In light of rising coronavirus cases and the prospect of tighter guidelines, Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Christmas Eve urged the Prime Minister to let people “make good judgements themselves” and not to shut the doors of the country’s churches.
The cardinal, who spoke before Midnight Mass on Friday evening, said: “I would sincerely appeal that they do not again consider closing churches and places of worship.
“We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”
It comes as the UK broke another record number of daily cases on Friday, with 122,186 infections and 137 deaths within 28 days of testing positive registered.
The NHS, meanwhile, raised alarm at a significant surge in the number of COVID-19 hospitalisations after 1,171 people across the nation had to be admitted.
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Masks are currently compulsory inside churches and many have live-streamed their Christmas services for those self-isolating or unable to attend in person.
Cardinal Nichols believes it has been demonstrated that large, airy venues like churches were “not places where we spread the virus”.
Speaking to the BBC, he said in the time of “great vulnerability” that is the coronavirus pandemic, “putting up barriers” for “the Christ-child” should be ruled out by the congregation.
He claimed: “I think this country has shown that people can make good judgements themselves. We’re at that point of saying we understand the risk. We know what we should do.
“Most people are sensible and cautious. We don’t need stronger impositions to teach us what to do.”
In a filmed video statement, he celebrated members of the public who were “getting jabbed not just for themselves, for ourselves, but for friends and family and everyone we meet”.
He added: “That, after all, is the teaching of Jesus Christ, whose birth is at the heart of this enormous festival – that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves.”
Boosters are viewed as a crucial measure to get protected against the Omicron variant, with the prospect of a fourth Covid shot becoming more likely as data suggests immunity from the third dose starts to wane after 10 weeks.
The latest analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicates that among those who received an initial two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, protection two to four weeks after a Pfizer or Moderna booster was about 60 percent. However, 10 weeks after the jab, it dropped to 35 percent with a Pfizer booster and 45 percent with a Moderna booster.
Officials admitted they were ready to give the green light to another booster campaign if necessary.
They also emphasised, though, this decline was only seen against mild symptomatic cases, meaning protection against severe disease is thought to be significantly higher and longer-lasting.