Sacrifices 'have saved lives', says Bishop of London
The Bishop of London has paid tribute to parishes, frontline workers and others who have made "huge sacrifices" during the pandemic as England prepares to lift Plan B restrictions.
Bishop Sarah Mullally said it was the sacrifices of many that have "saved lives" and helped protect each other from Covid-19.
Restrictions were tightened when omicron caused a surge in cases in the run-up to Christmas.
The government said the successful booster rollout and a subsequent drop in Covid rates meant England could return to Plan A regulations this week.
From Thursday, it will no longer be a requirement to wear face masks in public indoor settings or show Covid passes to gain entry to large public venues.
The only rule that will remain in place after Thursday is the requirement to self-isolate for five days after a positive test.
Bishop Mullally, who chairs the Church of England's Covid Recovery Group, said the last two years had been "a very challenging time".
She commended parishes and the public for the way in which they had pulled through.
"When the first measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 were introduced in March 2020, few would have imagined that we would still be making adaptations to the way we live our lives – including our worship – almost two years on," she said.
"People have made huge sacrifices to protect one another – not only those they know and love but strangers they might never meet. We've learnt again as society something of what it means to love our neighbour, as Jesus taught.
"And it has certainly not been without cost.
"The loneliness and isolation many have experienced; the impact on people's mental health; the lost jobs and failed businesses and strained relationships must not be overlooked.
"Yet, terrible as the toll from this virus has been, and continues to be, the actions people have taken have saved lives and prevented countless infections, with all the potential long-term consequences that could go with them.
"We may never know what good has been done."
She paid tribute to the clergy, parish volunteers and congregations who have kept worship going by managing "to innovate with bold and remarkable new ways of doing so; reaching new people and, of course, serving your communities".
"So as we can begin to look forward with cautious hope, we once again thank those who have done so much to protect us all - particularly our NHS, carers and other front line workers," she said.
"I want to thank everyone who has made sacrifices for others. I think particularly of younger people who, though often least at risk, have sometimes given up the most."
With Covid still around, she urged people to continue doing what they can to protect others.
"As 'plan B' restrictions come to an end the future remains uncertain and we must continue to be cautious," she said.
"In our churches government rules have been eased but I would still encourage congregations to consider what mitigation can best protect others.
"As we look now towards spring and the vivid demonstration of new life it offers us, my prayer is that we won't forget what we've learnt; that we take this opportunity to thank others and that we look with hope to the future."