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'We are not there yet': PM cautious to reopen churches too early

by Heather Preston

Boris Johnson has expressed concern over reopening churches too soon and risking a rise in infections, after an MP asked when places of worship would be allowed to open their doors.

Tory MP for Loughborough Jane Hunt called on Mr Johnson during Prime Minister's Questions to allow people to gather again for worship and to book weddings:

"Church leaders of Loughborough have also contacted me about access to churches both for services and to help to tackle loneliness. 

"Please could I ask that religious faiths be allowed to let people into their places of worship, observing social distancing within their premises and that wedding venues be allowed access for bookings?"

The Prime Minister told the Commons that he understood the "urgency many people feel about the need to reopen places of worship" but highlighted the risks it could cause to the public if done prematurely.

"The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is of course leading a taskforce on this very matter. It is a tough one: every time we do something like this, we push up the risk of infection and the risk of pushing up the R again. 

"To repeat what I was saying earlier to the Leader of the Opposition, we are not there yet. We are getting there, but we are not yet there. It is vital that the people of this country understand the continued need to push down on the infection rate," Johnson added.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has criticised the Government's lockdown exit strategy and raised concerns over the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 and suggested that the official figures are 'only a fraction' of the real number.

According to the Department of Health, the number of people to die with coronavirus in the UK has increased by 359 in a day, bringing the overall total to 39,728.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) infection survey carried out between 11th - 24th May estimated that there are around 54,000 new coronavirus infections per week in England, or around 8,000 a day.

The PM has insisted he is proud of the progress being made as the public continues to adhere to the guidelines and has promised that all Covid-19 test results will be done within 24 hours by the "end of June".

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