POLITICS
31/05/2020 17:56 BST | Updated 01/06/2020 09:04 BST

Singing In Religious Buildings A 'Problem' For Spread Of Coronavirus, Warns Communities Secretary

Robert Jenrick says he hopes places of worship can open soon but cautions against large gatherings.

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Singing in religious buildings should not yet be allowed, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick told the Downing Street press conference on Sunday he understood why some people might find it “strange” that shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants could reopen soon but places of worship could not.

“I think the first logical step is probably to open places of worship for individual or private prayer,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that the work that we’re doing with faith leaders will bear fruit, and that we’ll be able to see places of worship open in the coming weeks.”

But Jenrick warned what the government “certainly don’t want to see” was large gatherings inside religious buildings “because of singing hymns, and so on, which can lead to exhalation and can create particular problems”.

He said: “I understand how important it is for millions of people in this country, and I can understand how people of faith would consider it strange that shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, many other settings, might be open in the weeks and months ahead, but not somewhere as important as a place of worship.”

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“Some faiths have already actually produced detailed guidance, working with Jenny’s colleagues at Public Health England, how one might cordon off part of a church or place of worship, how you would ensure it’s sufficiently clean, you train the volunteers who run a church, how you might just enable a small number of people to go in at any one time.

“I think the first logical step is probably to open places of worship for individual or private prayer, and that’s what we’re working towards with the faith leaders, and then that will be a springboard hopefully, conditional on the rate of infection obviously, to small weddings, for example, again very important to many people, and then in time to services.”

He added: “I’m hopeful that the work that we’re doing with faith leaders will bear fruit, and that we’ll be able to see places of worship open in the coming weeks.”

Earlier today, professor Peter Openshaw, who sits on the the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) to the government, also warned against singing.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that while scientists believed the spread of the virus was less likely outside, people should keep to a “safe distance”

“Not speaking close up to somebody, and particularly not shouting or singing loudly,” he said.