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Keep up swine-flu measures, Archbishops say after review

by Bill Bowder

SWINE-FLU precautions should be maintained, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have told the Bishops. New government evidence had shown that nearly a third of all children could catch the virus.

Dioceses that have resumed use of the common cup and the sign of Peace at holy communion have said that they will review their advice.

“The number of new cases has risen. There were 78,000 new cases in England this week with 751 people currently hospitalised,” the Archbishops told the College of Bishops in a statement last Friday.

The evidence showed that under- 16s were “significantly more susceptible to the virus”: up to 30 per cent could fall ill during the second wave of the pandemic. Deaths worldwide had increased by 12 per cent in the last week of October, the Health Protection Agency had said. In England, about 520,000 people had been infected.

“In the light of this, our recom­mendation, made on 22 July, to those presiding at Holy Com­munion in parishes and dioceses, remains unchanged.”

It was important to encourage everyone to recognise that the Church had a responsibility to take public health seriously. It was about avoiding transmitting infection “unwittingly” to others. It was im­portant, too, “to ensure commun­ica­tion around the Church is good so that we don’t appear at sixes and sevens”.

The diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, where the common cup is back in use, was due to review its advice yesterday. A diocesan spokes­man said on Monday that the Bishop, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, had called a staff meeting to con­sider its policy “in the light of the note from the Archbishops”.

The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, who advised use of the common cup in a letter to his clergy in September (News, 19 September), would consider the latest guidance, his spokeswoman said.

But the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, who had advised resumption of the common cup and the sign of Peace in September, had not changed his advice, his spokesman said.



Following our statement in September this year, we have reviewed the situation in light of the latest advice from the Department of Health

Their latest update, issued last night, shows that the number of new cases has risen.  There were 78,000 new cases in England this week with 751 people currently hospitalised. The additional information now available confirms earlier guidance that children under 16 are significantly more susceptible to the virus, and up to 30% may fall ill during this second wave. Deaths worldwide have increased by 12% this week. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) believes that about 520,000 people have been infected by swine flu in England since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The vaccination programme in this country has started this week.  The plan is to offer it to all at risk groups by the end of November.

In the light of this, our recommendation, made on 22nd July 2009 to those presiding at Holy Communion in parishes and dioceses, remains unchanged. 

It remains important
a) to encourage everyone to recognise that the Church has a responsibility to take public health considerations seriously and

b) to ensure communication around the Church is good so that we don’t appear at sixes and sevens, and

c) to remember that responsible practice in these areas is not primarily about protecting ourselves but about avoiding transmitting infection unwittingly to others.

In the light of this rapidly changing situation, we do not believe this is the time to issue fresh advice.  We are keeping in regular contact with the Department of Health and will continue to consider all relevant information.

We will review our own advice in a month’s time. Until then, we would encourage you to continue to show patience and to pray for all those affected.

+  Rowan Cantuar               +  Sentamu Ebor



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