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Friday prayer, Kirtan other congregations not possible now,

Police warn public to remain alert against terror threats

Nation special report

LONDON: Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has confirmed that places of worship across England will be permitted to reopen for individual prayer from Monday 15 June. This decision follows discussions between the Government and representatives of major faiths through the Places of Worship Taskforce which the Communities Secretary has chaired.      

This move recognises the spiritual and mental health benefits for people being able to pray in their place of worship, and that for some people this cannot be replicated by praying at home. 

New guidance will be published shortly to ensure the limited re-opening of places of worship can be done safely and in line with social distancing guidelines. This will recommend the thorough cleaning of shared spaces, hand cleansing at entry and exit and asking worshippers to bring their own items such as a prayer mat or religious text instead of sharing or using communal ones. 

Boris Johnson

Individual prayer will be permitted from 15 June, but communally led prayer, worship or devotion such as services, evensong, informal prayer meetings, Mass, Jummah or Kirtan will not be possible at this stage. 

The Government will continue to work with the Taskforce towards the full reopening of places of worship as soon as the scientific advice allows.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said: “Ensuring places of worship can open again, beginning with individual prayer has been my priority. Their contribution to the common good of our country is clear, as places of solace, comfort, stability and dignity. And the need for them is all the greater as we weather the uncertainties of the pandemic.

 “I’m pleased this can now happen from 15 June. As Communities Secretary I have worked with faith leaders and representatives to prepare guidance that ensures this can be done safely.

 “People of all faiths have shown enormous patience and forbearance, unable to mark Easter, Passover, Ramadan or Vaisakhi with friends and family in the traditional way. As we control the virus, we are now able to move forwards with a limited, but important return to houses of worship.” Faith Minister Lord Greenhalgh said:“Religious communities have shown enormous resilience and sacrifice in celebrating significant spiritual moments like Easter, Passover, Ramadan, Eid and Vaisakhi at home during these extraordinary times.  

Funerals

Under the existing regulations, funerals are allowed in places of worship where it is possible to do so safely. Other gatherings and services such as baptisms, weddings, supplementary schools, meetings and classes are not permitted. Also places of worship may open for ministers of religion to film or record a service for broadcast, for the hosting of essential voluntary activities such as homeless services, for registered early years and childcare providers and for blood donation sessions. Buildings should also remain closed to tourists.  

Police warning

The coronavirus lockdown may have led more individuals to become radicalised as they spend more time online, a police chief has warned. The Metropolitan Police’s Lucy D’Orsi said the impact of the lockdown on the terrorism threat was not yet known. She urged the public to remain alert and vigilant as people return to crowded places closed in March.

The current UK threat level is “substantial” meaning an attack is likely. “The reality is that the threat has not gone away,” Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner D’Orsi told the BBC.

There are also concerns some of the mechanisms to spot the signs someone has been radicalised will not have been present during the pandemic.

Crowded places have been a prime focus for terrorist attacks in recent years. As lockdown eases, she is concerned terrorists will be looking to make an impact. “My plea to the public is as lockdown eases and people return to crowded places, we need to remain alert, we need to remain vigilant,” DAC D’Orsi, who is also national policing lead for protective security, said.

DAC D’Orsi said what that meant in terms of radicalisation was as yet unknown. Some terrorist groups have adapted their methods and messaging to the new environment, including using the coronavirus crisis.

Schools will be shut

The Government is facing a mounting backlash over the amount of teaching pupils are losing Schools will be closed over the summer break, dashing hopes of a “massive catch-up” for pupils who have missed months of lessons.

Downing Street ruled out calls for teachers to offer face-to-face catch-up lessons after schools officially break up in July amid a mounting backlash at how children are falling behind.

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Test and trace system

More than 31,000 close contacts were identified during the first week of the test and trace system in England, figures show. Of those, 85% were reached in 24 hours and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

This was from 8,000 people testing positive for coronavirus – two-thirds of whom provided details of their close contacts. Around 25,000 contact tracers were recruited in England and started work at the end of May.

The NHS figures, which cover 28 May to 3 June, are the first to be released showing the progress of the contact tracing scheme.

Support bubble:

People living alone in England will be able to stay at one other household as part of a further easing of coronavirus restrictions. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, from Saturday, single adults can spend the night at another house in a “support bubble”.

No 10 said the change aims to help combat loneliness and that people are being trusted to observe the rules. The relaxation does not apply to those who are shielding, or other UK nations.

Mr Johnson told the daily Downing Street briefing the new rule applies to single adult households or single parents with children under 18. “All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household, meaning they can spend time together inside each others’ homes and do not need to stay two metres apart,” he said.

Grandparents can hug:

The randparents will be able to hug their grandchildren from Saturday under plans set out by Boris Johnson. Ministers believe the latest easing of the lockdown will help those who have been left isolated while still restricting the spread of coronavirus.

A grandparent living alone would be allowed to visit the house of their child and grandchildren. But the move would not allow a couple to visit both parents as neither household would comprise a single adult.

Officials admitted the measure was not going to benefit everyone but was targeted at those who had been left isolated by the lockdown restrictions.

Deaths 41,279

The number of people who have died in the UK after testing positive for coronavirus has risen to 41,279 – an increase of 151 over 24 hours. The figures cover the period up to 5pm on Wednesday, but the true number of deaths may be significantly different. 

Meanwhile, as of 9am on Thursday, 6,240,801 people have been tested for coronavirus, with 291,409 coming back positive.