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Coronavirus

State in Australia to Allow as Many People in Churches as Pubs after Archbishop’s Complaint

SYDNEY — An Australian state government has announced that as many people will be allowed in churches as in pubs after an archbishop complained of unfair pandemic rules.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher on Thursday encouraged Catholics to sign a petition calling on the New South Wales government to treat churches the same as pubs by increasing capacity limits from 10 to 50 people beginning June 1.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced Friday that churches will also be allowed to increase congregation sizes from 10 on Monday in line with relaxed restrictions on pubs, cafes and restaurants.

“It is crucial that worshippers remember to follow health advice. This is particularly important for people with co-morbidities aged over 50 and people aged over 70,” Berejiklian said.

The government had been wary of adjusting the restrictions on places of worship after COVID-19 outbreaks in churches and church choirs overseas.

The state’s chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said places of worship need to find alternatives to practices that might spread the virus, like singing, sharing books and passing around collection plates.

“Communal singing and chanting should not occur because of the high risk of transmission,” Chant said.

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