Archbishop of Westminster: ‘Don’t close churches again’

The head of Catholic Church in England and Wales has urged the government not to close churches when considering Covid restrictions, saying the country has shown "people can make good judgments themselves".

Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols was speaking ahead of his midnight Mass homily at Westminster Cathedral. He said: "We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do."

He told the BBC: "We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk. We know what we should do. Most people are sensible and cautious."

Last year, the Mass at the Cathedral late in the evening on Christmas Eve was live-streamed only. This year, worshippers attended the packed service in person but masks were compulsory.

In the first lockdown in 2020, places of worship were closed.

The archbishop’s comments come after data was 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.

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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