Places of worship play an important role in providing spiritual leadership for many individuals, and in bringing communities and generations together. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are particularly vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus.
For places of worship, the key changes are that:
- Most other significant life events can resume, limited to no more than 30 people. This will include events such as private baptisms, and naming ceremonies. Limits at weddings, wedding receptions, wakes and other commemorative events will be increased to 30 people.
- Funerals will have no legal cap on the number of people who can attend. The number of attendees will be determined by how many people the venue can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place.
- Outdoors most legal restrictions on meeting others will be lifted - although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal unless otherwise exempt.
- Support groups and parent and child group gathering limits will increase to 30 people (not including under 5s).
COVID Secure rules, including social distancing requirements, continue to apply in the workplace, and in businesses and public venues.
At Step 4, which will take place no earlier than 21 June, the government aims to remove all limits on life cycle events and other gatherings. This will be subject to the outcome of the scientific Events Research Programme, which will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events of larger sizes. The pilots have been selected to examine a range of settings, venue types, and activity types (e.g. seated or not, indoor/outdoor etc) so that the data is generalisable and findings can inform thinking on the reopening of similar settings across multiple sectors.
Now government restrictions permit face-to-face activities, it is for local children’s and youth group leaders (in consultation with Church Elders) to consider whether online / support at home engagement should start to transition to this within the current restrictions in their area.
Risk of infection is impacted by proximity (how close people are together), duration (how long people are together), environment (how well ventilated) and contact with infected surfaces (furniture, washrooms, materials, door handles etc). There should be no sharing of food or drink, crockery or cutlery, equipment or materials. Ensure good respiratory hygiene by promoting the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it’ approach, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces more often than usual. Increase frequency of cleaning of toilets and washrooms and encourage everyone to clean their hands more often than usual. All organised activities need to follow the government guidance for out of schools settings and must have the following in place to prevent the spread of infection (in addition to all normal safeguarding measures, see our safeguarding policy Good Practice 5):
- Risk assessment of the premises or outdoor location – this must be Covid19 ready (for URC premises use Covid-19 Risk Assessment (PDF) or the editable version Covid-19 Risk Assessment - Excel spreadsheet).
- Risk assessment of the activity – how social distancing will be maintained, how group size will be managed, how materials will be used and cleaned etc (see national government guidance for out of schools settings and URC GP5 Appendix I A guide to risk assessment - PDF).
- Risk assessment of the participants and leaders – awareness of personal levels of vulnerability to infection, willingness to self-isolate following NHS guidance in case of a reported case within the group (use Personal Risk Assessment - PDF).
- Revised emergency procedures to include fire evacuation with social distancing and first aid with PPE.
- System for collecting details of all those present for the appropriate national track and trace system (operating the church’s GDPR policy) and displaying information/QR codes.
- Training of all leaders and volunteer helpers in all measures to be taken to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Good communication with parents/carers and all participants about what to expect, measures in place and codes of conduct.
- Plan for arrivals and departures to maintain social distancing among parents/carers; and good hand hygiene among group members and leaders.
- Plan for dealing with a group member or leader who becomes ill with potential Covid-19 symptoms during a session.
- System for enabling group members to remain in existing ‘bubbles’ (eg from school / household / extended household) in consistent groups with the same leaders each time to reduce mixing as far as possible. Your Synod Pilots Officer, CYDO or equivalent lead worker will be able to give some support.
Impact on typical session activities:
- Singing and shouting is to be avoided or limited
- Recommend NO consumption of food or drink in the venue during the session
- No soft toys or removeable soft furnishings
- Where possible any physical activities and games should take place outside
- Leaders must socially distance from each other and groups
- Group members must keep to social distance rules for their locality during activities
- No shared craft materials or equipment
- No shared sports equipment
- Face coverings may be appropriate in some indoor spaces (eg. corridors, entrance ways) for over 11s
- Increased cleaning regime as required by risk assessment
More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic-from-4-july/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-2-december