| 13.4°C Belfast

Churches take precautions regarding 'physical interaction' and urge people to follow guidelines


Shaking hands in church is to be stopped due to fears of spreading the coronavirus.

Shaking hands in church is to be stopped due to fears of spreading the coronavirus.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Shaking hands in church is to be stopped due to fears of spreading the coronavirus.

Precautions are being taken in Northern Ireland's churches for the foreseeable future in line with the Public Heath Authority's guidance to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The Catholic Church has said holy water will be removed from fonts and the practice of sharing a chalice at communion will be stopped as will the exchange of handshakes which signifies a Sign of Peace from this weekend.

The Sign of Peace will also be suspended in the Methodist Church but communion will not be affected.

A spokesman for the Church of Ireland said: "Physical interaction during services, including the Sign of Peace, should be suspended.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

"Clergy may choose to give the congregation permission to carry out an alternative sign of peace that does not involve hand contact (e.g. a smile, nod or bow) if so wished.

"Shaking hands on greeting and departure at religious services/gatherings should be suspended. Observe good hand and general hygiene - thorough hand-washing with soap or sanitisers and disposal of tissues."

The guidelines add that service-goers should stay at home if they feel ill and display influenza-like symptoms, and to not come to services until they feel well.

The Presbyterian Church has said they are asking congregations to adhere to PHA guidance but have not introduced any changes to services.

Archbishop Eamon Martin wrote to all priests recently advising them to prepare for the celebration of Mass in the context of the flu season but a spokesman said it will be guided by the PHA, North and South about coronavirus.

Chairman of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland Dr Tom Black said avoiding direct contact is the best way to minimise the chances of transferring the virus and shaking hands should be avoided.

He added: "We are still in the containment phase where we want to limit the spread of this, where we want to isolate the case and where we want to contact, trace and quarantine cases if necessary, which is what you do in this phase of the disease to make sure it is not spread too rapidly."

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Top Videos