Housing minister Robert Jenrick has caused ridicule after claiming that “singing hymns” is more likely to spread coronavirus than going to a pub or a restaurant.
When trying to explain why the government is making plans to up economic hubs like shops and restaurants but not places of worship, Jenrick came up with the line that “singing of hymns can lead to exhalation”.
As can, y’know, breathing.
“I understand how important it is for millions of people in this country, and I can understand how people of faith would consider it strange that shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, many other settings, might be open in the weeks and months ahead, but not somewhere as important as a place of worship,” said Jenrick, when asked when religious buildings would reopen.
I think the first logical step is probably to open places of worship for individual or private prayer, and that’s what we’re working towards with the faith leaders, and then that will be a springboard hopefully, conditional on the rate of infection obviously, to small weddings, for example, again very important to many people, and then in time to services.
However, he said the government “certainly don’t want to see” large crowds gathering inside places of worship “because of singing hymns, and so on, which can lead to exhalation and can create particular problems”.
Jenrick – who is currently facing questions after “unlawfully” approving a Tory donor’s £1bn property development project – is not wrong about potential spread posed by “exhalation”.
But it does pose the question of how exhalation in a place of worship differs from exhalation in a clothing shop, or cafe.
Churchgoers were not impressed by Jenrick’s strange line of reasoning.