Coronavirus UK: Britain ‘looking at’ closing churches and religious gatherings amid crisis

Coronavirus UK: Britain ‘looking at’ closing churches and religious gatherings amid crisis

Churches are high-risk areas for those most vulnerable from COVID-19, due to having generally more elderly congregations. Although the advice is not yet for older people to avoid large gatherings such as church services, the Government’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries told Sky News on Saturday morning the measure would be “looked at” next week.

Sky News’ Isabel Webster asked the deputy health chief if churches were likely to close as a result of the outbreak.

Dr Harries said: “For clarity, no significant large social measures have been advised to date.

“They will be based, if they are recommended, on science and modelling.

“And that includes behavioural science as well – not just the infectious element of it.

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“Because we know that we need people to work with us. And if we are not doing that we will not combat this thing together.”

Addressing concerns about religious gatherings, she said: “For faiths groups, for example, there is already existing advice from Public Health England and local teams as well. And local health protection teams will answer questions for local groups should they have questions on particular issues about separate congregations or gatherings.

“But there is no national advice to cease any of these things at the moment.

And the decision will be made very much on scientific evidence.”

The chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty previously said there was no benefit in elderly people self-isolating at the moment and stressed the importance of older people remaining socially active.

Prof Whitty said: “One of the best things we can do to reduce the impact on older people and reduce the impact on the NHS as well is to isolate older people from the virus.

“The difficulty is we need to make sure we do that without isolating them from society, exacerbating loneliness. We do not think it is a good idea whilst there’s almost no transmission.

“People self-isolating over this period they could be then having to isolate themselves which would inevitably involve some social isolation for some months and that would not be a good thing.”

Prof Whitty added that more advice would be coming for elderly people and their families.

He said: “The key thing we are trying to do is make sure it’s the virus that doesn’t come into contact with the older person, not all society.”

Published at Sat, 07 Mar 2020 11:53:00 +0000