Joel Osteen suspends public services over coronavirus outbreak

Joel Osteen preaches at Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas in April 2017.(Photo: Lakewood Church)

Joel Osteen is moving services at his Lakewood megachurch to online only as coronavirus continues to spread around the US. 

The decision was taken to suspend public worship services at his Houston church after the city's mayor, Sylvester Turner, declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency. 

As of Friday morning, there were over 1,600 confirmed cases in the US and 40 deaths.

Lakewood is one of the biggest churches in the US, filling out the Compaq Center - former home of the Houston Rockets basketball team - with around 50,000 worshippers each week. 

In an email alert, the church said its public services were being halted in light of the guidance from the mayor's office "along with the fact that Lakewood draws such large numbers of international visitors each week". 

"While we apologize for any inconvenience this causes to our members and visitors, we feel that this move is necessary to ensure the well-being of all of the citizens of this great city, especially the most vulnerable among us," the email reads. 

The church will instead be broadcasting its services and assessing the situation "week by week" in line with official guidance. 

"[We] hope to resume the assembly in the very near future," the church said.