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Melbourne Archbishop calls for evidence of church risks in wake of restriction disparity

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli
Questioning decision: “If there really is health advice suggest- ing places of worship are inherently riskier, I respectfully request to see it.”

AS Victorians reigned in their second wave and the State Government announced another set of eased restrictions, Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli had – again – called out the unequal treatment given to religious groups.

“I am deeply shocked and disappointed at the disparity imposed on people of faith in Victoria today,” Archbishop Comensoli said on Facebook last Monday.

“The (Victorian) Premier’s announcements on the further easing of restrictions completely ignores the mental and spiritual well being of many, with public health officials stubbornly silent on the reason why.

“From tomorrow, restaurants and cafes in regional Victoria can have up to 70 people outdoors and up to 40 people indoors.

“Libraries can open for up to 20 people indoors.

“And yet, places of worship will remain closed and outdoor religious gatherings are capped at 20 people plus one faith leader.

“Where is the parity?

“The rest of Australia is doing it right. “Why not us? Life, family and faith matter.” Archbishop Comensoli penned an opinion

piece for the Herald Sun asking to see any health advice that suggested places of worship were inherently riskier than other places.

“We people of faith have proven ourselves to be fair-minded and civil, patient and prepared,” he said on Facebook.

“Churches may not be licensed premises, but they are highly regulated spaces, especially during times of worship.

“They are also places of hope and wellbeing, and of spiritual friendship.

“If there really is health advice suggesting places of worship are inherently riskier, I respectfully request to see it.”

Cases slowing down across Australia

Victoria recorded only one new COVID-19 case and no deaths on Tuesday.

One of the four new cases reported on Sunday, however, could be an “extremely rare” case of re-infection, the state’s chief health officer said.

Evidence of that was yet to be confirmed, but experts had said it was an unusual case.

Of the 40 million cases worldwide, only a small number of people have been confirmed to have become reinfected.

The first re-infection was reported in Hong Kong in August.

“It is only a handful of cases reported around the world, so it seems to be exceptionally rare, but it does happen,” Victorian chief health of- ficer Brett Sutton said.

“We need to explore the possibility of it happening.”

In Queensland, where the state election campaign had gotten underway, samples of sewage taken in Brisbane and Sunshine Coast have tested positive for COVID-19.

Chief health officer Jeannette Young said the positive test result could have been from an asymptomatic person still shedding the virus.

Samples taken at Sandgate, Maroochydore and Wynnum in the state’s south-east tested positive on October 12 and 13.

It has been 30 days since the last locally acquired infection in Queensland, which meant it was possible people in the community had the virus without knowing it.

Globally, there have been 40 million recorded cases and 1.1 million deaths.

Experts were saying this was only the tip of the iceberg.

Uneven or limited testing, people who have no symptoms and government suppression of information meant the actual global tally was likely to be far higher.

Deaths from COVID-19 surge overseas

In the United States, where the presidential election was underway and people were gathering for political purposes, the COVID-19 tally has surpassed 8.4 million.

The US has recorded 220,000 deaths.

It recorded a further 47,601 cases on Monday. India recorded 55,722 cases on Monday, which brought its total tally to 7.55 million. India had recorded 115,000 deaths.

The coming weeks had experts nervous because the country was entering a month of festivities.

Three major festivals – Dasara, Eid and Diwali – would be celebrated right across India with Dasara celebrations already underway.

Crowds were expected in markets, places of worship and public spaces, and could lead to a lack of social distancing too.

India could see a return to its mid-September numbers, which had added more than 92,000 cases a day.

Last Sunday, Brazil surpassed 150,000 deaths, seven months after the beginning of the pandemic.

Four states in Brazil accounted for more deaths than the country of Peru.

World Health Organisation chief executive officer Tedros Ghebreyesus has warned against deliberately letting COVID-19 spread through the community in the hope of achieving herd immunity.

Mr Ghebreyesus said the idea was unethical.

“Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it,” he said.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.”

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