The Bishop of Argyll and the Isles has issued a message to his parishioners on changes of practice to help contain the potential spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

Bishop Brian McGee sent his message yesterday (Wednesday 4 March) requesting that all congregations throughout the diocese implement the recommended actions with immediate effect and until further notice.

His directive will be followed by congregations in Stornoway, Uist and Barra and come in response to what he called “the confirmed arrival of the Coronavirus in Scotland”.

Bishop Brian said: “I have decided that throughout our diocese the founts are to be emptied of Holy Water.
“Furthermore, during the celebration of the Eucharist the Sign of Peace is to be offered by bowing to each other rather than by shaking hands. Holy Communion will not be received on the tongue and the chalice will not be offered to the congregation.
“I have taken this decision as a precaution and to help safeguard your health and the health of others. The ruling is temporary and I will revoke it when it is considered appropriate to do so. Let us continue to pray for those who, across the world, are suffering from the virus, for those who care for them and that medical advancement will successfully combat it.”

Latest figures published this morning show that confirmed cases of the virus in Scotland have increased to six, with new cases in Grampian, the Forth Valley and Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

As reported on yesterday, NHS Western Isles and GP practices in the Islands have posted links to public information on how to behave during a virus outbreak. The NHS across Scotland is also contacting people who have spent 15 minutes or more within two meters of someone infected.

A helpline has been set up for people who do not have symptoms but are looking for general information at 0800 028 2816. Those who think they may have the virus or have recently travelled to an affected area are encouraged to contact their GP or call NHS 24 on 111.

Bishop Brian is pictured during an ordination ceremony in Skye last month (Diocese of Argyll and the Isles).