'Do not soldier on' - coronavirus advice issued to Church of England parishes

Two clinics in Brighton were closed temporarily after two local GPs were diagnosed with coronavirus(Photo: Sky News)

Coronavirus guidance has been sent out to Church of England parishes in London and the Diocese of Chichester advising churches to take precautions and be prepared for a larger outbreak. 

Brighton, where there has been a cluster of coronavirus infections, falls within the Diocese of Chichester. 

Two local healthworkers were among the four new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday, bringing the UK total to eight. 

All four cases have been linked to a Brighton businessman who attended a conference in Singapore and travelled to the French Alps for a ski break, where he is reported to have infected five others and a sixth person who is now in Majorca, before returning back to the UK. 

The advice issued by the Dioceses of London and Chichester says that there is "no immediate risk" but stresses the importance of being prepared.

"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," it reads.

The advice urges parishioners to follow guidance from official sources and "not the heightened concerns sometimes seen in the media". 

In particular, the guidance covers holy communion, pastoral visits to homes and hospitals, and the exchanging of the peace. 

Ministers presiding over the Eucharist are reminded to wash their hands, with the advice stating: "We strongly advise the use of hand sanitizers immediately before the Preparation of the Table and Eucharistic prayer." 

Parishioners are told not to intinct - or dip the bread into the cup - during Communion, while churches should consider offering 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 guidance states.

"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." 

If parishioners are concerned about shaking someone's hand during the exchanging of the peace, the guidance says that physical touch is not a requirement and that "it is enough simply to say 'peace be with you', preferably whilst making eye contact". 

Pastors may continue to make pastoral visits but are advised to "observe all precautions in personal hygiene before and after". 

The guidance urges anyone who thinks they might have the coronavirus to quickly seek advice from the NHS.

"If someone is ill then call 111. Do not soldier on. This will help prevent the spread of disease," it says. 

The paper also asks parishioners to pray for all those affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus. 

"Pray for those infected by the coronavirus 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," it says. 

The full guidance can be read here.