The Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, says he was advised today that a parishioner at St Mary’s Church in Papakura has been diagnosed with the Covid-19 coronavirus, some days after attending the 8.30am Mass last Sunday.
“The parishioner appeared well at Mass and showed no symptoms of any illness,” Bishop Dunn said. “The person became ill during the week.”
Bishop Dunn said the parish was contacting parishioners, especially those who attended the same Mass as the person. Older parishioners and those whose health might not be the best were being particularly contacted.
“I am advised by health experts that the risk to others at that Mass of contracting Covid-19 is low,” Bishop Dunn said. “This is because the risk of Covid-19 being passed on by someone not showing symptoms is regarded as low.
“The wellbeing of our parishioners is our first priority, which is why we started to contact them as soon as we became aware today that a parishioner had been diagnosed with Covid-19,” Bishop Dunn said.
Bishop Dunn said the 5pm Vigil Mass at St Mary’s today and the 8.30am and 10.30am Masses tomorrow would go ahead as normal, because the risk of transmission was regarded as low for persons without symptoms. Parishioners would be given advice before they entered, and the choice whether to attend.
“Nobody should fear going to Mass,” said Bishop Dunn. “Our best advice is that the chance of catching any illness in Mass is very low, especially if you heed the standard health advice to wash your hands, avoid close contact with anyone who is ill, and stay at home if you feel ill yourself.”
Bishop Dunn, who is President of the NZ Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said the Church had been in close regular contact with the Ministry of Health since the Covid-19 pandemic began in China and had issued regular updates to parishes on precautions that needed to be taken at Mass.
Following advice of the Ministry, the Catholic Church throughout New Zealand this week stopped the use of shared holy water from fonts, communion on the tongue, or from the chalice, and shaking hands or other physical contact at the Sign of Peace during Mass. These practices have always been optional for individuals.
This was in addition to the standard advice for parishes emphasising the importance of good hygiene practices, including regular washing of hands, covering coughs and sneezes with elbows not hands, and staying at home if feeling sick.