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Church of the Nativity closed over coronavirus fears

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Palestinian's tourism ministry closed Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity on Thursday over coronavirus fears. Foreigners were also banned from West Bank hotels. The restriction comes after four cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Bethlehem. These are the latest high-profile measures taken by or imposed upon the Church as a result of the spreading outbreak. 

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Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity closed due to coronavirus fears.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity closed due to coronavirus fears.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
3/5/2020 (1 year ago)

Published in Middle East

Keywords: Coronavirus, pandemic, Catholic, church, Nativity

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has closed due to coronavirus fears. The church is located at the site of Christ's birth and is a major site for Christian pilgrims. The closure was ordered by the Palestinian Authority's tourism ministry. The order follows the confirmation of four cases of cornavirus in Bethlehem. Foreigners have also been banned from West Bank hotels. 

The closure comes as the coronavirus outbreak spreads. Saudi Arabia has banned pilgrimages to Mecca amid the outbreak. 

In the United States and elsewhere, parishes are sharing information to limit the risk of disease transmission, advising parishoners to wash their hands, forgo physical contact, and halting the sharing of the Blood of Christ during Communion. 

So far, the bans have not reached the Vatican despite the severity of the outbreak in Italy. The number of visitors is down, but the Church is wary of fueling panic. 

It is unclear how concerned people should be over cornavirus. So far, the disease appears to be less deadly than the seasonal flu viruses that sweep the globe each year. However, some experts including those at the World Health Organization warn the disease could have a fatality rate in excess of 3 percent. That would make it much more deadly than the seasonal flu. So far, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at greatest risk. Most patients recover and many experience only the symptoms of a mild cold. 

Experts have discovered a mutated form of coronavirus, which is less deadly and aggressive than the form which was first observed in China. While that may be a relief, it is also a warning that the disease can mutate quickly. While most mutations will have the effect of rendering the virus less lethal and more difficult to transmit, there is a real possibility a mutation could have the opposite effect. A more lethal strain of the coronavirus could emerge, creating a much worse problem. 

So far, public officials are using quarantines in an effort to halt the spread of the disease, but a lack of testing equipment and the ability of the disease to spread before symptoms appear makes this an exercise in futility. Still, quarantines can slow the rate of transmission and buy time to develop a vaccine. Human vaccine trials are already about to begin as several firms run crash programs to develop an effective vaccine. 

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For now, individuals should wash their hands, and follow common sense hygiene practices. The avoidance of unnecessary contact with others is advisable. There is no need to panic buy or lay in excessive quantities of supplies, unless an entire community is to be quarantined. Despite all the news, there is little overall cause for alarm, at least for now. 

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