Do not give in to panic and psychosis . . .
Editor's note: While the world seems to enter a state of general chaos regarding Coronavirus, the Russian government has adopted a no-nonsense policy towards restraining its spread within the country. Meanwhile, the spiritual authorities of the Russian Orthodox church also comfort their flock and give them sound advice for remaining in control of their health and keeping faith in God amid widespread panic. (Transcript below)
The Coronavirus pandemic is quickly spreading throughout the world. How can you protect yourself and those close to you? There is no advice that suits everyone, but there are rules which can help substantially lower the risk.
1) Follow the rules of personal hygiene, washing your hands with soup as often as possible. Always wash hands before eating, after attending places with mass crowds, after shaking hands, after returning home from the outside. Don’t touch your face with unwashed hands. Use disinfecting wipes. Regularly disinfect your working area, wipe the surfaces that you touch, including tables, computers, chair handles, and mobile phones, with disinfectant. To those who use the car-sharing service, I recommend either driving in gloves or disinfecting the steering wheel and the gear stick.
2) If you have planned an international trip, whether for personal or work reasons, try to cancel or postpone it. This relates especially to countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus . . . and the list of those countries is swiftly growing. But even if the virus has not been confirmed in a country, it can arise by the time you are leaving and you may end up quarantined. Do not risk your health and wellbeing.
3) Don’t risk the health of those around you. If you have returned from a country with confirmed coronavirus, try to isolate yourself for a time. If this is impossible, at least wear a mask when interacting with others. If even this is impossible, keep at a distance from those with whom you are interacting.
4) Be careful with those who have returned from foreign travel and who have of flu-like symptoms. Maintain a distance of 2 meters from them and do not be shy if you feel you need to put on a mask.
5) Teach preventative measures against the virus within your family. Speak to your children about methods of avoiding infection. Teach them to wash their hands with soap as often as possible. Each member of the family should have their own set of dishes, towels, and toothbrush.
6) Do not take any forms of cold-like sicknesses lightly. Don’t try to weather them on your feet. At the first signs of a cold, refer to a medical professional. If you have a high temperature, stay home and cease contact with your immediate family so as not to infect them.
7) Do not neglect immunity-strengthening procedures. Take contrast showers in the morning, remain physically active, take vitamins. The better your immune system is, the smaller the risk you face.
8) Minimize the attendance of cultural mass events. This does not include church services, except in those countries where church attendance has been forbidden by authorities, as in several regions in Italy. If the country where you live introduces similar restrictions, your church leadership will alert you. At the same time, if you yourself experience flu-like symptoms, especially if you have a temperature, do not attend church so as not to infect others.
9) How should we approach Communion from the same spoon? The Communion of the Holy Mysteries is a holy mystery that has a healing effect on the body and soul of a person. God Himself is present in the Holy Gifts and protects those who commune of them. Yet in countries where the virus becomes widespread, special rules of hygiene may be possible, perhaps even the use of disposable spoons for Communion. Similar extreme measures were taken in the pre-Revolutionary Russian Church during cases of infectious diseases at parishes, as witnessed by the Priest’s Handbook, ed. 1900.
10) Lastly, do not give in to panic and psychosis. Remember that the life of each person is in God’s hands. Pray for yourself and your neighbors, asking God to protect you and them from illness, to grant you health and wellbeing. Pray to the mother of God, St. Nicholas, and saints who are known as healers: the Great Martyr Panteleimon, Saints Kosmos and Damian, Saints Cyros and John. Likewise, pray to recently glorified saints: the Martyr Eugene Botkin and St. Luke from Crimea. Try to go to confession and commune more frequently.
By the prayers of the Theotokos and all the saints, may God protect you and those close to you from all evil.
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