Synagogues across England will be permitted to reopen for prayer and to hold services from next month, Prime minister Boris Johnson said today.
As of 4 July, places of worships in England will also be able to reopen for wedding services with a maximum of 30 guests, subject to social distancing, in the government’s latest easing of lockdown rules.
“Mr Speaker, I know that many have mourned the closure of places of worship and this year Easter, Passover and Eid all occurred during the lockdown,” Johnson told the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Other changes include the halving of the two metre social distancing rule to one metre and reopening of restaurants and pubs from 4 July.
Sector-specific guidance will be published later today, Johnson said.
“We can now go further and safely ease the lockdown in England,” he said. “At every stage, caution will remain our watch word. Each step will be conditional and reversible.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said the return to congregational activity will be “as cautious as is necessary to protect our communities”, with further guidance released in the coming days.
“It is a cause for additional celebration that couples, some of whom have had to wait for several months, will now be able to marry,” he said in a social media post on Tuesday.
“We now look forward to being together again in our communities, to enjoying the blessing of communal prayer, to mourning for those we have lost, to marking life-cycle events and to thanking the Almighty for His protection during these challenging times,” he wrote.
Steven Wilson, chief executive of United Synagogue said in a statement on Tuesday that “measures such as strict social distancing, hand sanitising, compulsory face coverings and a booking system will all be in place to keep each other safe, but nevertheless we are thrilled to be able to open our doors again.”
“Each of our communities will be restarting services at its own pace depending on the needs of their members and we will support each community every step of the way,” he added.
Matt Plen, chief executive of Masorti Judaism, said “communities are considering options for resuming face-to-face services based on a careful assessment of the health risks.”
“Any communities who are able to resume face-to-face services in the coming weeks will do so with strict social distancing measures, restrictions on the number of participants, and rigorous cleaning and hygiene procedures,” he said.
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl welcomed the announcement but urged caution to prevent a second spike in cases.
She said: “Over the last couple of months, the Board of Deputies has worked with different religious denominations to ensure the right balance between preservation of life and maintenance and restarting of religious customs.
“Weddings were a particular concern in the Orthodox and Strictly Orthodox communities and we held discussions with Downing Street and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government – including organising a roundtable for Charedi stakeholders – to make sure these perspectives were understood.
“However, on the day that we reveal that the total number of deaths in the Jewish community has reached 500, we would urge people to proceed with caution and stick within the Government’s guidelines to ensure there is no second spike in cases.”
The national death toll among those tested positive for coronavirus across all settings was 42,647 as of Sunday, health authorities said Monday.