The Bishop of Motherwell has self-isolated after visiting a parish with a confirmed case of Covid-19.
Bishop Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell since 2014, will self-isolate for two weeks in accordance with government recommendations. He recently visited St Augustine’s church, Coatbridge, which yesterday, March 15, announced it would be “closed for a temporary period in order to undergo a deep anti-bacterial clean” after a young parishioner was diagnosed with Covid-19.
Although the parishioner is “not seriously unwell”, the parish priest, Fr Michael Kane, after consulting with the diocese, took the decision to close the parish due to health concerns. The parishioner had attended a “large scale Mass” in the days running up to the closure.
Bishop Toal is confirmed to have visited the parish during this time period, and as a result is self-isolating for 14 days, in line with government advice. The Bishop, aged 63, has previously served as Rector of the Royal Scots College in Salamanca, and was the Bishop of Argyll and the Isles from 2008 until 2014.
The decision follows the escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe, and particularly in Italy, where nearly 25,000 people have been confirmed as infected with the virus. More than 1,800 people have died due to Covid-19 infections in Italy, the highest number of deaths due to the illness anywhere outside of mainland China.
At least seven priests have died in northern Italy, which has become the European centre of the viral outbreak. One priest from the Diocese of Cremona, and six priests in the Diocese of Bergamo have died from the virus, according to local media. According to the same sources, at least 20 other priests in Bergamo have been hospitalised.
Masses across Italy have been suspended in line with government regulations against large meetings, and the Vatican has announced that this year’s holy week liturgies in St Peter’s will be held behind closed doors.
A total of 1,543 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 so far in the UK, of whom 36 have died. As of today, March 16, there are now more cases of the disease being reported in Europe than there are in mainland China, the origin point of the virus.