Priests put masks on statues over fears virus-infected people will kiss them

Religious icons have been offered up face masks for protection as fears over the deadly coronavirus pandemic spread to the far corners of the world.

Priests at an Indian temple have been giving face masks to the statues of deities in a move that looks as if it has been set up to stop the Hindu gods from catching the disease.

At the same time the priests at the temple in Varanasi, a city on the banks of the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, India, have asked visitors not to touch the holy figures.

It comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified coronavirus a pandemic.

So far there are 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus in India, including one death in Hyderabad. Earlier today, two employees from global tech companies Mindtree and Dell have tested positive for the deadly coronavirus in India.

The holy men running the temple said the move was to make people aware that they needed to take action to protect themselves from the virus.

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Temple priest Krishna Anand Pandey said: "Coronavirus has spread across the country. We have put a mask on Lord Vishwanath to raise awareness about coronavirus.

"Just like we put clothes on the idols when it is cold and put ACs or fans when it's hot, we have put masks on the deities."

The priest also urged people "to not touch the idols to prevent the spread of coronavirus".

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He added: "We are urging the people to not touch the idols to prevent the spread of the virus. If people touch the idol, the virus will spread and more people will get infected."

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The priests and worshippers have all started wearing face masks since the virus appeared in the country.

The temple is one of the most famous in Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.

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