Places of worship in Burnley and Pendle urged to close during lockdown

Mosques and churches in Burnley and Pendle have been asked to pause communal prayer and religious worship in a bid to reduce the possible spread of the new Covid variant.

Lancashire’s Directors of Public Health have written to places of worship urging them to close during lockdown to protect communities at this critical stage of the pandemic.

Their request has been endorsed by the Lancashire Faith and Community Cohesion Group.

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Coun. Mohammed Iqbal MBE, leader of Pendle Council, said: “We support this move as we’re seeing a growing number cases in Pendle.

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council.

“There are very worrying increases in hospital Covid cases, as well as, sadly, more people dying from this deadly virus.

“We must do all we can to protect people and support the NHS.

“We know that NHS and hospital capacity is under enormous strain across Lancashire.” he stressed.

The new variant of the virus is increasing the seven-day rates by more than 250% in some areas of the North West and is up to 70% more infectious.

“This new increased risk of transmission will require a much higher level of infection control and compliance, to achieve the same level of safety as the previous measures,” explained Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Director of Public Health for Lancashire County Council.

At present, Government legislation does allow places of worship to remain open in England provided people do not mix with anyone outside their household or support bubble.

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“As Directors of Public Health representing Lancashire, we are strongly advising all faith communities to pause communal prayer and worship during the lockdown,” said Dr Karunanithi.

“We know that there are significant infection risks, due to people socialising before and after worship and that many people who have tested positive for Covid haven't shown any symptoms.”

The directors said: “While we can't require our faith communities to do this, we are asking everyone to make this temporary change to protect each other.”

Coun. Iqbal added: “I’m pleased to say that places of worship in Pendle are responding to this urgent request.

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“Already today, 11 mosques in Pendle have suspended all congregation prayers and we are urging all places of worship to follow this urgent request from our Directors of Public Health.

“Places of worship have provided valuable support to people during the pandemic.

“I want to thank them for the part they have played and continue to play, including online prayers and additional help for our community such as food banks,” he stated.

The Directors of Public Health are asking any places of worship which decide to remain open for communal prayers, despite advice, to carry out a new, revised and detailed risk assessment of their infection control procedures.

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For advice on staying safe, how to get a test and the lockdown rules for England visit www.pendle.gov.uk/coronavirus where there is also a link to the Government regulations and advice for places of worship.