A prominent London rabbi has taken aim at Health Secretary Matt Hancock for letting grieving family members of people dying from COVID-19 come to hospitals and funerals.
Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform Synagogue said Hancock’s decision to allow families to choose whether to enter – and therefore potentially infect others – “could have had even more fatal consequences”.
Hancock relaxed the rules saying he wept after hearing that 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab died without his family by his bed, but Berger said that although the circumstances were tragic, allowing choice could kill others.
“Mr Hancock doesn’t want to be the person that said Ismail’s parents couldn’t be by his bedside,” Rabbi Berger said, adding that by allowing choice “he’s potentially spread more infection around the hospital and brought it right back into the Abdulwahab’s home, subjecting Ismail’s grandparents to the same fate”.
She said: “Compassion is not always the best leadership. Not giving people impossible choices is sometimes much fairer… Don’t make people choose whether to be honest about if they think they may pose a risk in the hospital or the crematorium. Too many of us we will choose wrongly, we will go and say goodbye.”
By encouraging anxious family into hospitals this “makes us a threat to our NHS workforce or making our final goodbye to our loved one the moment that infects us too,” said Berger, adding that “many hospitals are ignoring Hancock and maintaining a no-visitor policy”.
She urged Jewish community members who find themselves in that situation to “prioritise yourselves and all those living… a lifetime of kisses, handholding and kind wise words will always be more powerful than any final ones can be”.