Church and CoronaVirus
In light of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak and its confirmed cases across the world, it has come to our attention that churches need to be prepared to respond and keep our church communities safe.
Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared this outbreak a global pandemic. Prior to this announcement, the Australian Government activated the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19. Click here to read the press paper:
The Presbyterian Church of Queensland is following advice from the Queensland and Federal Governments. Currently, the Government’s advice is: “There is no need to cancel any events or gatherings or take additional precautions to normal practice. People who are unwell should not attend public events.”
Thus, it is advised that churches and congregation members continue to go about their daily lives in terms of travel to church, work or study as normal. Churches should also be alert to any bulletins or advice released by the Health Services, and should already be following best- hygiene practices as detailed below:
- Wash hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, and dry with a paper towel or hand dryer.
- Use hand sanitisers often (with over 60% alcohol).
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
- Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication, ensure you have adequate supplies.
- Call your doctor first if you need medical attention. They will tell you what to do.
- Get the flu shot (available at local Pharmacies or GP).
All advice provided by the PCQ will follow the Government guidelines that have been issued and disseminated in relation to personal hygiene, gathering size and self-quarantine. If an infected individual (particularly with developed symptoms) attends a service then all attendees should be advised to contact their GP immediately for further advice. The individual should also be advised to contact their workplace or organisation; and they may be required to self-quarantine if working in an industry related to health care, child-care, aged care, or teaching.
As confirmed cases continue to rise, please note that gatherings over a certain size may be discouraged for public health reasons; however, there is no indication of this being currently required except for gatherings over 500 people.
Prevention Ideas for Churches:
- Make available hand-sanitisers (with over 60% alcohol content) throughout the church, especially entrances and meeting rooms.
- Make available boxes of tissues in public access areas, for example, the welcome desk.
- Encourage people to regularly wash their hands and post reminder signs throughout the church. Resources are available via Queensland Health Services website here.
- Shaking hands is optional, though people may choose to fist bump or hand wave instead.
- Endeavour to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as door handles and railings (with commercial products) touched by churchgoers after each service.
- To reduce the chances of spreading disease, it is recommended to schedule a period of time after each gathering to circulate enclosed spaces with fresh air. Plan to turn off the air-conditioner(s) and open windows with fans switched on. Communion & Food Handling:
- Limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drinks.
- Be vigilant about how food is handled. Shared food should be covered and not just openly available. It is recommended that food is served by individuals observing high-level hygiene standards and specifically tasked with serving food.
- Consider preparing food contained in packets, rather than prepared food in the kitchen.
- Be readily available to monitor food tables, especially children, to ensure that food is not fingered or spoilt.
- Limit bring & share meals and practice good personal hygiene at all times.
- If a dishwasher is installed, please wash all cutlery and crockery through the machine, and avoid washing by hand or towel drying. Other Considerations for Fellowship Gatherings:
- It is expected that Kirk Sessions will not delay the preparation of stringent emergency operation and communication plans for adoption.
- If necessary, create plans to enable Church Staff and Elders to work remotely. Click here to read about COVID-19 and Australian workplace laws:
- If necessary, create plans to host conference calls or video chats as alternatives for face-to-face meetings.
- Encourage congregation members to be prepared in supporting vulnerable people in their community, especially the elderly or people with a disability.
- Media have shared that a few overseas affected countries have suspended their church services and are live-streaming their Sunday services. In an event where gatherings at a certain size may be discouraged, please consider planning for Sunday live streaming or pre-recorded sermon videos to be uploaded on the congregation website. If resources are limited, congregations may choose to share sermons or podcasts from other Presbyterian Charges who may already be live streaming or uploading Sunday services online.
- Charges may advise all congregation members to review and prepare family emergency plans.
- Remind congregational members that rumour control is essential. Please obtain information and correspondences from trusted sources, like the State Health Officials and Queensland Health Services website (https://www.health.qld.gov.au/). The Government has also published the ‘Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan’, which provides an overview of the national approach and operational plan here.
For the well-being of others, if any individual or their family are exhibiting symptoms like fever, dry cough, sore throat, fatigue or shortness of breath; they should not attend church gatherings and visit their doctor immediately. If an individual or their family have been overseas in the last 14 days and are feeling unwell, please advise the individual to see their doctor immediately.
Thank you for your understanding & cooperation during this time of the outbreak.