ESTHER McVey says churches and places of worship should be allowed to open for services in a socially distanced way to offer hope in these dark times.

The Tatton MP said people were capable of meeting safely and believes the move could offer some comfort to people as she called for all worship venues to be allowed to open for acts of worship and not just individual prayer.

She said: "Faith is an important part of many people’s lives and now more than ever we need to have hope that things will return to the way they were and we will get through this.

"Many people are apart from their families, have lost loved ones and I think that going to church or their chosen place of worship could offer much needed support.

"There are ways this could happen to ensure numbers are kept down and people can maintain their distance.

"I have spoken to people who are really struggling being isolated and want to be able to go and worship with others.

"Communal worship has helped many through this pandemic and so many measures have been put in place to make them Covid compliant.

"We all need a bit of hope right now and it is wrong to not allow services to go ahead in a safe way."

England's four-week lockdown will see most religious services banned.

Churches will only be able to open for funerals, to broadcast acts of worship, individual prayer, formal childcare, or essential services such as blood donation or food banks.

The call comes after Remembrance services across the country this weekend saw small groups pay their respects outside.

No church services were allowed and members of the public were discouraged from attending any local events.