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UK News

Government releases guidance for safely re-opening churches after announcing earlier date

by Tola Mbakwe

The UK Government published new guidance on Friday that details how places of worship can operate during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

It comes after it announced on Thursday that places of worship can open for individual prayer on 13th June. That's two days earlier than  what was originally announced last week.  

The guidance defines individual prayer within a place of worship as "a person or household entering the venue to pray on their own and not as part of a group, led prayer or communal act". 

It mandates that worshippers should be socially distanced from other individuals or households and emphasises that "collective or communal prayer and regular scheduled services are not permitted at this time". That includes a church leader leading devotions or prayer of any sort.

The guidance strongly advises that there should be no food or drink or sharing of Bibles or resources. 

Singing or playing or instruments should be avoided, "with the exception of organists who are able to use buildings for practice with appropriate social distancing". 

The guidance also says faith leaders should discourage cash giving and continue to use online giving

The government has allowed each place of worship to determine how many people should be allowed in a building in order to maintain a two metre distance between people. 

Also, all surfaces, especially those most frequently touched such as door handles and rails, should being cleaned regularly. 

The new guidance was realised after the Labour Party said the Government caused chaos and confusion on Thursday within faith organisations and communities by making a last-minute change of date for re-opening places of worship.

Janet Daby MP, Shadow Minister for Faiths, said: "Labour supports the re-opening of places of worship for individual prayer, provided it is done safely and ensuring that faith groups have the right level of support and the time needed to meet the required guidance.

"The Government has given people an unrealistic expectation that every church, mosque, synagogue, temple and gurdwara will be open by Saturday morning. This will not be possible and will lead to confusion and anger.

"The Government is showing contempt for our faith communities, by not taking them for granted and not giving them the support they need. Our communities deserve much better than this."

So far, places of worship are on track to be open for communal worship on 4th July. however, the date is still subject to further scientific evidence. 

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