‘Looks like everyone in the UK is breaking the lockdown rules, then?’ said a person living in France in late May. In June, UK social media were ablaze with images of packed beaches and street parties. While we follow the developments of the pandemic in the UK, many of our conversations have included judgmental comments about other countries. Now a full local lockdown has had to be imposed in Leicester because of increased coronavirus cases; non-essential shops and most schools have been closed again. The loosening of restrictions for pubs and restaurants will also not take place there. See
In March DEFRA. responding to the Godfray review, set out the next phase of its bovine TB strategy which will include cattle and badger vaccination and improved testing. The issues are complex. Straightforward preventative actions are still not being implemented by farmers owing to weariness and frustration. Pray for wisdom for government and opinion-formers. Pray for all farmers and animals affected. Pray that any spiritual issues and as yet unknown factors causing the disease to persist will be revealed and addressed (Exodus 16:26). Rain in June has greened up the fields and provided much-needed grazing, but predicted crop yields are still much lower than normal. This follows many turbulent months for farming due to the weather and Brexit. Give thanks to the Lord who ‘visits the earth and waters it’ (Psalm 65:9); pray that He will ‘crown the year with His goodness’ (Psalm 65:11).
Church leaders led by Pastor Ade Omooba continue their legal challenge of the lockdown restrictions on churches. The group has been stressing to the Government that churches, not civil authorities, have the legal and moral authority to make decisions over worship services. This challenge has already led to speeding up plans to allow churches to meet. A recent guidance document lists restrictions on activities like singing and baptisms. Nearly all the points made are listed as things for churches to consider, not rules to follow: so churches that emphasise the importance of singing may be able to do so, having considered how to avoid any risk. Nothing has changed yet: the Government must update coronavirus regulations in line with the guidance. If they do reflect the guidance, church leaders should be emboldened to open their churches and resume services in the way they see fit.
The prime minister's plan to spend £5 billion on rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus crisis has been met with scepticism by Rt Rev Martin Gorick, Bishop of Dudley. In a keynote speech in Dudley, Boris Johnson announced a new ‘opportunity guarantee’ to help the economy cope with the ‘aftershock’ of the coronavirus crisis. Bishop Martin said, ‘We need to pray not just for warm and expansive words, but we need to pray for cool calm thinking, planning and the real determination to deliver for the poorest communities, and especially for some of our young people.’ The Prime Minister acknowledged that it might seem premature to make a speech now about Britain after Covid, given events in Leicester, but said, ‘We cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis. The country needs to be ready for what may be coming’.
Dominic Raab says that China’s new laws (see world article 3 below), cementing its control over Hong Kong, are a serious violation of the 1997 agreement about Hong Kong's future. Boris Johnson has said he will now make it possible for those with British National Overseas status to enter the UK, with limited leave to live and work and apply for British citizenship. The ‘new bespoke immigration route’ means an eligible Hong Kong resident could move to the UK without the current limits, and would be able to live and work in the UK for five years. After that they (and their dependents) could apply for settled status and eventual citizenship. China firmly opposes this and reserves the right to take corresponding measures. Australia is also considering offering a safe haven for Hongkongers.
Professor Sarah Gilbert, the world-renowned expert leading Oxford University’s team devising a vaccine, told MPs that it would provide ‘a good duration of immunity for several years at least, and probably be better than naturally-acquired immunity.’ Asked for a timeline on the vaccine amid concerns of facing the winter without one, she said, ‘I hope we can improve on those timelines and come to the rescue.’ 8,000 Britons are in a major trial of the Oxford vaccine, and an experimental vaccine is being tested by a German partner. These trials showed encouraging early results, producing neutralising antibodies between 1.8 and 2.8 times greater than those of recovered patients. The key question is whether the vaccine will protect people from becoming infected, or simply make them less ill. It may also work less well in older people because their immune systems are weaker.
The lockdown in most of Europe is gradually easing. Social distancing regulations remain in force, but there is no distance spiritually between us and our Father in heaven. We can continue to pray for Europe, and for Germany which assumes the presidency of the EU Council for six months from 1 July. Its government has announced a 130 billion Euro recovery package to strengthen and promote investment from businesses and municipalities. Please pray that in the coming economic challenges that there will be an attitude which serves and protects people’s lives rather than finances (Leviticus 25:35-37). Social unrest has intensified recently in Europe and globally. In times of crisis, social solidity comes under pressure and the divisions within society drive people apart.
In 2017 Emmanuel Macron won 66% of the vote to become France's youngest-ever president. It was the first time in half a century that France had a president from outside its two main political parties. An incumbent's first term in office usually defines his political identity and policy agenda. But three years into a five-year term, in trying to win support from a politically diverse electorate, Macron has failed to define his political agenda or his natural political base. With preparation for re-election in 2022 firmly on his mind, he faces a series of challenges. His LREM party took a thrashing in recent local elections, a clear rebuke for tying his potential next term to a robust environmental and social agenda. The crushing of LREM's candidate in Paris' mayoral race was particularly embarrassing for the party.