HONG KONG (SE): With the Hong Kong government activating the Emergency Response Level on January 25, in response to the threat of the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19, formerly Novel coronavirus 2019), the Catholic groups cancelled a number of activities beginning at end of January to prevent the new virus spreading. However, there have also been instances of fake news regarding Church events.
The Serra Club of Hong Kong announced on its website that it had called off its Serra 2020 Convention in Hong Kong, scheduled from January 31 to February 1, in which Church leaders and its members discuss issues pertaining to vocation.
Holy Cross parish in Shau Kei Wan, also announced that the Tai Koo Shing Mass Centre would suspend its services for February.
On the other hand, a dubious announcement purporting to be from Father Lawrence Lee Len, the chancellor of the diocese, made the rounds over the WhatsApp messaging app claiming that churches would be closed and all public Masses cancelled from February 7 to 21. This was quickly flagged as a hoax; fake news.
Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, parish priest of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Caine Road, confirmed that there was no such directive from the Chancery office of the diocese. The faithful were also reminded to always verify the sources of information they receive before sharing them.
With regards staff of the diocese, guidelines were issued on January 9 urging office heads and parish priests to allow for more flexibility in the working hours and work places (office or home). People who had visited mainland China over the previous 14 days were asked to inform their supervisors. The guideline also encouraged diocesan and parish staff to stay home if they felt unwell and to see a doctor. They were also told wear masks while working at the office.
Deacon John Lam Chi-man of the airport chaplaincy, told the Kung Kao Po on January 31 that the Friday Mass at the airport had been suspended. However, he hoped that he would still be able to lend support to travellers and staff at the airport in the midst of their travel worries.
The sports fest of the Simbayanan-KAMMPI, scheduled on January 27, was also called off as the YMCA Wu Kai Sha Youth Village informed the group that it would be closed for public safety as of January 25. The Filipino group said the event would be rescheduled after the epidemic passed.
As for formation activities, the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy also announced on January 28 the suspension of classes until March 2, as did the Diocesan Catechetical Centre which suspended classes until February 29.
However, Doris Yu Mei-yuk, service head of Caritas Services for the Elderly, said integrated home care services and day care services for the elderly and the sick had to go on as they needed medicine, food and other kinds of daily support. Cleaning services would be postponed as they are not urgent.
Yu said the staff caring for the elderly face a lot of pressure as there is a shortage of personnel while at the same time they need to pay greater attention to maintaining proper hygiene. They would also be deeply concerned should a resident be under quarantine.
She expressed concerns about the shortage of protective gear for the staff and hoped that the government would offer more support.
She said although the number of users in elderly day care centres had dropped sharply since the start of the epidemic, from an average of 70 to over 10 people per day, medical treatment and training at the centres would be provided as usual. She urged people to show more concern about the elderly around them during this period of time.
On January 31, John Cardinal Tong Hon, apostolic administrator for the diocese, issued a Prayer for Deliverance from the Epidemic (Wuhan coronavirus infection) available at the Sunday Examiner website at: https://bit.ly/2OKqiXr.
The cardinal also released a video message and text exhorting people to Face the epidemic with faith, hope and love (https://bit.ly/2Szyzyl).