VICARS across Somerset can carry on administering Holy Communion despite concerns about the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

The Bath and Wells Diocese has contacted all clergy in the patch after many people were reported as feeling "very anxious".

In a note, priests were told: "Though there are very few cases of the virus confirmed in the UK, we know many people are feeling very anxious, and there have been several requests for guidance on administering Holy Communion.

"Please note that the Church of England is not presently recommending suspending the chalice at Holy Communion, as happened with the outbreak of swine flu in 2009.

"That followed advice from the Department of Health not to share common vessels. No such advice has been issued in this case so far.

"The threat posed by Covid-19 has been assessed by the Chief Medical Officer as ‘moderate’. This permits the Government to plan for all eventualities. The risk to individuals remains low.

"If that changes as the situation in the UK progresses, then clergy will be notified and this advice updated accordingly."

Priests, along with administrators and servers, are being advised to wash their hands ahead of presiding at the Eucharist and should also use hand sanitisers before preparing the sacrament.

Worshippers will still be able to 'share the peace', which usually involves shaking hands with other members of the congregation, although the statement adds: "If the virus spreads widely, then further advice on this may be issued."