Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II stressed the necessity of adhering to a 25 percent attendance rate in churches to confront a new severe increase in coronavirus cases in the country.
In his weekly sermon on Wednesday, Pope Tawadros II stressed the importance of observing preventive measures against the virus, especially during the upcoming Holy Week.
“Please be cautious, because the current wave is powerful and severe, and there is an increasing number of infections. Please commit to the 25 percent attendance rate inside churches,” he said.
The pontiff stressed the importance of wearing facemasks, washing hands, social distancing, better ventilation, and health nutrition.
“Please take the matter seriously,” Pope Tawadros II said, praying for the safety of citizens and the country from the pandemic.
On Wednesday, the health minister ordered the increase of coronavirus-designated hospitals in the governorate to 17, and to increase ICU beds to 166 and ventilators to 58, instead of 100 and 48 respectively, as the country attempts to curb the current rise in infections.
Earlier this month, several Egyptian Coptic monasteries said they will ban visits in the upcoming period until Easter due to a spike in coronavirus infections.
The monasteries' ban on visits this year came after Egypt announced in the first week of April that there was a notable rise in infections in the past six weeks, adding that the governorates of Upper Egypt reported the highest infections in the past period.
On Saturday, 18 dioceses in 13 Egyptian governorates 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, Ismailiya, and Suez.
This year, the Holy Week begins on 25 April and ends with Easter on the evening of 1 May.
Congregants in these dioceses 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 Copts usually go to church before gathering at night to celebrate and break their 55-day fast.
The first wave of the coronavirus outbreak last year forced people to celebrate Easter at home, as Egypt saw unprecedented measures in March 2020 to stem the spread of the virus, including a nationwide night-time curfew as well as the suspension of all prayers and activities at all houses of worship.
The pandemic forced Pope Tawadros II to lead the Easter mass last year at the desert Monastery of Saint Bishoy in Wadi El-Natrun without attendees.
Churches were later allowed to reopen with restrictions for the first time in August after a steady decline in coronavirus infections over the summer.