'Pray safe, stay safe': How social distancing works inside Westminster Cathedral

A woman sits on seats arranged for social distancing at Westminster Cathedral Credit: PA

The reopening of places of worship for private prayer is a sign that life is returning to “something like normality”.

Places of worship came under step three of the Government’s road map to lift restrictions, and while many will open on Monday for private prayer, a full reopening with services is not expected to take place until at least July 4.

Among those opening up is Westminster Cathedral in central London, where the holy water font at the door will be empty and parishioners will swap the customary holy water blessing for hand sanitiser.

People sit on seats arranged for social distancing Credit: PA

The cathedral, an important church for Catholics in the UK, will open for around four hours each day and a maximum of 80 people will be allowed into the 1,300-capacity building at any one time.

Father Daniel Humphreys, a priest at the cathedral, said the opening for private prayer is welcome as he has often seen people praying outside the locked doors during lockdown.

A man sits on seats arranged for social distancing at Westminster Cathedral
Social distancing sign at Westminster Cathedral Credit: PA

Father Humphreys said it will be very different to just “wander into church”, with measures in place including restricted numbers, sanitiser, a one-way system, rows of seats cordoned off with “relatively tasteful tape” and the touching of statues “off limits”.> Meanwhile, Rabbi Barry Lerer, based at the Central Synagogue London, said it is not reopening on Monday due to the nature of synagogue prayer requiring the participation of the community.> He said people can pray at home for now, but said there is a plan for the future and he is hopeful that there will be movement on reopening in July.> Rabbi Lerer, who said there are daily services online, added:

He said services will probably be shortened and people will have to wear face masks.

Elsewhere, the Church of England, which is allowing funeral services in church buildings from Monday, said singing should be allowed in churches as soon as it is considered safe.>Current Government guidance says singing and playing instruments – with the exception of the church organ – should be avoided, as officials continue to review scientific and medical advice around how those activities can be managed safely.>Last month, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick referred to the particular problem of exhalation spreading droplets further during the singing of hymns.>There is said to be a lack of clarity for mosque leaders on how to implement regulations for their congregations.