Places of worship in England will probably open for private prayer before opening up for small weddings and services, the Communities Secretary said.
Robert Jenrick said he understands why people of faith may find it “strange” that places of worship would remain closed when shops and other places may open in the coming weeks and months.
He said he is working closely with faith leaders and has convened a taskforce which has brought together “the main faith leaders”.
He added: “I understand how important it is for millions of people in this country, and I can understand how people of faith would consider it strange that shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, many other settings, might be open in the weeks and months ahead, but not somewhere as important as a place of worship.”
Mr Jenrick said some faiths have already produced detailed guidance, working alongside Public Health England, on measures including cordoning off sections, ensuring cleanliness, training volunteers and restricting the number of people allowed in at any one time.
“I think the first logical step is probably to open places of worship for individual or private prayer, and that’s what we’re working towards with the faith leaders, and then that will be a springboard hopefully, conditional on the rate of infection obviously, to small weddings, for example, again very important to many people, and then in time to services,” he said.
Mr Jenrick added: “I’m hopeful that the work that we’re doing with faith leaders will bear fruit, and that we’ll be able to see places of worship open in the coming weeks.”
He said what is to be avoided is large gatherings in places of worship, “particularly because of the demographic in some faiths”, and referred to the particular problem of exhalation during the singing of hymns.