British governments may ‘allow’ UK residents a Christmas break from lockdown
UNITED KINGDOM, November 24, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Residents of the United Kingdom may have some of their civil rights returned to them for a few days around Christmas.
According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the United Kingdom’s Westminster government is working with the governments of devolved regions of the country to create one set of eased Covid lockdown regulations for Christmas. The goal is to “allow” different households in the United Kingdom to create temporary “extended bubbles.” This will permit relations to visit together for an abridged festive season. The governments want a common plan, so that families can travel from one part of the country to the other.
Currently households are not allowed to visit each other's homes.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed that churches offering Christmas Eve services, including Midnight Mass, will be open to worshippers across the United Kingdom. Choirs will be allowed to sing, but congregations are asked to remain silent.
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has announced that the temporary easement will not extend to Hogmanay, i.e., New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, Scotland’s most important festival. Hitherto Scotland’s New Year has been welcomed in by large parties and lavish public celebrations. January 2 is also a public holiday in Scotland.
Sturgeon cited the importance of Christmas to children as her reason for choosing the Christian feast over the national holiday.
“Christmas is a more important time for kids,” Sturgeon stated, but added: “Christmas is likely to be when families don’t want to leave someone on their own.”
The easement plans are not, however, set in stone. The First Minister hinted that the freedom of families to travel and assemble depends on the rate of infection in December.
“Reducing the prevalence of the virus is also what would allow us to consider a slight and careful […] easing of the rules for a few days over the festive period,” she said.
Currently church services are closed to worshippers in England, which is under a strict lockdown until December 2. Churches are open to a limited number of worshippers per service in Wales, with the understanding that they ought not to travel to England. Churches are also open in Scotland to a limited number of worshippers, with an understanding that people from the most restricted, “Level 4”, areas may not leave them to attend their regular place of worship. Currently people in Northern Ireland may go to church, but as of November 27, the churches will be closed to congregations for two weeks.
But what about Advent?
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Primate of All-Ireland, voiced his disappointment that Northern Ireland has decided to close church services to worshippers for the first weeks of Advent.
“The unexpected news announced late last night that churches across Northern Ireland are to close for two weeks from November 27 has come as a great disappointment, and is contrary to the assurances given to faith groups at a meeting just last week at which we were praised for our attention to safety and public health,” Martin said last Friday.
“Our parishes have consistently tried to support the Executive and public health authorities and we will do so again, but we would prefer to do so in mature partnership and dialogue,” the Archbishop continued.
Martin asked that the “ban on public worship will be for the shortest period possible” and sought clarification that churches will still be open for private prayer.
“This issue was the subject of debate during the first lockdown and we were confident that it was understood that churches are places of sanctuary, calm, and spiritual strength during this crisis,” the Irish Primate reminded the public.
“I cannot understand how a person may still go to an off-licence to buy alcohol but might not be permitted to visit and sit in quiet solitary prayer in a large church. The right to do this is particularly important for Catholics.”
Martin stressed that these restrictions will blight “the beginning of the holy season of Advent” which he explained was “a sacred time of preparation for Christmas.
“In speaking about ‘saving Christmas’, I urge the [Northern Irish] Executive to accept that for many people a ‘meaningful Christmas’ is about more than shopping, eating and drinking,” he added.
“Spiritual preparation is essential,” he said.
Although England will get a breath of relative freedom on December 2—and the public will be allowed to return to church services—some areas will find themselves more hampered by coronavirus-inspired restrictions. On December 2, England will adopt a regional “tier system” resembling the one currently imposed upon the Scots by their Holyrood government. However, “non-essential retail” will be permitted in all three of England’s tiers, allowing Christmas shopping and Boxing Day sales.
The lockdowns are expected to last until the end of March.
Daily Telegraph columnist Ross Clark objected to the tier system, calling it “a rebadged lockdown.”
“While it will be described as a return to tiers, those tiers will be made tougher and more of us will find ourselves shunted into the top [more restrictive] tiers,” Clark stated.
“The result is that most people will be forbidden from mixing with family and friends until Easter – save for a brief truce over Christmas.”
The slight relaxation of social rules over Christmas, Clark intimated, is a bribe.
“A semi-free Christmas is being used as the thin, dangling carrot which is supposedly going to help us resign ourselves to many months of isolation,” he wrote.