By Madhava Smullen

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading around the world, ISKCON’s Governing Body Commission has issued a statement to all ISKCON centers advising precautions to avoid further spread of the virus.

Based on recommendations from local officials, many temples in the U.S. have put their Sunday Feasts and other public events on hold at least until early April, and schools are temporarily closing.

Meanwhile in the UK the Hare Krishna Festivals program has cancelled upcoming festivals with the words, “We will adjust and adapt to continue our spiritual mission in whatever ways possible into the future.”

Other temples, including Bhaktivedanta Manor near London (which was closed for Gaura Purnima) are fully open as of now, with activities running as normal.

In Italy, the worst hit country in Europe, however, neither the general public nor devotees can visit the temple because all places of worship – churches, mosques, temples – have been closed down, and everyone has been quarantined in their homes.

As of March 13th, there were 17,660 coronavirus cases in Italy and 1,266 deaths – fortunately, no devotees in Italy have tested positive for the virus.

“Since Tuesday March 10th, Italy has been on lockdown,” says Parabhakti Das, temple president of ISKCON Villa Vrindavana near Florence. “Restaurants, bars, pubs, theaters, and cinemas are all closed, as well as most shops except supermarkets and pharmacies. People have to stay at home, and can only leave to buy food or medicine, or to go to work – although many factories and companies have also closed down for now. If you want to leave your home, you have to sign a declaration explaining why, and carry it with you to show to police if you are stopped. All air travel to and from Italy has also been halted for now.”

According to Parabhakti, the hope is that the restrictions will help stop the spread of the virus and resolve the situation more quickly. The lockdown will be in place until at least April 3rd, at which point restrictions may gradually be removed if the situation improves. If it doesn’t, they may be extended.

Initially, the restrictions only affected the “red zone” in the North of Italy, where the coronavirus’ first cases in the country were found. But as of Tuesday, the whole country is under the same conditions. 

The ISKCON temples of Hare Krishna Village in Milan and Prabhupada Desh near Venice were in the original red zone, and stopped all their activities two weeks ago. But now Villa Vrindavana,  ISKCON Turin, ISKCON Genova, and the small temple in Rome, have all been closed too. 


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