LEICESTER, United Kingdom – In the United Kingdom, the city of Leicester will be allowed to celebrate public Masses beginning on Aug. 3.
The UK government announced the move late on July 30, relaxing some of the restrictions placed on the city on June 29 after a surge of COVID-19 coronavirus positive cases.
Leicester was forced to close non-essential shops and its citizens were forbidden from travelling unnecessarily from the city. In addition, churches that had opened for private prayer on June 15 were forced to shut their doors to the public.
After being under lockdown since March 23, the rest of England was allowed to start celebrating public liturgies on July 4, the same day pubs and restaurants were opened. Northern Ireland had allowed public worship beginning June 29, while Wales allowed it on July 13, with Scotland following on July 15.
This means the city of Leicester has been without public worship for longer than anywhere else in Europe.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced places of worship in Leicester would be allowed to follow national guidelines beginning on Monday, while restaurants and pubs would also be allowed to reopen.
The residents of the city will still suffer restrictions, however, and are not allowed to visit other people’s homes, even outside. In addition, pools and indoor gyms – open in the rest of England – will remain closed in Leicester.
Similar restrictions were imposed in the Greater Manchester area and other localities located in the North of England, where coronavirus infections have been increasing.
The mayor of Leicester, Peter Soulsby, criticized how the government has handled the situation, with the announcement coming after 10 pm, with little explanation about what it really means for the people in the city.
“What we need is to understand what can open and when it can open, understand what we can do about meeting up with family and friends and where they can do that; and what is particularly unclear is what the travel restrictions are going to be,” he said on Friday.
“I think the fact the timing of the decision was put back several times – and even when it came out, the bit about Leicester was very much an afterthought in a bigger statement, which leaves a lot of uncertainty and a lot of frustration,” Soulsby continued.
The Leicester suburbs of Wigston and Oadby were removed entirely from lockdown restrictions.
Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a delay to further easing of coronavirus restrictions in the rest of England for another two weeks, citing an increase of positive tests for COVID-19.
“The prevalence of the virus in the community, in England, is likely to be rising for the first time since May,” he said Friday.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome