Several churches in Thailand suspend activities due to surge of COVID-19 cases

Bishop Joseph Phibun of Nakhon-Sawan diocese said the Catholic Church is doing its best to help in government efforts to control the outbreak

Several Catholics churches in Thailand have suspended religious activities due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Bishop Joseph Phibun of Nakhon-Sawan diocese told Radio Veritas Asia that the Catholic Church is doing its best to help in government efforts to control the outbreak.

“We stopped catechism classes and meetings and we invite the faithful to join Sunday Masses online,” said the prelate.

The Catholic Church in Thailand suspended all religious activities during the Lenten and Easter seasons last year at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, May 4, Thailand reported 1,763 new coronavirus cases and 27 deaths, as the country grapples with a third wave of infections.

The country has recorded 72,788 cases and 303 fatalities since the pandemic began last year.

The situation has become “very challenging” for the country’s small Catholic community.

“I noticed that my parishioners are getting accustomed to joining online Masses, but often they don’t even take advantage of this opportunity at all,” noted Oblates priest Domenico Rodighiero of the Good Shepherd Church parish in Phetchabun.

“We risk losing not only the value of the Sunday Mass but also the basic understanding that the community of the faithful is a central element of our faith,” said the priest.

Thailand largely controlled the virus early in the pandemic through shutdowns and strict border controls. But a deadly third wave that begin in early April includes the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant and has accounted for about half of its total cases and deaths.

Thailand has vaccinated nearly 1.5 million people so far, mostly medical workers and vulnerable people, using imported doses of China’s Sinovac and the AstraZeneca vaccines.

A mass vaccination program is set to kick off in June with locally manufactured AstraZeneca doses.

Vaccine registration opened to the public this weekend with a goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults in the country of more than 66 million people. – with a report from Reuters

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