Amid UK's coronavirus outbreak, no order - yet - for churches to close

Published 11 March 2020  |  
Unsplash/Priscilla Du Preez

Churches can continue to hold services and public events for now, although this may change as the Government meets this week to discuss its coronavirus strategy.

Boris Johnson is today chairing a Cobra meeting to decide on the measures to be introduced to delay the spread of the virus.

"Social distancing" measures to stop people attending large-scale events are expected to be on the table.

With alarm growing over the spread of coronavirus around the UK, churches stand to be affected by social isolation strategies advising the elderly in particular to stay at home.

Social distancing measures could also see people working from home and schools closed.

The Government's deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, told Sky News on Saturday that there was no advice as yet telling churches to suspend services or suggesting the elderly stay away.

"For clarity, no significant large social measures have been advised to date," she said.

"They will be based, if they are recommended, on science and modelling. And that includes behavioural science as well – not just the infectious element of it.

"Because we know that we need people to work with us. And if we are not doing that we will not combat this thing together."

She said that any decision to close down places of worship would be made on the basis of "scientific evidence".

"For faiths groups, for example, there is already existing advice from Public Health England and local teams as well. And local health protection teams will answer questions for local groups should they have questions on particular issues about separate congregations or gatherings," she said.

"But there is no national advice to cease any of these things at the moment.

"And the decision will be made very much on scientific evidence."

There were 280 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK as of Monday morning. Up until now, the UK has been in the "containment" phase of the Government's four-part strategy to tackle coronavirus, but a shift to the "delay" phase is now expected.

Writing in The Sun on Monday, Dr Harries said it may become necessary for people to stay at home if the outbreak escalates.

"It is now likely the virus is going to spread so we are stepping up planning to delay the peak of the outbreak to reduce the number of patients coming into the NHS during our busy winter period," she wrote.

"We may in the future recommend certain measures, such as working from home or asking more vulnerable people to stay at home."

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