Face coverings will be compulsory in places of worship from August 8, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced.
Under current guidance, face coverings are optional in church if people can maintain a two-metre distance, but the Prime Minister said on Friday that face coverings will be enforceable in law from next Saturday.
Amid a rise in the number of new coronavirus cases in Britain, Boris Johnson called a press conference announcing a slowing down of England’s exit from lockdown.
While vulnerable people who have been “shielding” are still allowed to come out of isolation on August 1, certain businesses that were due to reopen, such as casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks, must remain closed until at least August 15.
Wedding receptions of up to 30 people also will not be able to happen until that date.
The wearing of face coverings will also become compulsory in other “indoor settings where you’re likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet” – such as cinemas, museums and galleries – the Prime Minister said.
“We now recommend face coverings are worn in these settings, and this will become enforceable in law from 8th August.”
Boris Johnson told the press conference: “I’ve said throughout the pandemic that there would be fresh outbreaks.
“I think from May I said, when we set out our plan, ‘we would not hesitate to put on the brakes at the slightest sign the numbers we’re going in the wrong direction’.
“We’re now seeing a warning light on the dashboard, it is right to respond in the way that we are.”
The press conference came after new restrictions were placed on areas in northern England, including Greater Manchester, banning different households from meeting one another indoors.
Residents in the affected areas cannot meet other households in their homes or gardens, unless those people are in their support bubbles. They can still go to pubs and restaurants, but only with people with whom they live.
Bishop John Arnold, whose diocese of Salford covers much of the affected area, told the Catholic Herald that churches will remain open.
“The government guidance allows places of worship to stay open where Covid-19 Secure guidance applies, but you must socially distance from people outside of your household,” the bishop said.
“This means remaining 2 metres apart from people outside your household. These measures are already in place across our diocese and we will continue to follow all the safety requirements.
“We may however need to respond to local situations as they arise, and I support parish priests in their individual decisions on whether they consider it safe for Mass to take place in their parish.
“I urge all those affected by the new restrictions to take the measures seriously. As Christians we have a responsibility to care for the safety of not only ourselves but our brothers and sisters.”