Displaying items by tag: United Kingdom
The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to return to church on Christmas Day, as social distancing rules are relaxed over the festive period. Justin Welby said that people should not be put off physically attending worship on 25 December. He told BBC’s Newsnight, ‘Yes, of course they should go to church. Go to church online. Go to church physically. You'll find that far fewer people will be there, because we're keeping people two metres apart. Go to church, pray. Remember at the heart of Christmas is the gift of Jesus Christ, by God, to give us hope and life and a future. And it's that hope that's at the centre of Christmas.’ The archbishop added, ‘I will certainly be in church. That's one of the safest places going at the moment, and it will be permitted from the end of lockdown. But there will be very few people there.’
25 November was dedicated to drawing attention to persecuted Christians. A Twitter account advertised the date and invited comments. Archbishop Eamon tweeted on behalf of Catholic News Ireland, ‘Covid-19 restrictions remind us to pray for those who are never free to worship and who are imprisoned for their faith’ Fr Michael J Kane tweeted, ‘Our Church lit up in red to mark Red Wednesday, showing support & solidarity with our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.’ Dominic Raab tweeted, ‘The UK stands in solidarity with those who suffer for their faith or belief, as we continue to strive for freedom of religion or belief for all. We join churches & landmarks around the world, turning red in support of persecuted Christians everywhere.’ The Carmelite Nuns GB tweeted, ‘Today is #RedWednesday. We pray especially for persecuted Christians throughout the world and for the important work of Aid to the Church in Need.’
British / Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca has announced promising results in developing a vaccine. An early analysis of some of its late-stage clinical trials, conducted in the UK and Brazil, showed that its coronavirus vaccine was 70.4 percent effective in preventing Covid-19, suggesting that the world could eventually have at least three working vaccines - and greater supply - to help curb the pandemic. However, doubts are being expressed about the results of the trials, mainly because they are based on a very small sample of people. British scientists are defending the validity of the findings, and look forward to further evidence becoming available in December. See
At his spending review on 25 November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out the Government’s plans for public spending. It is an important fiscal event, with decisions made over hundreds of billions of pounds of public money. It is also an important political event, as the government sets out relative priorities and allocates funding towards achieving its policy objectives. The initial reaction from the Institute for Fiscal Studies was this: ‘Rishi Sunak has been spending truly astonishing amounts of money this year and plans to continue to do so next year in response to Covid. Yet this was a spending review in which he reduced planned spending into the future, cutting over £10 billion from departmental spending plans next year and for subsequent years.’ (See also the next article.) Pray for the 1.3 million public sector workers who will see their pay frozen in 2021-2 and for the projected 2.6 million unemployed by spring. See
The Government has been criticised after announcing it will reduce its foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5%. Rishi Sunak intends to return to 0.7% ‘when the fiscal situation allows’. Church leaders, politicians, and other public figures say the reduction was unnecessary and have taken to Twitter to express their opinions. The Archbishop of Canterbury tweeted, ‘The cut in the aid budget - made worse by no set date for restoration - is shameful and wrong. It’s contrary to numerous government promises and its manifesto. I join others in urging MPs to reject it for the good of the poorest, and the UK’s own reputation and interest.’ Baroness Liz Sugg has resigned as the minister for overseas territories because of the decision. The reduced aid budget will require a Commons vote: here is no assurance the Government will win. See also the article above, ‘Spending Review 2020’.
A Christian charity has called on Boris Johnson to grant asylum to a 14-year-old Christian girl, Maira Shahbaz, who was abducted at gunpoint in April and forcibly married and converted to Islam by a married Muslim man. Aid to Church in Need, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, is urging concerned Christians to add their names to an online petition to the PM on Maira;s behalf. In August she fled the home of her alleged husband. The Lahore High Court ordered her to return to her abductor and ruled that she was legally married to him. Regardless of court decisions, her life will for ever be in danger from an honour killing by extremists considering her an apostate. See her video statement:
Britain's chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost told Boris Johnson to expect a Brussels trade deal around 24 November. However, talks could still collapse over fishing and red tape, with both sides urging the other to ‘get real’. A diplomatic source said, ‘You can expect some strong words from leaders that the EU will be operating in a no-deal scenario within days and the Commission has been tasked to activate contingency planning’. (see) There is a sense of desperation to get a deal sorted. Robin Walker, junior minister for Northern Ireland, told Parliament, ‘There remain important outstanding issues to be resolved’ The justice minister has urged that a Brexit deal be agreed, warning of a potential ‘organised crime bonanza’. There are huge uncertainties for justice agencies with just weeks to go until the end of the transition period. It is not just the future security partnership that affects policing and justice in Northern Ireland, it is also the economic decisions that are made.
A survey by the Royal College of Midwives revealed midwifery services are at breaking point in a profession where staff are working in fear. Over three-quarters of midwives think staffing levels in their NHS trust or board are unsafe. 42% reported shifts were understaffed and a third said there were ‘very significant gaps’ in most shifts. Midwives have been pushed to the edge by the failure of successive governments to invest in maternity services. Maternity staff are exhausted and demoralised; some are looking for the door. For the safety of every pregnant woman and every baby, this cannot be allowed to continue. Pray for this survey to be drawn to the attention of politicians. May there be enough investment in the NHS to provide safe, high-quality care in all branches of medicine. Pray for an end to the exodus of trained professionals whose morale is at rock bottom.
The UK has ordered five million doses of vaccine from the US company Moderna and 40 million of the Pfizer jab. Moderna said its vaccine may be 94.5% effective against the virus, while Pfizer suggested theirs had an efficacy of 90%. Both vaccines use the same technology which gives the vaccinated person’s body the genetic instructions for their own cells to produce the antigens and generate an immune response. The trials are ongoing and final numbers could change. Moderna vaccine is much easier to distribute than the Pfizer jab which must be kept at -100C to maintain optimal efficacy causing concerns around the storage. The Moderna vaccine lasts 30 days in household fridges, 12 hours at room temperature and remains stable at -20C (equal to most freezers) for six months. The choice has been complicated by an announcement on 19 November that the vaccine being developed by Oxford University could be ready for use by Christmas. See
Parents have spoken of the 'unbearable torture' of being separated from their disabled children and young adults living in care facilities. Tens of thousands of special needs children have been unable to touch or hug their parents and siblings since March. Many have severe disabilities which mean they are unable to speak. They cannot communicate properly through Zoom calls, only through eye contact and touch. But this is now impossible. Distraught parents, banned from seeing their children for months due to care home visiting rules, have pleaded with ministers to allow reunions before Christmas amid fears that thousands of vulnerable youngsters are suffering long-term harm. The youngsters are the hidden victims of what seems a callous policy that campaigners say is killing through loneliness. The Daily Mail is highlighting their plight in a Christmas campaign for all care residents to be allowed proper visits.