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Contact tracing rise as more churches close

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A person is tested for COVID-19 in the car park of Our Lady of Lebanon cathedral in Sydney on 21 July. PHOTO: G Portelli

Call for vigilance amid Sydney outbreaks

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP says that the closure of a number of Catholic churches and schools are a reminder of the need for vigilance in following public health rules.

The uptick in confirmed cases of COVID-19 across NSW include nine linked to a woman who attended a number of Catholic services in Sydney’s southwest last week.

It led to the closure of Our Lady of Mt Carmel church in Pritchard and St Brendan’s church in Bankstown on 24 July and follows the closure of Our Lady of Lebanon co-cathedral for two weeks after a parishioner attended Masses there in mid-July while infectious.

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Linked to those cases were the closure also on 24 July of Cerdon College in Merrylands, Mary Immaculate Catholic Primary School in Bossley Park and Freeman Catholic College at Bonnyrigg Heights.

“The recent cases in three Catholic churches and three Catholic schools here in Sydney serve as a reminder to us that we need to remain vigilant, maintaining social distancing and hygiene rules, taking care of one other, and following all the directives of NSW Health,” said Archbishop Fisher before celebrating a Mass livestreamed from St Mary’s Cathedral last Sunday.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP preaches in St Mary’s Cathedral in this file photo. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“We continue in particular to pray for those who have died, are sick or caring for them, for those who are anxious or at risk, and for those who are suffering economically or leading us through this crisis,” he said.

NSW Health urged attendees of the five services at four locations the woman attended from 16-19 July to monitor themselves for symptoms and be tested for the virus if they experienced any. The services were at the two churches plus Ausia Funeral Services in Fairfield and St John of God Lawn at Rookwood Cemetery.

Health officials said the people experiencing symptoms should continue to self-isolate for 14 days after their COVID test even if they test negative, and get tested again if they later develop symptoms.

The latest warnings and increased contact tracing efforts came after a woman in her 40s from the Fairfield area tested positive on 23 July after attending the services.

Parish priest of St Brendan’s Fr Toan Nguyen said in a statement posted on the church’s website that that once the parish was advised of the situation a deep clean was carried out on July 24. “We will update you when our church is able to re-open again and thank you for your patience as the health of our parishioners is of utmost concern,” he wrote.

A notice on the Mt Prichard church website said that NSW Health advised that the person who tested positive to COVID-19 had left the Mass as soon as it finished and did not interact with any parishioners.

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