I know that public worship benefits people mentally, socially and spiritually, and so it is a blow to many for it to be banned. Across Bolton, and across the country, followers of a variety of faiths and creeds will be hurt by this decision.
Those who run and operate places of worship will also be frustrated because they have been carrying out COVID-compliant services for several months now, only to have these arrangements disregarded.
I share the confusion about this decision. On the one hand, the Government bans public worship, but on the other, it allows 30 people to attend a funeral. This is in addition to schools, colleges and universities staying open, despite being linked to numerous outbreaks.
I submitted a written question asking the Government to provide the scientific advice that led them to this decision:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to publish the scientific advice for the decision to ban public worship in the current lockdown.”
My colleague Tulip Siddique also asked this question and the answer received was:
“We have had to make some tough decisions to fight this deadly virus and the decision to close our places of worship has not been taken lightly.
“In all decisions we have been guided by scientific and medical advice and we have listened carefully to the views of the scientific community, in particular the information from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and its sub-groups. The R-Rate is above 1 across England, therefore we must limit our interaction with others.
“This has sadly meant that we have had to close a broad range of premises where people interact and gather, including places of worship.”
I have also written to the Prime Minister to raise my concerns with him and asked: ‘what evidence has been produced that communal acts of worship are a driver of infection?’. I have included a copy of this letter below for you to see.
I can assure you that my Opposition colleagues and I will continue to raise questions about the lockdown, and lockdown funding, with the Government whenever we can.