THE HEART OF PARRAMATTA has been almost empty this week and fears about the virus have cancelled council, community and Christian services.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Parramatta has taken the unprecedented step of releasing the faithful from their obligation to attend Sunday Mass as has drastically restricted attendance at weddings, baptisms and funerals.
A growing number of Parramatta workplaces have told staff to stay home to help curb the spread of the virus as at risk workers with cardio and respiratory illnesses and the elderly are complying with health authority advice to self isolate.
Even popular destinations like Parramatta Park have suffered a significant drop in numbers and there has been are marked decrease in traffic.
The City of Parramatta Council has cancelled a number of programs, activities and services and has moved council meetings from fortnightly to monthly to minimise any risk to Councillors, staff and the community.
Like other Sydney councils, Parramatta is awaiting health authority advice about teleconferencing council meetings but emergency measures have been taken to ask ratepayers not to attend the meetings, where staff numbers are also being limited.
“The safety of City of Parramatta’s community is our top priority and Council is increasing measures at its public facilities to help curb the spread of the virus,” City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Bob Dwyer said.
“We are following advice from the State and Federal Governments, monitoring the situation closely, and adjusting our events and services as required.
“This is a very challenging time for all of us, but working together as a community will make a difference.”
The Council has postponed Advisory Committee Meetings and Local Planning Panel meetings will be held via teleconference.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Parramatta has dispensed parishioners from their Sunday Mass obligation.
“We are in unprecedented times and we have a duty and responsibility to continue the pastoral care of our people as best we can,” a statement from the Parramatta Archdiocese said.
“Pope Francis has stated that clergy be available to pastorally minister to people in this time of crisis.
“Those who are gravely ill should not in any circumstances be denied access to the sacraments.
“Let us pray that all of us would be strengthened for the task ahead and relying on the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and all the Saints we might persevere in carrying the Cross.”
In churches with less than 100 parishioners, some Masses may be celebrated but in churches where Mass attracts more than 100, all Masses must be conducted outdoors and are to be celebrated without music and with a short homily.
“Couples intending on marrying should speak to their priest in the first instance and that only the bridal party and immediate family can attend the ceremony,” the statement said.
“In the case of funerals it is suggested only bereaved family members should attend the funeral and baptism of infants should proceed but only with the parents and Godparents present with the deacon or priest.”
All public church gatherings in Sydney Anglican churches have been stopped, by order of Archbishop Glenn Davies.
“I have decided that the Anglican Church in Sydney should suspend all public church gatherings until further notice,” the Archbishop said in a public statement.
“I urge all Christians to continue to trust in God’s goodness and mercy in this crisis and to show Christ’s love to those affected.”
In Russia, Orthodox Churches have adopted nightly processions of religious icons to help stop the virus and while local Orthodox churches will remain open at the stage, the practice of kissing icons is discouraged.
City of Parramatta Libraries currently remain open but all Easter activities have been cancelled alongside the popular Storytime and the HSC tutorials.
There are also stringent restrictions on the use of computers.
Early Learning Centres remain open at this time but could also be closed.
Aquatic Centres remain open but Learn to Swim programs have been suspended and these centres are subject to increased cleaning, sanitation, and chemical testing.
Patrons and staff advised not to attend if showing symptoms of cold or flu
All indoor fitness, exercise and Mums and Bubs activities have been cancelled alongside activities for seniors that include the Multi-National Seniors Group, the Day Lighters Group, the Let’s Dine Out group lunches and the Carers Support Group
Meals on Wheels services remain in operation, but face-to-face support practices are being adjusted to enable appropriate social distancing.
The Reconciliation Business Forum has been cancelled and Youth Week activities are currently under review.
All performances at Riverside Theatres have been cancelled and ticket holders are eligible for refunds and will be contacted directly.
Council’s Customer Contact Centre is currently operating but ratepayers are encouraged to contact the Centre on 1300 617 058.
Visitors to the Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Centre are encouraged to contact the Centre on 02 8839 3311 to confirm it is open and education tours have been cancelled.
Council is communicating with all staff on a regular basis, providing relevant health advice, and implementing a range of measures to help ensure services to the community continue