The Bishop of Leicester has said he is deeply saddened by the announcement that his city must be placed a total lockdown following a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday night that the restrictions on public life in the city will be reinstated after it became clear that Leicester accounted for "10% of all positive cases in the country over the past week".
Churches, which were just starting to open up their doors again, will now have to remain shut until at least 18th July.
The Bishop of Leicester, Rt Revd Martyn Snow, said in a statement: "This is not something that any of us wanted to hear. Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with those who are unwell, those who are caring for them, those who are grieving, and those most affected by the lockdown.
"We are still trying to work out the full implications of this for our churches and awaiting further advice but we have to assume that for churches within the designated area we must return to the earlier stage of lockdown, where our church buildings are closed.
"This includes all public worship, funerals, weddings, private prayer (including clergy on their own) and livestreaming of services - none of these activities should take place within a church building. The Government has asked all of us living in this area to ‘stay at home’ and, however frustrating this is, we have a responsibility to others (in particular those who are most vulnerable).
"We realise how hard this will be for many people, particularly wedding couples (who will need to postpone) and those who had planned funerals in church, which will now have to take place in a crematorium or at the grave side with minimal numbers.
"This is very hard for the families concerned as well as our church leaders and volunteers who, like the Cathedral which was due to open tomorrow, were in the midst of preparations for re-opening. We can only reiterate our belief that our primary responsibility at this time is to work to stop the spread of the disease, and to devote ourselves to prayer and to pastoral care of those who are suffering.
Prayers please for this city which I love. #Leicester now faced with more suffering and hardship. Please don't offer simplistic explanations or use us as a political football. Just ask for strength for NHS staff and wisdom for city leaders.— Martyn Snow (@SnowMartyn) June 29, 2020
Bishop Martyn added: "We appeal to everyone you all to show compassion and understanding, to persevere patiently once more. No one is sure about the full reasons for this spike in the virus, though we do know that the pandemic has highlighted inequalities in our society and in general, those who are economically poorer, as well as those of BAME heritage have been disproportionately affected. We must then redouble our efforts to overcome these injustices.”