Prime Minister 'so deeply sorry' for church closures

Boris Johnson said the restrictions on places of worship were necessary

The Prime Minister has said he is "so deeply sorry" for church closures but says the restrictions must remain for now.

Places of worship have been forced to close for the four-week national lockdown starting in England from today. 

Public worship is suspended, with churches only permitted to open in limited circumstances, including to broadcast services, hold funerals, or allow people in for individual prayer. They can also stay open if they run an essential service or formal childcare. 

The restrictions have been heavily criticised by Church and faith leaders, including Catholic leader Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Challenged over the restrictions in the Commons on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said: "I am so deeply sorry that these restrictions have to be put in place right now.

"We will work as hard and fast as we can to allow people to worship in the way they want from 2 December." 

It's the second time this week that the Prime Minister has been forced to defend the unpopular measures. 

Addressing calls for the restrictions to be eased, Mr Johnson said they were necessary to "reduce the overall spread of the virus and get the R down below 1". 

"I am so sorry that the faith communities temporarily must go through this difficult period of not being able to observe services in the way that they want and I would like," he said.

"This is only for 28 days and the hope I can offer—the candle in the darkness—is that we will, if we get this right, be able to go back to something much more like normal life before Christmas and people will be able to celebrate Christmas, in churches and elsewhere across this country."