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Hong Kong Catholic Church takes strong measures in response to coronavirus

A general dispensation from Mass obligation has been issued for those who are afraid of contracting the virus or who could be sick.

The Catholic Church in Hong Kong has instituted a strict policy about attendance at Mass in response to the coronavirus in China. The faithful are obliged to wear masks, pay maximum attention to hygiene and maintain a certain distance.

To avoid gatherings of people in closed places as much as possible, the diocese has now granted a dispensation from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass to any of the faithful who are afraid of contracting the virus or who have even a slight illness. At the same time, it is providing a live stream of Mass so that such people can view it via computer. Those who follow the Mass this way can receive Holy Communion “spiritually,” rather physically.

Another possibility suggested by the diocese is to meditate on the Sunday liturgical readings at home and praying the rosary.

Following the government’s directives, the diocese asked the faithful who have visited a region affected by the coronavirus or have traveled abroad or have been in contact with people suspected of being infected with the coronavirus not to attend Mass and to remain in isolation for 14 days.

In a press conference Tuesday, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said the disease has been named: COVID-19.

“As of 6am Geneva time this morning, there were 42,708 confirmed cases reported in China, and tragically we have now surpassed 1000 deaths — 1017 people in China have lost their lives to this virus. Most of the cases and most of the deaths are in Hubei province, Wuhan,” he told reporters.

Ghebreyesus said that outside China, there are 393 cases in 24 countries, and one death.

He said he briefed United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and the two “agreed to leverage the power of the entire UN system in the response.”

“Today we have also activated a UN Crisis Management Team, to be led by [Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Program] Dr. Mike Ryan,” he said. “This will help WHO focus on the health response while the other agencies can bring their expertise to bear on the wider social, economic and developmental implications of the outbreak so we are all working to our strengths.”

He said that a vaccine could be ready in 18 months, and that in the meantime, it is important for individuals to cooperate in trying to avoid the spread of the virus. To that end, he advised persons to:

  • Clean hands regularly, either with alcohol-based rub or soap and water.
  • Keep a distance from someone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.

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