Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong celebrates Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (Photo: UCA News)
Hong Kong Diocese has issued a series of pastoral measures and suspended public Masses amid its fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chinese territory confirmed 82 new coronavirus cases on Dec. 1, forcing officials to tighten recently eased social distancing rules, including restricting weddings, religious events and tour programs.
Complying with government measures, the diocese on Dec. 2 suspended public Masses in all its parishes and chapels. However, churches remain open for personal prayers, according to a letter issued on Dec. 2.
Other communal religious activities are also suspended except weddings and funerals. But only 20 people can attend wedding ceremonies, and no food or drink can be served. There is no restriction on the number of people attending funerals.
The letter issued by diocesan chancellor Father Lawrence Lee said Catholics might fulfill their Sunday obligation by taking part in the online Liturgy and receive Holy Communion spiritually. They are also encouraged to reflect on the Sunday liturgical text, read the Bible or say the rosary.
The Church’s measures come along with the government announcing its latest Covid-19 rules on Dec. 2. It has banned gatherings of more than two people and asked eateries to close at 10 pm.
The city began to experience its fourth wave of pandemic infections in late November, with over half of the cases linked to a dance hall cluster, which accounted for 552 infections.
The government threatened to increase fines for offenders to as much as HK$10,000 (US$1,280) as more untraceable infections were reported. Some infections are also linked to the still-expanding “super-spreader” cluster of dance and singing venues. Fresh infections were also detected in the city’s care facilities, schools, and public hospitals.
All who work in residential care homes must undergo a medical test voluntarily before Dec. 14. Those who fail will face a fine and mandatory testing order.
But those who ignore the mandatory testing order will be punished with a fine of HK$25,000 (US$3,200) and up to six months' imprisonment.
According to labor and welfare authorities, the government aims to provide weekly testing for high-risk individuals to ensure a safe working environment for all involved.
Hong Kong has reported 6,397 Covid-19 cases with 109 deaths. Authorities have warned the latest wave is expected to be more severe than the preceding three.
The diocese suspended public Masses initially on Feb. 15, for two weeks. But when the situation worsened, it was extended. Ash Wednesday and Easter passed off without any public celebration.
Three months later, Hong Kong resumed public Masses in June. But suspended all public church programs from July 15 to 28 amid a third wave of the contagion.