The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Tuesday that it will relocate more than 100 missionaries currently serving in the Hong Kong mission due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“In light of the coronavirus and the increasing difficulty of conducting missionary work in Hong Kong and Macao, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is transferring 113 missionaries out of the China Hong Kong Mission over the next few days,” a church statement said.
Missionaries will be temporarily reassigned to other missions or, if they were nearing their scheduled release date, will be “honorably released” and return home earlier than initially expected.
“Twelve additional missionaries who are from Hong Kong will return to their homes and be released from service until the situation has stabilized,” the church said.
During Wednesday’s briefing by the World Health Organization on the status of the coronavirus, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed concern about how the public is reacting.
“We understand that people are worried and concerned — and rightly so,” Ghebreyesus said. “But this is not a time for fear — it’s a time for rational, evidence-based action and investment, while we still have a window of opportunity to bring this outbreak under control.”
Prior to being reassigned, out of caution, most missionaries will return to their homes and follow guidelines from the World Health Organization, including to self-isolate for 14 days.
“Where required, they will undergo a government-mandated quarantine at a government facility based on the guidelines established by their home countries,” the church statement said. “Families are receiving instructions about how to carry this out. After the 14 days, if the missionaries continue to show no signs of coronavirus, they will depart for their new temporary assignments.”
For several days prior to leaving Hong Kong, all missionaries have rigorously followed preventative health practices to avoid illness, including remaining in their apartments as much as possible, not engaging in teaching, wearing masks and frequently washing their hands, according to the church.
The likelihood of any of these missionaries having contracted the coronavirus is very low, according to the church. Additionally, each missionary is required to show no symptoms before leaving Hong Kong.
According to the WHO, a vaccine has still not been developed to combat the disease that began in the city of Wuhan.
“The Church has a special responsibility to care for our missionaries who are serving as volunteers, but we are also working to support members, employees, and other Church personnel in Hong Kong and other areas where the coronavirus is a concern,” the church statement said. “We sincerely pray for all those who are dealing with this virus as well as those who live in places where it is impacting their daily lives. The Church will continue to follow developments closely and make any further adjustments as needed.”
There are 24,933 members of the LDS Church in Hong Kong. They make up six stakes that consist of 39 congregations. There are four family history centers and one temple in Hong Kong as well.