CHINA / SOCIETY
Beijing suspends religious gatherings to curb COVID-19 risk
Published: Jan 08, 2021 10:23 PM

Hebei Province announced on Wednesday to control 10 highways that connect Shijiazhuang in Hebei to the capital Beijing, and to other adjacent provinces amid virus resurgence. Photo: VCG



All 155 religious venues in Beijing will be temporarily closed, and gatherings will be suspended starting Friday for epidemic control purposes, an official from the city's Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission announced on Friday at a press conference.

So far, no COVID-19 infections have been found in the religious venues and among 840 religious staff in Beijing.

Beijing will carry out special investigations on and curb illegal religious activities in rural areas, to prevent the risk of cluster infections, he said.

The Beijing authority also announced a ban on large-scale celebrations and sales events around the country's traditional Spring Festival, which is about one month from now, to prevent COVID-19 flare-ups in rural areas.

Residents are encouraged to postpone weddings, simplify funerals, avoid feasts and reduce gatherings.

The capital on Thursday found one more confirmed case in its Shunyi district, which declared a wartime mode on December 26 to curb COVID-19 spread after two cases were found. So far, Beijing has eight medium risk areas, among which are seven villages in Shunyi.

The announcement came after the cluster infections hit Beijing's adjacent Hebei Province, where the cases mainly happened in local villages, based on the available epidemiological results. 

127 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 183 asymptomatic carriers have been found in Hebei since January 2. Some of the patients in Shijiazhuang used to go to street markets, weddings, celebration events for newborns and other gatherings. One of the patients attended three weddings from December 30 to January 2.

The Beijing-based Health Times reported that some COVID-19 elderly patients in a village of Shijiazhuang had attended religious activities regularly at a villager's home before they were diagnosed with coronavirus in the latest outbreak.

"Some villagers with religious beliefs among the confirmed cases had gathered every Wednesday, Friday or Sunday to attend religious activities in a villager's home. Each time there were several dozen people, mostly the elderly," the head of Xiaoguozhuang village in Shijiazhuang told the Health Times on Thursday.

The Global Times learned from a person in charge of the Shijiazhuang diocese who requested anonymity on Thursday that the Catholic Church in Shijiazhuang had no knowledge of "underground" religious activities.

The church in the city is "closing religious venues, stopping group religious activities and postponing the opening of religious schools" to prevent coronavirus spread, he said.

Global Times 


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