Northern Ireland news

Church closes doors after couple test positive for virus

Fr Neil Farren closed St Mary's Church, Ardmore after two parishioners tested positive for Covid-19.
Seamus McKinney

A DERRY priest said he had no choice but to close his church after two parishioners tested positive for Covid-19.

Parish priest at St Mary's in Ardmore, Neil Farren said his church would remain closed for at least the next 12 days.

The move comes after 10 GAA clubs in Derry, including the local Ardmore club, also suspended activities as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus. A Covid-19 cluster was also confirmed in the Limavady area.

Fr Farren said the parishioners, a couple, told him on Friday last that they had tested positive although they were asymptomatic. He said the couple were tested after a family member was discovered to have Covid-19. The couple also confirmed they had been at Mass at St Mary's.

Public church services resumed in Northern Ireland in June. Fr Farren decided to close after discussing the situation with his pastoral council.

"We had no other choice. This was a particular couple who happened to be at a large gathering of the family outdoors a couple of weeks ago," he said.

"Up to a week ago, the couple concerned felt quite good; they had none of the symptoms that you might expect. They only symptoms that they had were a bit dizzy and felt a bit shivery like that there. About a week ago, one of their sisters rang and said that they went and got tested and tested positive so they said they'd get tested as well.

"I decided we needed to do something. I put it out on Facebook that we were closing the chapel in the meantime to prevent any possible spread of the virus for the next twelve days anyway."

Northern Ireland chairman of the British Medical Association Tom Black said Fr Farren's decision to close was the right thing to do.

Dr Black said localised outbreaks showed the virus was still present.

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