Bloomfield won’t budge – but why?

maximum of 10

In his Monday press conference, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, addressed the concern that has been expressed over the weekend by church leaders and others about church gatherings still being capped at a maximum of 10 people.

Bloomfield defended limits on the size of faith-based gatherings.

Allowing churches to have larger gatherings was deemed to be too risky as the country moved out of lockdown, he said.

“I know many people, including those of faith, want to move as quickly as possible to increase the size of these gatherings.

I know how important it is for people to be able to practise their faith together,” he told reporters.

Bloomfield said he believed New Zealanders understood the need for the limits, despite days of very low new COVID-19 cases.

He said health officials had generally received “fantastic support” from church organisations throughout lockdown and into alert level 2.

He said the specific issue of whether to raise the maximum number of people who can gather from a limit of 10 would be considered by Cabinet on Monday.

It won’t specifically relate to religious gatherings.

“We’re getting closer” to increase those numbers, with today’s zero-result reinforcing that the country was on the ‘right trajectory'”, Bloomfield said.

The specific issue ignored.

In an open letter to the prime minister, cabinet and members of parliament over 75 major Christian Leaders of Denominations / Movements / Churches, across the spectrum of the church in New Zealand suggested churches are an essential service, as the spiritual health of a nation is just as important as physical health.

The letter noted most businesses, schools, restaurants, movie theatres, cafés and retail outlets have now been given the freedom to operate with the necessary restrictions and safety measures in place.

Bloomfield did not specifically address this question: “What’s the reason alert level 2 allows more people to attend strip clubs than religious gatherings?” as a Stuff editorial writer put it.

Lack of Faith in Churches

The  Stuff writer went on to say: “The answer does appear to be that the Government has more trust in the denizens of the clubs than in churchgoers to respect physical distancing and hygiene requirements.”

Last week, when National MP Simon O’Connor asked Health Minister David Clark why the clubs were deemed safer to open.

The response was that people often church attended services not only to worship but to gather and intermingle.

Earlier the prime minister had said some of the feedback received indicated church communities were places for fellowship. “It is a place for a community to come together,” she said.

“And if we were building rules, it is ultimately, we are trying to stop people, on large scales, interacting with one another closely, then that is where that fell into the same category.”

“Quite so. But unless we’ve been sorely misinformed, certain sorts of mingling haven’t been altogether unknown at strip clubs either,” the editorial writer commented.

“The emphatic rules restricting public gatherings during level 4 and 3 needed to be enforced, and it remains true that the greater flexibilities of level 2 carry equally important rules of their own.

But there is something unedifying in the distinctions being drawn as if churchgoers – en masse – are simply incapable of modifying their behaviours.”


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