Weddings will be banned under new coronavirus restrictions in England which are expected to start next Thursday and last until the beginning of December.
Under the new rules announced by Boris Johnson late on Saturday, funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people.
In a blow to thousands of couples who have already postponed their nuptials, the Government said weddings will not be allowed, apart from under “exceptional circumstances” – but these are yet to be clarified.
The Prime Minister held a press conference to announce the new restrictions following a spike in positive Covid-19 cases across the UK in recent weeks.
He will present the measures to Parliament early next week and, if they are approved, they will come into force from Thursday, November 5.
Under the restrictions, pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail businesses in England will close until December 2.
People will be told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work, education, grocery shopping or outdoor exercise.
But one of the main differences from the first lockdown that started in March is that this time schools, colleges and nurseries will remain open.
Places of worship will be closed too, unless they are being used for funerals, to broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, formal childcare, or essential services such as blood donation or food banks.
Chair of the Church of England’s Recovery Group, Dame Sarah Mullally, said she will “study the detailed regulations when they are published” and “seek clarification on how this may affect public worship”.
The Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches national director John Stevens said the new restrictions signal a “very significant emotional blow” for Christian couples who had planned their weddings for November.
He said: “In the context of Covid where people are dying and really struggling with mental health, cancelling a wedding might seem small by comparison.
“But the organisation that has gone into planning weddings and the financial cost… and it’s actually a really serious issue particularly for couples who are Biblical believing Christians.”
He added: “For people in church and other religious communities it seems a very unfair restriction – churches have put a great deal of effort into coronavirus measures and they are much safer than other settings which are still allowed to be open like secondary schools.”
Boris Johnson announced the four-week lockdown in a bid to control the spread of coronavirus, but was criticised over concerns that his delay in imposing the new restrictions will have a “very real” human cost.
The PM rejected calls last month for a short, sharp shutdown – but after local restrictions failed to sufficiently reduce infections, he was forced to tell the country once again to stay at home.
MPs will vote on the new measures in the Commons on Wednesday ahead of their introduction at 00.01am on Thursday.
When they lapse on December 2, the current tier system will be reintroduced.
Mr Johnson made the announcement as coronavirus cases in the UK since the start of the outbreak passed one million, with a further 21,915 reported on Saturday.
The Government also said another 326 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday.
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