Britons can go back to church after lockdown, but no singing allowed

(Photo by David Beale on Unsplash)

Singing and chanting will not be allowed in places of worship when Britons emerge from their tough novel coronavirus lockdown, while weddings with trimmed down attendance can place this week.

The Evening Standard newspaper quoted Conservative Party Member of Parliament, Andrew Selous, in his role as the Church of England's representative in the lower chamber, the House of Commons.

He said that neither singing or chanting will be allowed even at a distance.

He spoke after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that places of worship could reopen in Britain from July 4.

"The last three months have been the first time in more than 800 years that England has gone without public worship and the sacraments, so there is real joy that we can meet again, socially distanced, from 4 July," he said according to Christianity Today.

"I can give an assurance that the personal safety of clergy who are shielding should be prioritized and they can continue to do their duties remotely."

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a tough lockdown in the United Kingdom on March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed almost 500,000 lives worldwide with 10 million cases confirmed according to Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University. The UK has had nearly 312,000 cases with 43,600 deaths.


Virologists warn that singing forces out droplets, so they travel further, the Swiss online publication Le News reported.

In addition, so virologist believe singers could absorb many more virus particles as they tend to breathe deeper into their diaphragms than they would during normal breathing. Wind instruments are also a concern.

UK lawmaker Selous also said that woodwind and brass instruments should not be used due to "the additional risk of infection," according to the Standard.

The number of people attending churches services has not been capped, he said.

However, weddings will be restricted to a maximum of 30 attendees.

"Weddings can indeed now take place from July 4 but only with a maximum of 30 people and this is a huge relief to many couples throughout the country," said Selous.

"For church services, there is no maximum number within a place of worship as long as the premises comply with COVID secure guidelines."

He noted, "Singing and chanting are not allowed even at a distance due to the additional risk of infection and woodwind and brass instruments should not be used, but that does still leave many other instruments."

After being asked how the public could be reassured that it would be safe to return to church soon, said Selous: "I know from my own village church how seriously the vicar and the church wardens are taking their responsibility to make sure their return will be safe."

He said churches had taken measures to supply hand sanitizer, keep prayer books covered up and make sure people are sitting at a distance from each other.

"Singing and chanting are not allowed even at a distance due to the additional risk of infection and woodwind and brass instruments should not be used, but that does still leave many other instruments," said Selous.

One lawmaker Desmond Swayne quipped that he used to enjoy a "hymn sandwich" before the pandemic. He challenged Selous on how the church might "lure us back if we're not allowed to sing," according to Christianity Today.

Le News cited reports in Washington in the US, where three-quarters of the members of one choir fell ill, and in Berlin, Germany where the same percentage of singers from a cathedral choir caught the virus. It said these reports provide anecdotal evidence that singing in choirs contributes to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it said is the virus causing COVID-19.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the German government's disease control agency, warned against singing. "Droplets fly particularly far when singing," he said, in a broadcast on Germany's RTL.

Screen grab of Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir from the BBC.
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