Kuching churches closed a second time due to COVID-19 spike

Sarawak COVID-19 cases. Kuching (in red) has been the epicenter of the outbreak in Borneo

A spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in the Kuching district of Sarawak has prompted the BIshop of Kuching, the Rt. Rev. Danald Jute to close churches in the southern portion of the diocese until further notice.

On 24 July 2020 Bishop Jute released a statement saying: “The affected parishes are the St. Thomas Cathedral, Kenyalang, Samarahan, Batu Kawa, Tabuan Jaya, Tabuan Dayak, Stampin, Siol Kandis, Sungai Maong, Taman Malihah, Matang, Quop, Taee, Bengoh, Bunuk, Padawan, Lundu, Bau Mission District and Mundai.”

An ordination scheduled for July 26 has also been postponed the bishop said, adding the decision to close churches to public worship had been taken out of an abundance of caution to limit the spread of infection.

The Malaysian government closed the nation’s house of worships following the outbreak of the COVID-19 in the Southeast Asian nation. It imposed a two week Movement Control Order starting March 18 to March 31, which was extended through June.The first cases were reported on January 23 when three Chinese tourists who entered the country from Singapore were hospitalizaed with the illness. 

Beginning June 28 the government permitted churches to reopen but placed a limit on 100 worshippers and imposed social distancing and mask rules on those attending services. However, a new wave of infections has been detected in Kuching with over 50 new cases reported in the last two weeks of July.

As of 30 July 2020 the Malaysian Ministry of Health reported 8.976 cases, with 125 deaths and 8,644 listed as having recovered from the illness. Sarawak has reported 641 cases of COVID-19 so far.