Sri Lankan churches suspend services as Covid surges

Sri Lankan churches suspend services as Covid surges

Third wave of coronavirus infections disrupts religious life in the island nation

Published: May 03, 2021 09:09 AM GMT
Sri Lankan churches suspend services as Covid surges
A Buddhist monk prays during Poya, a religious festival to mark the full moon, at the Kelaniya Temple in the Kelaniya suburb of Colombo on April 26. (Photo: AFP)

Sri Lankan churches have once again halted services, church weddings and Sunday schools due to a third wave of Covid-19 infections.

Universities, schools and pre-schools have closed until further notice. All funerals have been limited to 25 people at a time and arrangements should be made within 24 hours.

The number of Covid cases has tripled in the past few days and the death toll has also risen. Hospital sources say beds in many hospitals and treatment centers are almost completely full due to the hike in the number of Covid patients.

Samanthi Niroshani, a Sunday school teacher from Seeduwa, said all church services, Sunday schools and other programs have been suspended due to the deteriorating situation.

“From 2019 up to now, Sunday schools, Masses, Christmas carols and other church and community activities had to be stopped from time to time,” said Niroshani, who is a chorister.

Christ the King Church in Pannipitiya, Colombo, announced on social media that all church services will be suspended until further notice, while St. Sebastian Church in Moragoda in Gampaha has canceled Sunday and weekday Masses.

Niroshani said the 2019 Easter bombings did not allow them to participate in community activities for months and churches were closed.

“The presence of corona patients at home increases the risk of contracting the virus among families, the elderly and those suffering from other diseases,” Niroshani said.

“We appealed to Sunday school children to recite the rosary with their families to save our country and all from this most unfortunate situation.”

The number of Covid-19 cases in Sri Lanka has increased to 111,705, with 1,843 reported new cases of the third wave on May 2.

Health authorities have blamed the government for allowing Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities to go ahead in mid-April. Doctors warned that Covid cases would increase after the festivals but the government ignored the warning.

Dr. Upul Dissanayake, a specialist at Colombo National Hospital, said even a healthy person could die if infected with the virus.

Upul Rohana of the Association of Public Health Inspectors said the capacity of its laboratory is being exceeded. “It is a very serious situation,” he said, adding that some patients have died at home due to a lack of ambulances to take them to hospitals.

A Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Colombo said that, according to doctors, there will soon be a shortage of oxygen in the country, which saw nine deaths on May 2 to take the death toll to 696.

“Politicians thought of their families rather than the people. Everyone should work hard to save the country from becoming like India,” said the priest, who wished to remain anonymous.

“Every family should recite the rosary to save us from this dangerous situation. This is especially the month we recite the rosary for Mother Mary.”

Media reported that several Indians have already fled to Sri Lanka due to the bad situation in India.

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said the government has taken all possible steps to control the third wave of the pandemic.

He said the government is paying more attention to strengthening the health sector to cope with changes that may be felt in the future.

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