Parishioners tested after church outbreak

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A health worker performs a COVID-19 test in the car park of Our Lady of Lebanon church in Sydney on 21 July. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Virus focus at Our Lady of Lebanon co-cathedral

Hundreds of people are queuing daily at a pop-up COVID-19 testing facility at a Sydney church after three parishioners tested positive for the virus since last week.

Churchgoers at the Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral in Harris Park who attended four Masses between 15-17 July were told on 20 July to present for testing and self-quarantine for two weeks after a single case identified in the community grew to three.

The north-west Sydney church was closed and cleaned after organist and choir member Michael Nouh was found on 18 July to have contracted the virus. The two additional parishioners had also attended Masses on those days when he was present.

Cathedral dean Fr Tony Sarkis advised anyone who had attended the church since 15 July at other times to closely monitor for symptoms and get tested if they begin to feel unwell. The testing facility in the cathedral car park was set to run this week 9am to 4.30pm from 21-24 July.

Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Taraby has urged worshippers to be patient with restrictions as a Maronite parishioner tested positive to COVID-19. 

“Having a case of Covid-19 within our Maronite community is an important reminder of the need for us to be cautious during thes
e times,” he said during a live-streamed Mass last Sunday. 

“If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 please to do not attend Mass at any church so
 as to not put anyone at risk. Those who are elderly or are otherwise vulnerable to infection are also encouraged to stay away at this time.

“We have a responsibility to act in a way that respects the health and safety of everyone in the community and the wider community.”

“We have a responsibility to act in a way that respects the health and safety of everyone in the community and the wider community.”  

Mr 
Nouh tested positive after visiting the Thai Rock restaurant at Wetherill Park, one of a growing list of sources of local transmission in NSW. Last Sunday assistant parish priest Father Danny Nouh posted on the church’s Facebook page a message identifying his son as the COVID-infected parishioner.  

“My wife, my son, my daughter and I have all been tested and our results are negative with the ex
ception of Michael,” he wrote. “We are in good health and Michael is doing well. We apologise if this news has caused you any stress and panic and we ask you to continue praying for this pandemic to be over and for a vaccine to be developed soon.”  

Fr Sarkis
 in a notice on social media said the church had undergone cleaning and would remain closed until further notice as a precaution. 

These uncertain times have been very challenging for all of us,” he said. From the moment we had to close our churches we have all felt the impact of this pandemic.

However, we firmly believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have and will always receive the power to get through these challenges. We sincerely request your cooperation and understanding, as we try to protect all in our community, especially the elderly and the vulnerable, and we ask for your ongoing prayers during these difficult times.” 

Restrictions slated

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has signalled that a cap of 100 worshippers in churches will be introduced under tightened restrictions from 24 July and would not rule out the possibility of further restrictions.

From midnight on Friday funerals would be limited to 100 people and weddings to 150 subject
to the four square metre rule.

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