Catholic Bishops in Ghana have directed the Clergy and lay faithful of the church to avoid handshakes and embracing one another during the Sign of Peace.
The Sign of Peace – during masses in Ghana – is a ceremonial handshake among the congregation as a sign of unity during the church service.
The directive is aimed at preventing a potential spread of the deadly 2019 Novel Corona Virus Infection (COVID-19).
In a statement issued on March 3, 2020, under the hand of the President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Most Rev. Philip Naameh, the Catholic Bishops also urged Catholics to receive Holy Communion in the hand instead of on the tongue during Mass.
The statement also urged the Ministers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to wash their hands or use sanitizer before and after distributing Holy Communion.
The statement also said with Nigeria confirming a case of CODVID-19 on February 27, the number of countries that have reported cases has risen including three African countries and in Ghana, it is reported that 30 cases have been suspected and all tested negative.
With the virus getting closer to Ghana, the Bishops cautioned Catholics in Ghana to clean their hands frequently by using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub.
“When hands are visibly dirty, wash with soap and water at least 30 seconds under running water and wipe your hands dry.”
With frightening statistics of the spread of the disease worldwide, the Prelates advised Catholics in the three-page statement to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and after touching a sick person or surface that could be contaminated, reminding them that: “when coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue-throw tissue away immediately and wash hands with soap and water.”
“If you have fever, cough, sneezing, sore throat and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider,” the statement implored, asking them “to talk to your healthcare provider about travel history-all places you have visited recently.”
Adding, the Ghanaian Bishops asked Catholics to inform health care providers “if they have had close contact with a person with suspected or confirmed infection or a person who has travelled outside the country recently.”
“If possible, isolate yourself or avoid contact with family members when you have any symptom and keep a distance of at least one step from a person showing signs of fever, coughing, sneezing and difficulty in breathing, the Bishops warned.”
The Bishops called for intensive prayers to end spread of the disease and advised Catholics and the public to help prevent it.
COVID-19 was first confirmed in Wuhan Province China, following reports of a series of cases of pneumonia.
The disease has since spread outside China. Even though the infection has been linked to the animal market in Wuhan, the animal source is yet to be identified.
COVID-19 is reported to have hit 69 countries and territories around the world. The number of confirmed cases worldwide has reached nearly 89,235 with 3,051 deaths and 45,197 recovered cases.
Meanwhile, 48,248 of the cases are inactive. Out of the total closed cases, 45, 197 (94%) recovered fully and got discharged from the hospital while 3,051 (6%) died.
On Friday, February 28, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the spread of the virus is “getting bigger”.