The world headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses is closely monitoring the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
It has recommended practical steps to protect members and others from the disease.
While observing that Bible prophecy identifies pestilence is a notable feature of the last days, the religious organization stressed that “when there is an outbreak of disease, it is wise to take practical measures to protect ourselves as well as others.”
Some practical steps, it recommended, include keeping frequently touched surfaces clean in home and meeting places, and in some affected areas, “publishers may choose to participate in alternative forms of the ministry, such as telephone witnessing.”
A release published on jw.org, the website of Jehovah's Witnesses urged members not to panic, explaining that “while it is good to be alert to epidemics and to take reasonable precautions, the response should be a measured approach based on facts, not on fear.”
The release urged members to “follow Government recommendations and directives'” and keep informed and comply with the directives from local authorities as well as implement precautions or restrictions for public health.
The release stressed good hygiene, and said “it is essential to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and “we should also keep frequently touched surfaces clean in our home and at our Kingdom Hall.”
Additionally, medical experts discourage shaking hands in such situations, as this could continue the spread of disease. Regarding the coronavirus, the World Health Organization has provided additional advice for the public.
The world headquarters urged members to continue to “show love to others,” saying that “while we all know the importance of attending Christian meetings and participating in the public ministry, if you are sick, it is best to stay home to avoid infecting others.
“This shows brotherly love and protects our brothers and sisters and our non-Witness neighbours.
Members were urged to follow temporary adjustments to congregation arrangements, “ and “in areas where there is an outbreak of disease, it may be necessary for the branch office to temporarily cancel congregation meetings, assemblies, and other theocratic events.”
This has been the case in some areas where the COVID-19 virus has hit the hardest, such as in certain regions of Italy, Japan, and South Korea.
Based on local circumstances, the elders may be able to provide access to recorded meetings, which publishers can watch from home. Publishers may be able to participate in the ministry through phone calls, text messages, e-mails, or letters.