Hong Kong diocese suspended all public Masses for a second time following a surge in Covid-19 cases amid a third wave of the contagion in the former British colony. Churches and chapels will have to suspend all public Masses from July 15 till July 28 “to reduce the risk of community transmission as far as possible,” Cardinal John Tong, apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, said in a statement. Cardinal Tong asked the faithful to attend Sunday Mass online through the diocesan website (ww.catholic.org.hk), which also telecasts daily Mass and other liturgical services. In the July 14 statement, the cardinal asked parishes to keep churches open to facilitate individuals to pray. People have to wear face masks, sanitize their hands, check their body temperature and follow social distancing norms. The cardinal also asked to suspend Christian sacraments like baptisms, first communions and confirmations till July 28.
Cardinal Tong has directed the faithful to conduct marriages and funerals with less than 20 participants. It was the second such suspension in the diocese after the pandemic began to spread. The first suspension was lifted on June 1 after more than three months of suspension. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government imposed a strict new social distancing measure from July 14 midnight, the most stringent in the Asian financial hub since the pandemic broke out in January. The administration has reduced group gatherings to four persons from 50 – a measure adopted during the second wave of the infection in March. Hong Kong reported 48 new coronavirus cases on July 14, including 40 locally transmitted cases. The toll was slightly lower than the previous day’s 52 cases. However, the figures remained broadly in line with the recent surge in Covid-19 in Hong Kong. At least 12 taxi drivers were tested positive on July 13 and some of their passengers also fell victim. The authorities have warned of the risk of a large-scale outbreak. School classes have been suspended from July 10 and summer vacations have been advanced amid fears of a new round of infections in the territory. The new restrictions include mandatory face masks for people using public transport and only takeaway facility at restaurants. Violators risk a fine of 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($645). Gyms and indoor entertainment centers will remain closed. The administration said these severe measures became necessary after drastic changes in the outbreak recently. "The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community," the administration said in a statement outlining the new measures. Since late January, the financial hub has reported more than 1,500 cases and eight deaths. The administration is planning to impose curbs on travelers from high-risk places, including a negative test result before starting the journey. Chief executive Carrie Lam said the new measures were aimed at public health and social acceptability and warned of a prolonged stay of the pandemic. Lam vowed to increase the testing capability among high-risk groups like nursing homes, caterers and taxi drivers. Public Masses in Hong Kong were suspended earlier on Feb. 14, which was revoked on June 1 by Cardinal Tong.
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