Cardinal Vincent Nichols has urged Boris Johnson not to impose further anti-Covid restrictions on churches in England and Wales.
The Archbishop of Westminster insisted that churches were already stringent in taking precautions against the spread of the virus, saying they were “not places where we spread the virus”.
The plea from Cardinal Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, came as the Prime Minister considered whether new restrictions were needed to slow down the spread of the omicron variant of the virus amid record numbers of infections.
Speaking to the BBC ahead of midnight Mass in Westminster Cathedral, the cardinal said: “I would sincerely appeal that they do not again consider closing churches and places of worship.
“I think this country has shown that people can make good judgements themselves,” he continued.
“We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk,” he added. “We know what we should do. Most people are sensible and cautious. We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”
The latest available data revealed that a further 122,186 lab-confirmed Covid cases were recorded in the UK on the morning of Christmas Eve.
In spite of the record surge in the number of cases, the death rate from Covid has stayed more or less constant, with 137 people dying on the previous day within 28 days of testing positive.
The soaring numbers of cases prompted the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to introduce severe restrictions from Boxing Day, meaning the cancellation of New Year Eve parties and other social gatherings, the closure of nightclubs and table-service only in pubs and restaurants.
The Scottish bishops reversed their decision to restore the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, which they had planned for the New Year, postponing it “until a more favourable time”.
In England, however, Mr Johnson declined to follow the other nations of the UK and introduce any further restrictions.
At present people in England are required to work from home if possible, wear face coverings in indoor public settings and to present proof of vaccination to gain entry to large events.
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