Coronavirus: Empty pews as Easter Sunday services go online

  • Published
Media caption,
Places of worship have sought new ways to reach the faithful during an Easter in lockdown

With empty pews, online sermons and no family gatherings, it's an Easter Sunday like no other in recent years.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced Christians to celebrate Easter at home.

On Sunday, it was announced another 11 people with Covid-19 had died in NI, bringing the total to 118. There have been 1,806 confirmed cases,

Meanwhile Health Minister Robin Swann has written to health and social care staff "ahead of the expected Covid-19 surge in the coming days".

In the letter, Mr Swann thanked them for their service and said the Department of Health had "moved mountains" to prepare for this surge.

"In the difficult weeks ahead, please know that everyone in Northern Ireland is grateful for what you are doing," he wrote.

"Because of your actions, people will live who might otherwise have died. There is nothing more important than this."

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
Patrolling the restrictions in Belfast

He added while there was no room for complacency, there were some indications the peak here may potentially be less severe than feared.

"It would seem that the Northern Ireland people have risen to the challenge and that social distancing has reduced the impact of this virus - in this wave," he said.

Police have been very visible around Northern Ireland over the Easter weekend, making sure people are sticking to the restrictions and social-distancing measures.

'Resurrection of common life'

On Sunday morning, church leaders found new ways of bringing their congregations together.

In his Easter message, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland said he hoped "we will come through this, hopefully as better people, strengthened by the experience".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Archbishop Eamon Martin quoted Pope Francis, saying that "Easter is a reminder that we must not let ourselves be robbed of hope".

He has invited parishioners to join him via webcam for the Easter Sunday Mass at midday.

Pope Francis delivered his Easter message from his private library instead of a packed St Mark’s Square. The Easter Mass was live-streamed from the Vatican.

The Archbishop of Canterbury led the first national digital Easter Sunday service from his kitchen at Lambeth Palace, as churches around the UK remain closed over Easter for the first time in hundreds of years.

Justin Welby called for "a resurrection of our common life".

"After so much suffering, so much heroism from key workers and the NHS, we cannot be content to go back to what was before as if all is normal," he said in the sermon recorded on his iPad.

Coronavirus in Northern Ireland. .  .

On Sunday, Northern Ireland's Chief Medical Officer Michael McBride said the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff dealing with the coronavirus was a huge logistical challenge.

PPE for healthcare and social care staff has been a very controversial and emotive issue during the outbreak.

Last week, the Department of Health said there was "sufficient" PPE for front line workers after a shipment of 5.5m pieces was delivered.

On Saturday, the chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland, rejected any suggestion medical staff were overusing PPE.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House programme, Dr McBride said he had been working with all relevant public health bodies across the United Kingdom to make sure guidance on PPE was updated and revised.