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Number 10 rejects Tory MP's call for churches to re-open over Easter

The Tory MP Jack Lopresti called for churches to open for Easter Sunday worship (PA)

2 min read

Downing Street has rejected a call by a Tory MP for churches to re-open for Easter Sunday despite the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

A Number 10 spokesman said the "guidelines are very clear that places of worship shouldn’t open” after Jack Lopresti wrote to the communities secretary Robert Jenrick.

The member for Filton and Bradley Stoke said if people were allowed to visit takeaways or off licences amid the Covid-19 outbreak they should be allowed to enter church "for private prayer".

But asked if they agreed with the idea, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Church of England have spoken about what they will be doing this weekend.

“The guidelines, which were published three weeks ago, were very clear that places of worship shouldn’t open. 

“The reason those guidelines are in place is to protect the public from the spread of this disease, and to save lives.”

Mr Lopresti had said while he believed it was “appropriate for the suspension of public church services to be in place”, he thought a “temporary relaxation of restrictions, allowing people to attend church to engage in private prayer, while observing social distancing, would be an appropriate compromise”. 

He added: "If the Government allows for me to go to an off licence, a takeaway or a local shop on Easter Sunday, providing I observe social distancing or take other necessary precautions, why can I not go to a church and say a prayer, providing I do the same?”

The comments were criticised by local vicar Roger Driver, who said it was “irresponsible and is totally opposite to all sensible advice”, while the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees said "it doesn't strike me as being very wise”.

With churches still closed over the weekend, the Archbishop of Canterbury will lead the first national digital Easter Sunday service.

In a sermon recorded on his iPad in his London flat, Justin Welby will call for "a resurrection of our common life”.

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