The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged people to follow social distancing rules so they can “have the mother and father of all parties” at the end of the coronavirus crisis.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the most senior bishop in the Church of England, also told anyone who is breaking the rules on social distancing to “get your act together”.
He added the crisis has caused a surge in attendances to online services with “ten times” as many logging on than those who turned up in person at church.
In an interview with ITV News at Ten, he said: “If you are not complying you are risking other people’s lives, not just your own.
“You are risking the health service collapsing. Do it! Stick with the rules!
“The sooner we do that, the sooner we can end this period of deep darkness and we can have the mother and father of all parties at the end of it to celebrate that we have got through it and we have come through as a nation, united as one people – that’s what I am looking forward to.”
He described the decision by the Church of England to close its’ doors to traditional services this month as “a very difficult day indeed” but added: “We are probably getting ten times as many people online as we had physically coming to the churches.”
The Archbishop believes this reflects a need for the nation to seek “some comfort and hope in these difficult times” and he sought to reassure people that God is still “with us” even in our darkest moments.
There were also a few words of support for Prime Minister Boris Johnson in his handling of the crisis so far, including his broadcast on Monday to announce tough government measures on the movement of people during the pandemic.
The Archbishop told the programme: “I think he has risen to the challenge. Nobody is perfect but he is doing a really, really good job and he is caring about the future of this country. Everyone will make mistakes in these circumstances.
“We need to be a forgiving country, understanding that there often are no simple, right answers in fact there are never simple, right answers, in this case.”
He also suggested the deadly virus has put the divisions in society caused by Brexit into perspective, telling the programme “the ways in which we can love each other and care for each other are far greater than our divisions.”
He added: “I mean, this puts the whole Brexit controversy in perspective when we’re with people whose lives are risked day by day and people are coming together in the most beautiful and wonderful way supporting each other.”
The Archbishop hoped people would continue to call on neighbours, leave food at their doorsteps, maintain social distancing for the vulnerable and send money to food banks, adding “let’s keep doing that and put our differences behind us.”