Coronavirus: CoE asks priests to decide for themselves whether to withdraw communion cup

The Church of England has issued guidance about communion during the spread of coronavirus (PA Images via Getty Images)

The Church of England has asked its priests to decide for themselves whether to share wine at communion if coronavirus cases increase.

There are fears that churchgoers could pass on the virus, which causes the disease Covid-19, by sharing the chalice.

The church was urged last month to introduce measures to stop the spread of coronavirus at its services.

In updated advice, the Church of England says priests should “take a view” on whether or not the cup should be withdrawn altogether.

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This would mean offering attendees just one type of communion in the form of bread or wafer.

Priests are also asked to consider banning handshaking during services.

In advice published on its website, the Church of England says: “In the event of increased community transmission of coronavirus, priests should take a view whether it is necessary to withdraw the Common Cup.”

If the communion cup is withdrawn, the priest alone should take the wine, the church advised.

It said priests should “consider suspending handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the peace”.

The church added: “It is also best practice for churches to have hand-sanitisers available for parishioners to use.

“In addition, priests presiding at the Eucharist, communion administrators and servers should wash their hands, preferably with an alcohol-based (minimum 60%) hand-sanitiser.”

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The church said it did not recommend intinction, the process of dipping bread in the wine, as this could lead to increased transmission of infection.

Dr David Nabarro, one of the World Health Organization's six special envoys on coronavirus, said the UK government is likely to be considering restrictions on religious and community gatherings to help delay the spread of the disease.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We need to recognise that it is advancing and the focus now needs to move to delay.

"In order to do that, it is really important to try and take the heat out of transmission, and that means helping people to stay further away from each other and reduce the risk they get infected."

Coronavirus updates

There have now been more than 111,200 confirmed cases worldwide of coronavirus, according to John Hopkins University, and 3,892 deaths. The number of people who have recovered from coronavirus is more than 62,000.

Boris Johnson has gathered ministers for an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the battle against the spread of the virus.

But culture secretary Oliver Dowden indicated that Britain will not follow some European countries in banning large sporting events and closing museums.

He told BBC Breakfast: "There's no reason for people either not to attend such events or to cancel them at this stage, but we keep it under review."

At the weekend, Italy imposed restrictions the movements of about 16 million people for nearly a month in a bid to stop the spread of the disease there.

Italy now has the highest number of confirmed cases outside China at 7,375, and its death toll stands at 366.

Read more: Foreign Office advises against travel to northern Italy

France, where more than 1,100 cases have been recorded and 19 people have died, has announced a ban on events of more than 1,000 people.

People wearing medical masks as a precaution against coronavirus in central London on Sunday (Getty Images)

The UK has 280 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and three people have died in UK hospitals.

Meanwhile, more than 100 Britons stuck on a coronavirus-hit cruise ship off the coast of California will soon be allowed to leave the vessel.

Passengers will disembark the Grand Princess from Monday – a process the liner's operator said will take a number of days.

The ship, which is carrying 21 people who have tested positive for Covid-19, will dock in the port of Oakland on Monday.