THE new Bishop of Hereford has finished a 14-day period in self-isolation as he returned from Italy, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases outside China.

The country now has more than 12,000 confirmed cases and 827 have died, although while Bishop Richard Jackson was in Venice, there were no reported cases in the city.

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Rt Revd Richard Jackson has not yet began his public ministry in the Diocese, which stretches from Ross-on-Wye to Ludlow, and he and his wife Deborah took advice from the NHS 111 service before self-isolating.

"We made a precaution. It would be unfortunate if the first gift you brought to the Diocese of Hereford was coronavirus," he said.

"Although it was a bit over the top in some senses, you know with these things that they are always moving quite fast. Of course, halfway through the time they then said everyone who comes back from northern Italy needs to do it.

"We got slightly ahead of the game.

"When we came back the advice was to self-isolate if you have been in the lockdown towns, but only to do that if you felt ill if you had come back from other areas north of Venice."


The pair did not catch Covid-19 while in Italy and their 14-day period of self-isolation finished on Tuesday (March 10).

Members of the church community are now adapting the ways they worship, as they are urged not to shake hands and told not to take the wine at communion.

The enthronement service, which is when his public ministry will begin, is still expected to take place at Hereford Cathedral on March 21.

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He added: "There's understandably anxiety because the people most likely to be affected seriously by it are those who are elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

"The Church of England nationally has thought this through quite carefully and taken the best advice.

"At the moment the advice we're giving is to change practices in church, which is to not shake hands, to have hand sanitiser and for people to take just the bread of communion and not the wine as well.

"And to avoid shaking hands at the peace to just minimise the risks that are there when you have a lot of people in close proximity.

"I'm sure people have accepted it. Christians are responsible citizens so they're not going to defy advice.

"It's part of our responsibility to work with everybody else to minimise the spread.