LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Saying that worship is a “well-established source of both personal resilience and dedicated service to those in need,” Cardinal Vincent Nichols expressed his happiness that churches will remain open for service during the latest lockdown announced Jan. 4.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the latest anti-pandemic measures on Monday evening, after the nation experienced the highest rate rates of COVID-19 infection since the pandemic began: As of Monday, there were 26,626 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in England, which is 40 percent above the highest level of the first coronavirus wave in the spring.
Johnson said the measures – affecting only England – were expected to last until mid-February, when the country’s vaccination program is scheduled to have inoculated 13 million people in the top priority groups, including frontline medical personnel, care home residents, over 70s, and those “extremely” vulnerable to COVID-19.
Schools will be closed during the latest lockdown, and people cannot leave their homes except for certain reasons, including shopping for food, receiving medical services, or daily exercise.
However, unlike the first lockdown in the spring, churches in England will remain open.
“The regular practice of our faith in God is a well-established source of both personal resilience and dedicated service to those in need. Such resilience and enduring service are vital in these difficult circumstances,” said Nichols in a statement.
“I am glad that no measures have been introduced that would obstruct or curtail this essential source of energy for the common good. Catholic parishes will continue to serve the needs of their local community,” the cardinal added.
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also imposed a lockdown on Monday, which includes closing churches beginning Friday.
“It is with real regret that we consider it necessary for places of worship to close during this period for all purposes except broadcasting a service or conducting a funeral or wedding,” she said.
“I am well aware of how important communal worship is to people. But we believe that this restriction is necessary to reduce the risk of transmission,” the Scottish leader continued.
“While up to 20 people will still be able to attend funeral services, wakes will not be possible during January. And a maximum of 5 people will be able to attend wedding and civil partnership services. I know how devastating restrictions like these are and I give an assurance that we will not keep them in place for longer than is absolutely necessary,” she said.
The measures in Scotland will be reviewed at the end of February.
Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome