, 04 March, 2020 / 10:55 PM
Informed by reports of the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world including Africa, the Catholic Bishops in Ghana have, in a collective statement, called on Catholics in the West African country to take preventive measures that would save them from contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
In particular, the Bishops have asked Catholics to receive Holy Communion in the hand instead of the tongue, a move similar to that taken by the Archbishop of Nigeria’s Lagos Archdiocese where the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, was first confirmed in sub-Saharan Africa.
“All are encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand,” reads part of a statement by the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) seen by ACI Africa correspondent in Ghana.
In the Tuesday, March 3 statement signed by GCBC President, Archbishop Philip Naameh, the Prelates direct the Ministers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion “to wash their hands or use sanitizer before and after distributing Holy Communion.”
“Avoid handshakes and embracing one another during Kiss of Peace,” the Bishops have urged in the three-page statement issued in consultation with the Health Directorate of the National Catholic Secretariat (NCS).
With governments around the world scrambling to control the spread of the deadly virus amid increasing confirmations of the virus outside China, there are at least 93,000 cases of COVID-19 across the globe.
Cognizant of the challenges in finding a cure or vaccine for the virus, the Catholic Prelates in Ghana have advised citizens to focus on preventive measures saying, “Clean hands frequently by using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.”
“When coughing and/or sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue –throw tissue away immediately and wash hands with soap and water,” the Bishops have advised and added, “If you have fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat and/or difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your healthcare provider.”
In an encounter with a person exhibiting COVID-19 signs, the Prelates caution, “Keep a distance of at least one step (one meter).”
In neighboring Nigeria, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos temporarily suspended the Sign of Peace through handshakes and hugs and the receiving Holy Communion on the tongue alongside other directives.
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are known to cause illnesses ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Several known coronaviruses circulate and cause disease in animals.
A spill-over event occurs when a virus, known to circulate in animals, is found to have been transmitted to humans due to increased contact between animals and humans. COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first confirmed in Wuhan Province China following reports of a series of cases of pneumonia.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa