Cardinal calls on Government to keep churches open

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  • Vincent Nichols
    Vincent Nichols
    British cardinal
The Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales has urged the Government not to reintroduce restrictions on churches amid record Covid-19 infection rates (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)
The Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales has urged the Government not to reintroduce restrictions on churches amid record Covid-19 infection rates (John Stillwell/PA) (PA Archive)

The Archbishop of Westminster and leader of Catholics in England and Wales has urged the Government not to reintroduce restrictions on churches amid record Covid-19 infection rates.

Data published on Thursday, suggesting the Omicron strain might cause less severe illness than the previously-dominant Delta variant, has fuelled speculation in Westminster that Boris Johnson will resist imposing further restrictions in England after Christmas.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols said it was clear that large spaces such as churches were “not places where we spread the virus”.

Most people are sensible and cautious. We don't need stronger impositions to teach us what to do

Vincent Nicholls

“I would sincerely appeal that they do not again consider closing churches and places of worship,” the archbishop told the BBC prior to Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

“I think this country has shown that people can make good judgements themselves,” he added.

“We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk. We know what we should do. Most people are sensible and cautious. We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”

It comes after a further 122,186 lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Christmas Eve, another record daily figure, while 137 people died within 28 days of testing positive.

In Scotland, nightclubs will close for at least three weeks from December 27 as part of a package of measures to control the spread of the virus, while clubs in Wales and Northern Ireland will close from Boxing Day.

But in England, the Government may choose to issue new voluntary guidance on limiting contacts rather than risk another damaging Tory rebellion by recalling Parliament to impose new rules.

The Prime Minister has indicated he will not hesitate to act after Christmas if required – with Monday expected to be the first opportunity for ministers to consider whether changes are needed beyond the existing Plan B measures.

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