Coronavirus is an 'unmitigated evil', says Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called the coronavirus pandemic an "unmitigated evil".

Covid-19 has killed nearly 20,000 people in the UK and infected at least 143,000. 

Archbishop Justin Welby told Premier Christian Radio that it was a challenge to be away from family and see colleagues fall ill, but that he was hoping for the Church to become more united through the shared experience of the pandemic. 

"I think one of the big effects is there's a renewal of the sense that we all belong to Christ," he said. "John 17: 'The world will see that we're one' and I hope we can build on that."

He admitted that the shift to online services had taken some getting used to and that he didn't feel the same level of engagement speaking to people through a camera, but he said he had been "deeply moved" by the online services he has participated in.

"They've reached out in a way that surprised me and that is, I think, a sign of the work of the Spirit," he said. 

"We're finding this all over the country. There are so many clergy across the country, streaming from really basic facilities, finding huge numbers of people online with them, and making a huge impact."

While the Archbishop has been criticised over guidance to keep church buildings closed during the lockdown, he told Premier he was anxious to see them re-opened once restrictions start to ease. 

"I'm number one in the queue to re-open," he said. "But we have to satisfy four or five conditions and we have to support the NHS as long as that's necessary.

"I hope that as soon as the lockdown begins to ease, clergy can begin to go back in and I hope we will begin to have some very limited use as soon as we can, but I can't put a date on it."