Dear Dr. Murrison,
Thanks for taking the time to interact with Westbury church leaders the other week. You may recall that I asked for your views on the possibility of another national lockdown and whether it was the government’s intention for churches to stay open over the autumn and winter period.
You said that you supported the three tier regional approach, where restrictions were commensurate with infection rates. We agreed that as Covid cases in the South West of England and elsewhere in the country were relatively low, a complete national lockdown was not merited and would have significant negative effects. Until Saturday evening that was also the policy advocated by government ministers.
The slides shown in Saturday evening’s press conference only served to confirm the regional disparity of Covid infection rates. According to figures quoted on the BBC News website Wiltshire had 98 cases per 100,000 in 21-27 October, compared with Manchester with 483 per 100,000. An England-wide lockdown from 5 November to 2 December will have a dire effect on the UK’s faltering economy, people’s mental health and non-Covid health needs.
In my opinion government should have persevered with a proportionate regional approach to combatting coronavirus. Additional measures could have been imposed in areas where Tier 3 restrictions had not succeeded in bringing infections down, with extra financial support being given to affected areas.
Will you therefore consider voting against a second national lockdown when measures are discussed in Parliament this week?
The vast majority of places of worship have complied with the government’s Covid secure guidance since reopening in the summer. As far as I am aware no church in the UK has been identified as the source of a coronavirus outbreak. It makes little sense that the government has ordered the closure of places of worship for all but private prayer for the duration of the second lockdown period should one be imposed.
Gathering for worship is an important aspect of the Christian faith. Online meetings are no substitute for in person meetings. At a time when many are anxious and fearful people the church has a message of comfort and hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Not everyone has access to the internet, so it is vital to the church’s mission that the doors of our places of worship remain open.
Will you consider supporting any move to amend the government’s lockdown legislation that will prevent the forced closure of church gatherings and other religious meetings?
Young people are least at risk from Covid-19, yet their life prospects have been disproportionately damaged by the pandemic, with school closures, lockdowns in University halls of residence and high rates of unemployment. Will you please seek to ensure that the government makes good on its promise to keep schools and universities open, and that more is done to improve the job prospects of the up and coming generation.
Thanks for all you do on behalf of your constituents. May the Lord guide the government and MPs as these matters are debated and voted upon in Parliament this week.