The UK Government announced yesterday that an outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) has been identified in parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. Working with local authorities it has introduced a number of rules which came into force at midnight to control the spread of the virus.
The key element of the new rules is the restricting of ‘socialising between households,’ and until further notice people in the affected areas, which includes Wigan, are not allowed to meet others with whom they do not live inside a private home or garden, except where a support bubble has been formed.
This will some impact on church activities. Therefore please note the following:
• Public worship can continue in our church buildings, including funerals and weddings, according to the measures we have already introduced to ensure social distancing and Covid-security.
• However, people gathering in churches for public worship, private prayer or occasional offices must not socialise with those with whom they do not live or ‘bubble’ with.
• People coming into church should wear face coverings, unless medically exempt, and rigorously follow hygiene guidelines, in order to protect themselves and others.
• There are no new restrictions on meeting in public outdoor spaces, such as churchyards or grounds. Current national guidance allows groups of no more than six people, unless the group includes only people from two households.
• Pastoral home visiting by clergy and laity, or meetings in gardens or other private spaces, is not allowed and will have to be conducted by virtual means for the time being.
This is a time of renewed anxiety for many, not least for those who were shielding and looking forward to seeing loved ones again following many weeks of isolation. Some will be frustrated at the restrictions, with freedom to meet in gardens over the summer period being denied. And of course we feel for our Muslim neighbours who will be affected by these new measures as they celebrate Eid al-Adha.
We encourage everyone to pray for perseverance and peace for all those who contemplate these new restrictions with a heavy heart, and for wisdom and insight for all those who lead and make decisions on our behalf on a national and local level.
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