COVID surge casts shadow over Holy Week in Bangladesh

Bangladesh has recorded 605,938 coronavirus cases and 6,994 deaths. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)

With just a few days to go before Easter Sunday, COVID-19 is on the rise in Bangladesh, with the infection rate increasing from less than 3 percent last month to about 20 percent now.

Church officials say the sudden spike in the pandemic will certainly affect Catholics in Holy Week.

“In this case, we are not telling anyone whether to come to church or not. Our people will decide for themselves. But since our Christians are more aware, we imagine that church attendance will decrease,” said Auxiliary Bishop Shorot Francis Gomes of Dhaka.

Churchgoers must wear face masks, maintain social distancing and use hand sanitizer, he said.

“All ceremonies will continue as usual, but there will be an impact on the part of our Christians. We fear that the presence of people will diminish and that the joy of the resurrection may fade,” Bishop Gomes told UCA News.

According to Bangladesh’s Covid-19 information website on March 31, 5,042 people had been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours and 45 had died.

ASM Alamgir, head scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research, told UCA News that this “catastrophe” may be due to declining awareness among people and the observance of all kinds of ceremonies without any health restrictions.

Father Bablu Lawrence Sarker, secretary of the Health Care Commission of Khulna Diocese, told UCA News that the diocese was strictly enforcing health protocols such as masks and social distancing.

Ranjon Costa, 29, a father of two who works as a grocer in Bonpara Bazar, said he has yet to decide whether to attend Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Easter Sunday due to the Covid-19 situation.

“In the village, we were fine and still are. But because of Easter, many of our relatives will come to the village from different places and they go to church. We can't say who will bring the coronavirus,” he told UCA News.

“If I pray from home, I will be able to go to church in the future.”

Since its first COVID-19 case was detected last March, Bangladesh has recorded 605,938 cases and 6,994 deaths. - UCA News