Hazel Simmons MBE
Leader of the Council
T: 01582 547271
13th January 2021
Dear Faith Leader,
RE: Covid 19 Pandemic: Voluntary Closure of Places of Worship
I hope this finds you all well. I am writing to explain why, in the light of the current
Covid 19 situation and advice from Public Health, the council is now strongly
advising that all places of worship that are still open to take the voluntary step to
close for communal worship and congregational prayer.
We are extremely concerned about the rapid pace of the current transmission of the
new variant of the virus and its very serious impacts on public health, NHS services
and the local economy.
Communities like our own have suffered and continue to suffer disproportionately
during the Covid 19 crisis, and the protection of vulnerable people must be our first
I have therefore, along with a number of other council leaders, written to Lord
Greenhaigh the Minister of State with responsibility for faith and communities to
explain why I believe that the current Government position of permitting places of
worship to remain open is not the right one at the present time, and puts all our
communities at greater risk.
This has not been an easy recommendation to make. I want you to know that the
Council fully recognises the central importance and contribution of religious practice
and fellowship to the health and well-being of many of our residents.
We are very mindful of the significant efforts made by places of worship to do
everything you can to ensure the safety of worshippers, congregations and their
wider communities. We also remain very thankful for the enormous contribution
made by you and your congregations to support and sustain the whole community
throughout the pandemic.
However, in accordance with current scientific evidence, we strongly believe that at
this critical stage of the crisis, the significantly increased risks of transmission of the
new variant of Covid 19 significantly outweigh the benefits of places of worship
remaining open for congregational worship.
As you will know from the national news and Government communications, the
threat of the pandemic to all is at its most dangerous moment and is worse than it
has ever been. Predictions for coming weeks are even more worrying, and the
immediate steps we take now will have long lasting consequences.
In Luton, the most up to date figures show a significantly worsening situation. Case
rates of Covid 19 per 100,000 people in the population are now approaching 1000,
with weekly increases currently running at over 30%. 22.7% of people being tested
received a positive Covid 19 result in the last week. National estimates are that about
1 in 3 people with Covid 19 don’t show any symptoms at all but can spread the virus
We know that a proportion of people getting infected with Covid 19 require hospital
treatment and some of them sadly will die. The Luton and Dunstable Hospital and
our local care services have been under considerable pressure and there are
increasing levels of concern for the weeks ahead about their ability to continue to
On the basis of this evidence, in order to save lives and protect the NHS, if your
place of worship is still open, we are strongly recommending that you take the
voluntary step of temporary closure and suspending all communal worship, in order
to help us to reduce the spread of Covid 19 and save lives.
I appreciate this may be a very difficult step for some of you. However, I hope you
will understand why I am asking you and your congregations at this time to consider
making this very significant voluntary sacrifice
Stay Safe, and best wishes for the new year
Social Justice Manager
Policy, Community, Engagement
LUTON CARES: Collaborative, Ambitious, Respectful, Empowering and Supportive