Places of worship in England won’t be advised to reopen until 4 July at the earliest, according to the government’s recovery strategy.
An official document released by the Cabinet Office says it is the government’s ‘ambition’ to open ‘public places (such as places of worship)’ as part of the third step to recovery.
The document says, ‘The government’s current planning assumption is that this step will be no earlier than 4 July.’ But it will depend on the success of previous measures.
Conservative MP for St Ives and West Cornwall, Derek Thomas, said, ‘I think this is an area that we’ll look back on with great regret.’
He said the government needs ‘to find ways of allowing Christians to meet again and for churches to operate again,’ adding, ‘I hope they do that. I hope that they don’t just take it for granted.’
In the meantime, discussions are underway between the government and national religious leaders about the reopening of places of worship.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick (pictured) said the government is committed to reopening churches ‘when the time is right’, but he said, ‘that moment is not now’.
He was speaking in response to a question from a member of the public, who asked why sporting events have been prioritised over religious services.
The Minister answered, ‘We are in conversation with faith leaders across the country to consider how, when the time is right, they will be able to recommence services in churches’ but ‘that moment is not now’.
The Church of England has announced plans for a phased opening of its churches as soon as restrictions are lifted.
The Protestant Truth Society has written to the Prime Minister asking him to permit the reopening of churches, saying, ‘If B&Q can open then so should the church.’
However, some experts say places of worship can easily become hotspots for spreading the virus because singing can spread droplets in a similar way as coughing or sneezing.
In Germany churches have been allowed to reopen, but with a ban on singing or any physical contact between worshippers.
Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland may issue their own advice about the reopening of places of worship.
Mike Judge, editor