The Coronavirus Act is necessary but must not be in force for a second longer than it’s needed

The extensive legal powers within the Coronavirus Act would normally be totally unacceptable in a democracy. But we are in a time of national emergency.

by Colin Hart

Parliament has agreed the restrictions without a vote. Our elected representatives have given the Prime Minister strong powers to fight the pandemic. The Government’s clear aim is to save life, including the lives of Christians!

The powers are time-limited and Parliament will reconsider them after six months.


The restrictions are being generally followed. They are also frequently debated and criticised, which is a healthy thing.

Family and social gatherings are banned. All sporting events have been stopped. Local societies and political parties cannot meet. For Christians, most crucially, churches cannot meet, though the legislation encourages the live streaming of church services. Weddings cannot be held, but funerals can be (with severe limitations on the number who can attend). More restrictions are possible should the pandemic worsen significantly.

Advised by medical and scientific experts, the Government is acting on the assumption that without intervention hundreds of thousands of people could unnecessarily die. No one can disprove that assumption. We simply do not have the data. We have no reason to doubt what the Government is saying: that the choice is between deaths on a large scale (which are preventable) and significant restrictions on ordinary life to save lives.

In earlier centuries, when houses didn’t have utilities piped to them and food was not easy to obtain, it would have been impossible to have such restrictions. But in our time, we can. And lives are being saved as a result.

As time goes on, much more will be known about the disease, but at present the Government has to act on a precautionary principle. It has done this whilst enabling people to get essential supplies and exercise. It has also sought to protect jobs. This is a sensible approach. The fact that some of the rules are not always applied in a sensible way does not change the general position.

Saving lives

The UK death toll reached 3,605 this week. This includes the deaths of two Christians well known to the Institute – Norman Wells and Revd John J Murray who died on Wednesday evening.

We pray for the bereaved families. We pray that a specific treatment and vaccine may be found quickly. We pray for all of those working in the NHS to save lives. And we pray for those in authority that they may be granted wisdom.

We strongly support the Government’s approach to save lives. It is not just a question of obeying those in authority; Christians love our neighbours by following the restrictions that have been laid down.

But the legislation must not be in force for a second longer than is necessary.

Gospel freedom

It is not good to restrict our freedoms. And there are significant health downsides for millions of people who have been made to stay at home. When the pandemic recedes, and thought is given to which restrictions can be lifted, these downsides will have to be balanced with the ongoing risks of a resurgence in the epidemic.

Barring a miracle there will be no lifting of restrictions this month. We pray that the time will come soon when this emergency legislation will be repealed, including every last provision affecting the work of churches and Gospel freedom.

We will be vigilant to make sure that happens.