COVID restrictions in UK may ease for Christmas church services

Canterbury Cathedral
The Canterbury Cathedral is the seat of the Cathedral of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of All England and religious leader of the Church of England. |

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions might be eased for Christmas church services in the United Kingdom as part of a newly announced plan.

The new 56-page "COVID-19 Winter Plan" is believed to include a hiatus from the most stringent restrictions during the Christmas period when the current national lockdown ends on Dec. 2. The new policies will be "tiered" with certain areas under more restrictions than others as has been similarly implemented in U.S. states like California.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday the winter plan, which will include guidance on how people will be able to see their families and loved ones for the upcoming holiday despite not being normal by past standards. 

"We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it," he said. "So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we are working with the Devolved Administrations on a special, time-limited Christmas dispensation."

"I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year," he noted, "but in a period of adversity, time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none."

Johnson noted that the latest lockdown has slowed the growth of new coronavirus cases and thus national restrictions would end on Dec. 2 as planned. "Collective worship, weddings and outdoor sports can resume" then, he said, though still limited and socially distanced.

The new proposals will have to be approved by a parliamentary vote and are likely to face opposition from some in Johnson's own party, the Tories, who believe that though the disease is serious and the spread should be controlled effectively, the government should still "give equal regard to other lethal killers like cancer, dementia and heart disease, to people's mental health, and all the health implications of poverty and falling GDP," according to a letter several members wrote to him.

"The tiered restrictions approach in principle attempts to link virus prevalence with measures to tackle it, but it's vital we remember always that even the tiered system of restrictions infringes deeply upon people's lives with huge health and economic costs," states the letter by MPs in the Covid Recovery Group, led by former chief whip Mark Harper and High Wycombe MP Steve Baker.

"We cannot support this approach further unless the Government demonstrates the restrictions proposed for after December 3 will have an impact on slowing the transmission of Covid, and will save more lives than they cost."

They called for a "full cost-benefit analysis of the proposed restrictions on a regional basis."

Despite some opposition, the proposed regulations are expected to pass in part because the Labour party, currently the opposition party, has thus far supported the measures.

Additional relaxations of the COVID rules might include allowing potentially three households to create a "temporary bubble" between Dec. 22 and 28 in order for families to gather for Christmas. The measures will apply to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

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