Easter weekend disrupted: Hong Kong church services go online, pandemic hits plans for egg hunts, short trips

Fiona Sun

The four-day Easter weekend starts on April 10, but there will be no church services to attend, no fun egg hunts for children, no clubbing with friends, and no quick getaways for a short holiday.

In Hong Kong, as in many other cities and countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the long weekend has been disrupted in numerous ways.

Church-goers will have to be content staying at home and watching live-streamed services, now that public gatherings of more than four people have been banned in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Churches adapt to coronavirus fears by live-streaming services, cancelling services

Some 1.5 million people are sick worldwide with Covid-19, and more than 80,000 have died. Hong Kong has recorded more than 970 cases, with four deaths.

Although the city on Thursday recorded its lowest daily tally in three weeks with 13 new cases, a spike over the preceding two weeks led to authorities banning public gatherings of more than four people, effective until April 23. This means no services at Hong Kong churches this weekend.

A priest conducts a service streamed online for church-goers, after the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong temporarily suspended public masses at churches in March. Photo: Reuters

For Christians, Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after he was put to death on Good Friday. There were about 884,000 Protestants and Catholics in Hong Kong in 2016, according to government estimates, comprising about 12 per cent of the population of 7.5 million.

More than 40 Anglican churches will hold online services for Good Friday and Easter. Reverend Alex McCoy, vicar of St Andrew’s Church in Kowloon, expects more than 2,000 people to watch the services over its YouTube channel and Facebook page.

“It doesn't replace being able to meet physically, but we can still learn, praise and seek encouragement,” he says.

Anglican businessman Nicholas Wong, 59, says the slow internet speed can be disruptive, but he appreciates that online services are better than no service at all. “It is a safer option than going to church during the outbreak,” he adds.

The Catholic Church and several other Protestant churches will also go online this weekend.

As part of Hong Kong’s efforts in its war against the contagion, the city’s 1,200 pubs, bars and nightclubs were ordered to close for two weeks from April 3, while beauty and massage parlours have been asked to close for 14 days from Friday.

The restrictions have caused the cancellation of activities such as the Ma Wan Easter Egg Hunt, an annual charity event that attracts about 4,000 people every year.

Kids in an Easter egg hunt on a beach in Ma Wan last year. Photo: Felix Wong

City leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor urged the public to stay at home and avoid gatherings or celebratory meals with family and friends at home during the four-day Easter holiday, to reduce infection risks.

Clerk Danny Wong, 26, cancelled a holiday to Vietnam with his girlfriend over the Easter weekend, and will be staying home with his parents and younger brother.

To spend some time with his girlfriend – from a distance – he has picked some films for them to watch from their homes, using video chat to feel they are together.

“The pandemic has messed up my plans,” he says. “Nevertheless, we have to make the best of the situation.”

Jessica Cutrera, second from left, and her colleagues made and handed out Easter activity kits for free to children under home quarantine in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

Jessica Cutrera, 44, a partner at a financial company, is doing her bit to make this long weekend special. Together with her colleagues, she has made about 100 Easter activity kits for children under home quarantine.

Each kit has coloured pencils, stickers, pens, erasers, ribbon and Easter candies. There are also games and activities, including finger puppets, mazes, colouring sheets, puzzles and crosswords.

Cutrera, who is from the United States and has lived in Hong Kong since 2008, spent about HK$30,000 on the kits and linked up over Facebook with parents whose children were on quarantine.

She spent two weeks on home quarantine after returning to Hong Kong from the US, and her family was moved by the help and support they received from their neighbours.

“We want to pass that on to others,” says Cutrera, who is married with two children aged five and seven. “We would normally have a big brunch or dinner for Easter, but this is not happening this year. So I wanted to do something nice for the community.”

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