Over the last month there has been much discussion about religion, as the world celebrated major religious festivals – Pessach, Easter, Vaisakhi, Navratri, Buddha Purnima and Ramadan – under lockdown. Public health policy makers were skeptical if physical distancing, the key strategy for most countries struggling to contain COVID-19, can be achieved during religious festivities traditionally marked by large gatherings.
And yet, with a few notable exceptions, religious adherents the world over have complied with the new norms necessitated by a prevailing pandemic. As the world grapples with this new normal of physical distancing, religious leaders will play a major role in deciding the future of the virus.
In the UK, all places of worship have been closed. The UK’s Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Mirvis, said on national radio that there is both a “religious and a moral imperative” to “stay at home”. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, broke tradition and delivered his Easter Sunday address from his kitchen, commending churches across the country for “responding to this challenge in innovative ways”.
However, in some countries, religion undermined the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the US, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis designated religious services as ‘essential activity’ days after a Pastor within the state was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health ........
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