Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili delivers his Easter message on March 30. (Photo: Facebook)
With the number of Covid-19 cases steadily increasing since early March, this year’s Easter in Timor-Leste is being celebrated in an atmosphere filled with anxiety about the spread of the virus.
As the government decided to further tighten the implementation of health protocols, churches in the predominantly Catholic country can only hold online services.
Timor-Leste had recorded 604 coronavirus cases as of March 31, equivalent to about 1.36 percent of the tests carried out, or 0.038 percent of its 1.5 million population. No deaths have been recorded.
When announcing 41 new cases on March 31, Rui Araujo, coordinator of the task force for prevention and mitigation of Covid-19, noted that one patient was in a critical condition — a 69-year-old woman with a history of obesity and diabetes.
The government is increasing the number of tests after carrying out more than 42,000.
The worrisome conditions prompted President Francisco Guterres Lu Olo on March 31 to announce a state of emergency from April 3 to May 2.
The declaration was made after the application was approved by 49 members of parliament with 14 abstentions and no opponents.
The decree establishes the same steps implemented in the previous emergency, giving the government tremendous power to deal with the pandemic, including the deployment of police to curb citizens who break the rules.
The state of emergency also limits large-scale gatherings and other activities.
The government has imposed lockdowns in the municipalities of Dili, Baucau and Viqueque and a health fence at the country’s borders.
Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak said the government is in contact with international entities to ensure timely access to vaccines in accordance with the government's commitment to immunize the entire population by the end of this year.
“Until the arrival [of vaccines] takes place, it is the responsibility of all of us to help prevent Timorese from dying because of this virus. The attitude of each of us will ensure the protection of our own lives and save the lives of others,” he said in a statement on March 31.
Don't lose your joy
Meanwhile, in his Easter message on March 30, Archbishop Virgilio do Carmo da Silva of Dili sought to give strength to his flock.
He said that even though Easter comes in the midst of this difficult situation, it "must not stifle the Easter spirit in our hearts and stop our hope of spreading the spirit of Easter to others."
He added that "Covid-19 forces all of us to stay at home, restricts our movement," but Christ is our hope.
"This message must be transmitted everywhere, but we hope that Covid-19 does not spread everywhere," he said.
He invited his people to set their eyes on God "so that he can heal all our wounds."
"This moment also brings us to remember those who are now in the isolation room, who are in quarantine and their families who because of this situation cannot gather together," he said.
"We also provide solidarity for medical personnel who work tirelessly day and night and other parties who remain at the forefront of this situation."