Former Bishop of Chelmsford says lifting lockdown restrictions too soon could be ‘self-defeating’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 26 May 2020

Stephen Cottrell, who has left his position of Bishop of Chelmsford after nearly ten years.  Picture: Paul Bennett

Stephen Cottrell, who has left his position of Bishop of Chelmsford after nearly ten years. Picture: Paul Bennett


The former Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell has warned the Government that lifting coronavirus restrictions too soon could be “self-defeating” and lead to a second wave of infections.

Bishop Stephen, who is taking up the role of Archbishop of York in July, said politicians need to be held to account during the Covid-19 crisis and argued supporting people returning to work needed to be the “top priority”.

His comments come ahead of the second step of the Government’s plan to lift lockdown restrictions, which could see schools and non-essential shops open from June 1.

Bishop Stephen said: “We do need to get our economy up and running but if we get the economy up and running at the expense of health and safety, then it will only be self-defeating and lead to a second wave of this illness.”

When asked if people need more protection, he added: “Clearly we were not as well prepared as we should have been. That’s not laying the blame at anybody in particular. We can see that some other nations were better prepared than us for this.

“We’ve known for a long time that something like this could happen. We need to acknowledge that and make sure we learn from it.”

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He said he hopes that people do not forget how much we depend on people like care home staff, supermarket workers and delivery drivers.

The bishop also called on the Government to manage the risk of returning to work for those that have to go back.

“We do need these people to go to work and we are so grateful to them that they are going to work but we could perhaps do more to keep them safe, both on their way to work and when at work.

“If it was your son or daughter on a crowded Tube train, you would be concerned so let’s do everything we can to make it as safe as possible. If that costs a bit more, then so be it.”

He called the virus the biggest challenge society has had to face since the Second World War.

“We are one humanity living in one world. It is impossible to have a world of wellbeing unless we care for the needs of everybody. It’s horrible it has taken a deadly virus for us to rediscover that.”

A Government spokesman referred this paper to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address to the nation, on May 10, when asked for a response to the bishop’s remarks.

Mr Johnson unveiled a three step plan to lifting restrictions and warned the public to “stay alert” to control the virus and save lives.

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