The most senior Covid expert in the US government has said that singing in churches is likely to be permitted again by Autumn time. Dr Anthony Fauci, who serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that church services should be back in full swing later this year on the condition that the US vaccinates people "appropriately, effectively, and efficiently".
Fauci made the remarks on Monday at the Choose Healthy Life Black Clergy Conclave - an online gathering of over a hundred Black clergy, public health officials and corporate and scientific leaders involved in the Covid-19 response.
Reverend John Vaughn, representing Senator-elect Reverend Raphael Warnock from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, asked: "When can we expect to go back to church, when we'll be able to sing, we'll be able to do wind instruments?"
Fauci replied that the exact reopening would depend on the timeline of when "the overwhelming proportion of our population" will have received the Covid-19 vaccine. Once 75 to 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated, Fauci said, "the level of virus in the community will be at such a low level that we will be able to really approach a degree of normality that's similar, maybe not identical, but similar to where we were before all of this".
If the vaccination programme is rolled out successfully, he said, then "in the mid-fall, we'll be able to get back to that type of worship which we all are longing for right now".
US President-elect Joe Biden, who is due to be inaugurated on Wednesday, has pledged to oversee the administering of 100 million vaccine jabs in his first 100 days in office. Biden says he'll achieve this by calling for increased funding and that he'll enlist the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with the vaccination rollout.
According to data released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 15 million vaccine shots have already been given since the programme began. Over the past week, an average of just under 800,000 jabs have been administered each day.
In the UK, more than four million people have received the vaccine so far, according to the latest government figures.
While this is good news, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned that hospital admissions due to Covid-19 were at an all-time high.
He said: "Do not blow it now. We are on the route out. We have to stick at it."