LONDON (AFP) – The United Kingdom (UK) government said yesterday it will reopen places of worship “for private individual prayer” on June 15 as it continues to progressively ease coronavirus restrictions.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said services and worship groups will still be banned for the time being due to concern that the virus spreads more quickly in enclosed spaces.
“People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark religious holidays with friends and family in the traditional way,” Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said in a statement.
“We are now able to move forwards with a limited but important return to houses of worship.”
Britain’s official COVID-19 death toll of 40,465 is second only to that of the United States (US).
But cases across Europe have fallen off sharply and Britain is now cautiously proceeding with partial school re-openings and the resumption of basic business activity that ended when the country shut down on March 23.
Johnson’s government also intends to re-open all stores on June 15. Restaurants will be allowed to seat a limited number of customers in a week.
But Johnson has had to weather intense criticism for his handling of the health crisis.
Critics said Britain had ample time to take the appropriate precautions – such as shutting down retail and closing schools – after seeing the disease spread from China to Italy and other parts of Europe at the start of the year.
The government is now coming under attack for starting to lift the restriction too quickly.