File photo: Volunteers disinfect a church as Egypt shut down churches and mosques due to COVID-19. Reuters
Eighteen dioceses in 13 Egyptian governorates have decided to halt masses and congregational services during the Holy Week and Easter over coronavirus concerns.
The 18 dioceses are located in Luxor, Giza, Beni Suef, Gharbiya, Fayoum, Aswan, Sohag, Qena, Assiut, Qalioubiya, Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez.
This year, the Holy Week begins on 25 April and ends with Easter on the evening of 1 May.
According to a statement, congregants will not be allowed to attend mass during the Holy Week that includes Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which is Easter’s eve — when Coptics usually go to church before gathering at night to celebrate and break their 55-day fast.
Only one of the 18 dioceses decided to cancel all the celebrations during the coming religious festivals, while the rest opted to hold mass in churches and limit them to a number of priests and deacons.
Other dioceses will adopt a set of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, including holding mass at a capacity of 25 percent of the congregation and giving access to people who reserve a place in the church in advance.
The statement added that 10 Coptic monasteries decided to close in the coming period.
Egypt is currently witnessing a steady increase in daily coronavirus cases, registering more than 800 daily cases in the past few days.
The country’s total coronavirus infection tally has so far reached more than 214,639, with 12,653 fatalities and 162,170 recoveries.