If the risk is raised, or you wish to, you could Plan for business continuity. The ‘Reasonable worst case scenario’ is a tool used in emergency planning. RWCS for a pandemic is that we may have a period of up to 14 weeks when a large part of the population is ill. Though the risk is moderate, we could ask now how would the parish or church community function if up to 50% of its people were off sick?

Edited at 15.00, on 12/02/20, to highlight that as of today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named the disease caused by the novel coronavirus as COVID-19.


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