The Coronavirus Emergency Measures Bill will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday 19 March. Last night in the Commons, the Health Secretary suggested that religious services should be suspended during the coronavirus outbreak.
Robin Millar (Aberconwy) (Con) asked the Secretary of State [Commons Hansard c724] if he would “offer some guidance to the large number of religious communities—churches, mosques, gurdwaras—on what actually constitutes a large gathering of people?”
To which the Secretary of State replied as follows:
“We address that in the advice, and this is a very important point. We have taken advice on how to respond to the crisis, including from our ethics committee, which includes representatives of the major religious faiths. It is true that we include religious groups in our advice about social contact. We have seen from elsewhere in the world how sometimes it is through religious gatherings that the virus can spread so, with the deepest regret and the heaviest of heart, we include faith groups and gatherings of faith within the advice.”
The UK Government is not alone in this. Yesterday in Germany, the Federal Government and the Länder agreed to prohibit, inter alia, “Meetings in churches, mosques, synagogues and the gatherings of other faith communities” [Zusammenkünfte in Kirchen, Moscheen, Synagogen und die Zusammenkünfte anderer Glaubensgemeinschaften].