With Malawi still safe from the coronavirus, the Catholic Church in the country has taken precautionary measures as Covid-19 has, as of yesterday, killed 5 436 people, with 145 698 cases registered globally.
Eighteen African countries have so far been affected. They include South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria and Morocco.
Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) president Archbishop Thomas Msusa on Friday issued guidelines for the prevention of the disease in archdioceses and dioceses under the ECM.
The church says in the wake of the outbreak of coronavirus in many parts of the world, ECM has introduced temporary precautionary measures with regard to the celebration of the Holy Mass, other Liturgical services and as general guidelines.
The church is encouraging its faithful to wash their hands before entering the churches or other places of worship.
Reads in part the guidelines: “The Catholic faithful should avoid squeezing one another as we sit in pews. There should be no sign of peace during Mass, for example, handshake, hug or any bodily contact.
“The Catholic faithful should line up when receiving Holy Communion not kneeling in order to ensure proper distance between them. Reception of the Eucharist should be done in the hand and not on the tongue.”
The ECM advises that where more than one priest celebrates a Mass, only the main celebrant or any other priest should consume the blood of Christ last, not as is the case now where all celebrants consume the blood of Christ from one cup.
“The offertory gifts
should be handled with gloves and when counting money it is necessary to use mouth masks wherever possible. Experts in medical field should be invited to give talks in Churches and schools on coronavirus.
“Efforts should be made to have a technical team of doctors that will analyse the situation and give updates and advice to the Church,” ECM advises.
The Church advises that commissions working with foreign nationals coming from destinations where cases of coronavirus have been identified should first seek guidance and information from Catholic Secretariat or any relevant government ministry before inviting them into the country.
“During public celebrations, public address systems should be used, wherever possible, to enable many Catholic faithful follow the Mass from outside the Church. Priests should celebrate open air Masses, wherever possible, in order to avoid overcrowding in the Church.
“Those parishes where it is feasible to have pre-festive Masses [vigil] on Saturday evening should do so to prevent overcrowding on Sunday. Priests should be careful when administering all other Sacraments such as baptism, confirmation, reconciliation and more especially anointing of the sick,” it reads.
The ECM also advises head teachers of Catholic schools to introduce measures that adhere to hygiene and sanitation by all teachers, pupils and students.
“In the event that many cases of coronavirus have been identified in some areas, the obligation to attend Mass shall be suspended. In addition, workplaces such as ECM secretariat, diocesan curia offices, where cases of coronavirus have been identified shall remain closed until the situation gets under control,” the ECM advises.
It directs that there be reduction in frequency of bringing people together for meetings, adding wherever possible issues should be discussed via Internet or other facilities.
In Italy where coronavirus has claimed 1 016 lives as of yesterday, according to BBC, with 17 660 cases, the Catholic Church on March 8 suspended public Masses, with the bishops calling it a painful yet necessary measure to protect people’s health. The suspension runs up to April 3.
The Malawi Government, through Ministry of Health, has also been advising Malawians on measures to follow in the face of this virus.
Health and Rights Education Programme executive director Maziko Matemba commended the Catholic Church for the bold steps taken as the coronavirus, first detected in China, is fast spreading globally.
“I encourage other churches to follow suit. It’s not only churches, but even in places where people gather, including weddings, people must take these precautionary measures,” he said.
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, according to international online publications, surged to 5 436 as of yesterday, with 145 698 cases registered as the infection continues to prompt countries to take unprecedented measures, including suspension of flights and restriction on visas to help stave off this global health crisis.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.
According to published reports, coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they are transmitted between animals and people.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular handwashing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.