Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for parishes

Published: February 14, 2020

Priest lifts the communion breadThe threat posed by COVID-19 has been assessed by the Chief Medical Officer as ‘moderate’. This permits the Government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals remains low.

Current Government advice is that individuals should follow good hygiene practices including:

            • carrying tissues and using them to catch coughs and sneezes, and binning the tissue;
            • washing hands with soap and water (for 20 seconds) or using sanitiser gel to kill germs.

Advice has also been issued to travellers who have returned to the UK from a number of countries. The current advice is here. This page is updated daily.

Anyone who has returned to the UK from any of these areas in the last 14 days and develops symptoms of cough or fever or shortness of breath, should immediately:

  • stay indoors and avoid contact with other people as you would with the flu;
  • call NHS 111 to inform them of your recent travel to the country.

Long-standing government advice has been that ‘In a pandemic, it makes good sense to take precautions to limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drink.’ COVID-19 has NOT been declared a pandemic.

Churches should already be following best-hygiene practices that include advising parishioners with coughs and sneezes to refrain from handshaking during The Peace and to receive Communion in one kind only.

At present, there is no Government advice that suggests the use of the Common Cup should be suspended.

It is also best practice for churches to have hand-sanitisers available for parishioners to use.

In addition, priests presiding at the Eucharist, communion administrators and servers should wash their hands, preferably with an alcohol-based (minimum 60%) hand-sanitiser.

Intinction (dipping the bread into the wine) is not recommended (even by celebrants or communion-administrators) as this represents an infection transmission route.

Best hygiene practice should continue to be observed in all pastoral contacts.

Brendan McCarthy
Medical Ethics and Health/Social
Mission and Public Affairs

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