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Former Faiths Minister says lockdown of churches was “outrageous”

Former Minister of State, Lord Greenhalgh, has told the Catholic Union that the closure of churches and other places of worship during the pandemic was “outrageous”.

Lord Greenhalgh, who had responsibility for Government policy on faith and communities between 2020 and 2021, said that “people at the heart of power did not understand faith”.

His comments come as the UK Covid Inquiry hears evidence from senior advisers and civil servants about the decisions taken during the pandemic. Last week, former Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Helen MacNamara, told the Covid Inquiry that decision makers had suffered from a “narrow perspective”.

Last month, the Catholic Union launched a survey on the impact that the closure of places of worship had on people’s lives. Over 700 people have taken part in the online survey so far. The results will shape the Catholic Union’s written evidence to the Covid Inquiry.

Speaking to the Catholic Union, Lord Greenhalgh said that places of worship did a “phenomenal job” at controlling the spread of the virus, especially compared to rates of transmission in other settings that weren’t subject to the same restrictions.

Lord Greenhalgh’s comments add further pressure to the Chair of the Covid Inquiry, Baroness Hallett, to properly consider the decisions around the closure and reopening of places of worship as part of the independent inquiry.

Catholic Union Director, Nigel Parker, comments: “Before Covid, few of us could have imagined our churches being forced to close by law. Yet that is the situation we faced at times during the dark days of the pandemic. The inquiry into the UK’s response to the pandemic needs to consider the decisions around the closure and reopening of places of worship, which had such a huge impact on so many people. The Catholic Union led the charge in getting our churches open again, and we’re now committed to making sure they are never forced to close again. I encourage everyone to take part in our survey to make sure the voices of Catholic are heard as part of this Inquiry.”