Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph 2018 111118 Credit MOD

Shutting Out Veterans On Remembrance Sunday 'Imbecilic', Government Told

New Government guidance will see places of worship closed apart from limited activities such as funerals and individual prayer.

Remembrance Day at the Cenotaph 2018 111118 Credit MOD

Forcing elderly veterans to stand outside on Remembrance Sunday because of a lockdown ban on communal church worship has been branded "imbecilic".

Peers at Westminster highlighted steps already taken to make religious buildings safe, including social distancing, as they challenged the ban on holding services when the new coronavirus restrictions for England come into force on Thursday.

Several members in the House of Lords raised concerns over the impact of the move on people’s mental health, pointing out that for many elderly people attending church was their only regular social activity.

According to Government guidance, places of worship will be closed unless they are being used for funerals, individual prayer, formal childcare or other essential voluntary and public services, like support groups.

Exemptions will also be made for churches broadcasting acts of worship.

Defending the rules, Communities Minister Lord Greenhalgh said: "We have come to a critical point in the fight against COVID-19."

Stressing the need to "limit our interaction with others", he said: "Therefore, with great regret, while places of worship will remain open for individual prayer, communal worship cannot take place at this time."

Pressing the minister, Tory peer Lord Cormack said he had "not given a single shred of evidence as to why churches should not be open for public worship".

He said a Remembrance service had been planned for this Sunday in Lincoln Cathedral, which was "an immense space where everybody can be properly socially distanced".

Lord Cormack added: "Instead, the Government have come up with an imbecilic answer – that the veterans, all of whom are 90 and over, can stand in the cold and be rained on, but they cannot go into a safe, socially distanced cathedral. This is a disgrace."

Lord Greenhalgh said he recognises "this is a difficult time" for people of all faiths, and understands the importance of Remembrance Sunday services.

"Remembrance Sunday services are, of course, an important part of celebrating what generations before have done for this country, but they can take place at the Cenotaph in a COVID-secure way," he said.

Downing Street announced on Monday that Remembrance Sunday events in England will be allowed to go ahead despite the coronavirus lockdown as long as they are held outside and social distancing measures are in place.

A national ceremony at the Cenotaph in London will also go ahead, but the public has been asked to stay away because of the coronavirus crisis.

The service in central London will be closed to the public for the first time and the Royal British Legion veteran march-past will not take place.

The Remembrance service is expected to go ahead with representatives of the Royal Family, the Government, and the Armed Forces laying wreaths at the Cenotaph.

Some veterans will be invited to attend the service, which will see COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Cover image: The Remembrance Day service at the Cenotaph in 2018 (Picture: MOD).