The Department of Health has confirmed that since the pandemic hit Ireland there has been just one outbreak in the Republic connected with a church, but the religious denomination was not specified.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre “does not collect data on attendance at church or religious denomination for individual cases of Covid-19”, according to a statement given to this paper.
The outbreak occurred between March 1 and September 14 and was linked to eight confirmed cases. For confidentiality reasons the location of the outbreak wasn’t revealed.
An article signed by three infectious disease specialists, who are physician members of the Thomistic Institute Working Group on Infectious Disease Protocols for Sacraments and Pastoral Care in the US, which was published in RealClearScience, said there had been no Covid-19 outbreaks linked to Catholic churches despite about one million public Masses taking place over a period of about four months.
The group was brought together at the behest of the US bishops to develop detailed guidance for how Catholic sacraments might be provided in the midst of the current pandemic, in accord with the current standards issued by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control.
They stated: “The Good News: for Catholic churches following these guidelines, no outbreaks of Covid-19 have been linked to church attendance, even though we have examples…of asymptomatic, unknowingly infected individuals attending Mass and other parish functions.
“Their attendance could have led to an outbreak if appropriate precautions were not followed, yet in each case, we found no evidence of viral transmission. We also reviewed recent public health and media reports regarding Covid-19 dissemination and found no reports of disease transmission, let alone outbreaks, in a Catholic church following such guidelines.”
This comes as public Masses, Confirmations and First Communions were cancelled in Dublin for three weeks after the Government’s new guidelines were announced on Friday in response to cases of Covid-19 surging in the capital.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the day after the Government’s announcement: “I am seriously concerned that many people may be underestimating the seriousness of the situation in Co. Dublin and indeed now in other counties.
“The spread of the virus has reached serious levels and constitutes a real risk of radically increased infection within the community.
“While there was no evidence of the virus being spread in worshipping communities, the measures in Dublin were appropriate at this time.”