Archbishop of Westminster pleads ministers not to restrict churches to curb COVID-19 rise

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Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols was interviewed prior to the Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral. Asked about the possibility of new restrictions imposed by the Government to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant, the Cardinal suggested that places of worship should not be closed.

In 2020, authorities asked churches and other religious facilities to close as part of the nationwide lockdown.

The Archbishop of Westminster told the BBC: “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.

“We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk.

“We know what we should do.

“Most people are sensible and cautious.

“We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”

He added it was proven wide and airy spaces like churches were “not places where we spread the virus”.

Britain reported another day of record COVID-19 cases on Friday with 122,186 new cases.

Models from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) predict one in ten Londoners are likely to have COVID-19 as of this Sunday.

Despite new research suggesting Omicron has a lower hospitalisation rate than previous variants of COVID-19, Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, said the threat was still on.

She told the BBC: “What we have got now is a really fine balance between something that looks like a lower risk of hospitalisation – which is great news – but equally a highly transmissible variant and one that we know evades some of our immune defences.”

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As many industries are now struggling with staff shortages, given workers have to self-isolate for seven days if they test positive, Boris Johnson could implement new restrictions as early as next week.

In a video clip earlier this week, the Prime Minister said new measures could happen after Christmas.

He said: “Naturally, we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

“But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.”

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