Coronavirus (COVID-19) update #1, including changes to Mass

Dear Colleagues, Families, Residents, Parishioners and Volunteers,

No doubt you will be aware of media reports and discussions at Federal and State Government level surrounding the activation of the Australian Government’s Emergency Response Plan for the COVID-19 Coronavirus.

While not wanting to cause alarm, St Agnes’ Parish and its entities may be required as part of this Plan to take action, which may include temporarily closing some of its facilities. We would like to reassure our families, residents, clients, volunteers and Parishioners that should such an event occur we will be well prepared.

These actions may include:

  • Aged care services in ‘lock down’ with all non-essential visitors unable to enter.
  • Closure of early education centres, primary and secondary schools.
  • Assessment and detailed preparation across all Parish services under the direction of our Critical Incident Management Team, and action where required.

In the meantime, we would ask you to be especially mindful of behaviours that reduce the possibility of virus transmission. Here are some suggestions:

  • The Australian Government advice for those who have travelled to ‘at risk’ countries, or have been in contact with someone who has the virus, is to self-identify and self-quarantine: See more information at: https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov. This is compulsory for all staff but is also requested of all those who are in any way in personal contact with Parish entities or services.
  • If you are planning to travel overseas, stay safe and review Government travel advice, as there are currently travel warnings for South Korea, Iran, Japan, Italy, and Mongolia: See more information: https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/news-and-updates/coronavirus-covid-19#away.
  • Follow good hygiene principles and always wash your hands with soap and water. We are placing additional hand sanitising stations across all Parish buildings, and encourage its use at all times.
  • If you are exhibiting flu symptoms do not come to work. Contact your GP and advise your symptoms (before attending) and only return to work, when cleared by your GP.
  • It is recommended that people do not shake hands, kiss hello and that contact is kept to a minimum.
  • The following precautionary steps have been mandated by the Bishop of Lismore for Mass.
  1. In order to prevent the passing of the virus from hand to hand there will be no sign-of-peace until further notice;
  2. To prevent the possibility of the transmission of droplets from one person to another during the reception of Communion, all Communion will be given on the hand and not on the tongue until further notice;
  3. The Chalice will not be shared with the congregation;
  4. Should members of your Parish be feeling unwell, they are relieved from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass. Sick people should not attend Mass.
  5. A reminder to all special ministers of the Eucharist to sanitise their hands with sanitising gel before distribution;
  6. Holy Water will not be used at the entrances of churches.

We would like to reiterate that it is not our intention to cause alarm however, it is important that we are well prepared for any instruction that may be made as part of the Government’s Response Plan. The Parish Leadership Team will continue to meet, discuss and release relevant communications as required.

If you have a particular issue or concern, please raise this with your direct Manager who can provide feedback to the Critical Incident Management Team.

Fr Paul Gooley, Parish Priest & Adam Spencer, Chief Executive Officer