SAFETY measures have been introduced at local churches to help combat the coronavirus.

Bishop John Keenan has issued instructions to all Catholic churches in the area to cease certain activities after cases of the virus began to spread in the UK.

The head of the Diocese of Paisley has announced that as from yesterday, parishioners will see a series of temporary changes to prevent spread of infection.

Holy water fonts will be emptied, the sign of peace will be suspended and distribution of the precious blood among the faithful will be suspended.

Local parish priest of St Mary's in Greenock, Fr Thomas Boyle, is reassuring parishioners that church services will be continuing as normal.

He said: "We are in the season of Lent, a poignant time in the church calendar.

"We are co-operating with NHS guidelines and are doing all we can to prevent any spread of disease."

In an official statement released by the Diocese, Bishop Keenan said: "The virus poses a danger, particularly to vulnerable members of our community.

"If you have coronavirus or cold/flu symptoms, we would ask you to stay away from gatherings."

Meanwhile a local man and trainee priest has been caught up in the restrictions affecting Italy.

The Italian government have closed schools and universities in light of the serious outbreak there, meaning seminarians are returning to their parishes and dioceses in Scotland.

Returning to the Diocese of Paisley is Port Glasgow born Ryan Black who is training for the priesthood in Rome.

Ryan posted a photo on Twitter showing the impact of the outbreak on Rome.

His picture of popular tourist destination, The Spanish Steps, normally busting with tourists, was deserted.

Fr Boyle added: "The seminarians can continue training at home, so they should all be able to help their local parishes in the coming times of uncertainty."