A follow on to last weeks post on how the new guidance affects places of worship. These are all direct extracts from government guidance published or updated yesterday, my commentary is in italics.
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-during-the-pandemic-from-4-july updated 14th September
Gatherings of more than 30 people will be permitted but only in certain public places as set out in law. This will include places of worship and their surrounding premises. There are however activities where it is advisable to restrict numbers to 30 within a place of worship for public health reasons. This guidance sets out those activities as well as how to ensure your place of worship is COVID-19 secure.
Whilst engaging in an activity in the place of worship or surrounding grounds, all parties should adhere to social distancing guidelines. 2 metres or 1 metre with actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission (where 2 metres is not viable) between households are acceptable. For example, use of face coverings.
Communal worship, including prayers, devotions or meditations led by a Minister of Religion or lay person.
Limits for communal worship should be decided on
the basis of the capacity of the place of worship following an assessment of
risk (see Section 5 ‘Restrictions on Capacity’).
(No more than 30 in attendance at marriages, funerals and other life cycle events)
Where a place of worship’s premises is used by other user groups, only those activities permitted by law should take place. (refers to multi purpose community centre guidance
· More than 30 people can pray in a place of worship or its grounds, but a risk assessment should be conducted and COVID-19 Secure measures implemented. The number of people who are able to gather will be dependent on the size of the space available.
Communal worship or prayer can be attended by more than 30 people but only if the venues used can safely accommodate larger numbers in a way which complies with . It is important that risks are managed sensibly. In line with wider
(so covid secure prayer meetings are ok)
We know that prayers in the park and other outdoor spaces are an important feature of some festivals.
It is against the law in England to gather with more than 5 other people in private gardens. Gatherings in a public outdoor space are also against the law unless the gathering is exempt/ has been organised by a business, charity, a benevolent or philanthropic organisation or a public or political body applying COVID secure risk controls.
The organiser must have carried out a full risk assessment (there is advice on doing this in government’s ) and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, including taking into account any relevant government guidance on gatherings.
Local authorities will make decisions on applications for prayers in public places, including those on private land which is not attached to your place of worship. Councils will be putting the public health and safety needs of communities first when making these decisions.
This year to make sure that people are not putting themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19, where possible you should avoid attending large gatherings.
(would apply to remembrance, Christmas, and may enable larger gatherings than are possible inside church buildings, though there's a balancing act, as large gatherings are discouraged)
updated 14th September
Managers of community facilities will have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for any activity permitted by legislation and may decide to remain closed if they are not able to safely follow the advice in the relevant guidance, to make the space COVID-19 secure.
Many community facilities are also workplaces and those responsible for the premises should therefore be aware of their . The government is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe workplace.
Organisations also have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and are afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. See government information on . Volunteers and other individuals who are shielding should continue to follow the government’s .
Anyone with control of non-domestic premises (such as a community centre, village or community hall) has legal responsibilities under health and safety law, and must take reasonable measures to ensure the premises, access to it, and any equipment or substances provided are safe for people using it, so far as is reasonably practicable.
To help decide which actions to take prior to re-opening the building for permitted activity, a , taking account of the core guidance on social distancing and the points set out below. This will be in addition to any risk assessment which is already in place for the community facility.
Social distancing and capacity
Measures should be in place to ensure all users of community facilities follow the guidelines on social distancing, including of 2 metres or 1 metre with risk mitigation (where 2 metres is not viable) are acceptable. You should consider and set out the mitigations you will introduce in your risk assessment.
The size and circumstance of the premises will determine the maximum number of people that can be accommodated while also facilitating social distancing. In defining the number of people that can reasonably follow 2 metres distancing (or 1 metre with risk mitigation), the total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas should be taken into account (e.g. entrances, exits) and where possible alternative or one-way routes introduced.
It is against the law for people to gather in a group of more than six, whether indoors or outdoors, unless covered by an exemption. This limit does not apply to meetings of a single household group or support bubble which is more than 6 people.
Community facilities following can host more than 6 people in total, but no one should visit or socialise in a group of greater than 6. Further information on social contact rules, social distancing and the exemptions that exist can be found on the . These rules does not apply to workplaces or education settings, alongside other exemptions. See more .
Informal or formal adult social groups, clubs and activities can gather in groups no greater than 6 in adherence to social distancing rules. However, for activities where there is a significant likelihood of groups of six interacting, and therefore breaking the law, should not take place in a community facility. Further details is set out in section 3c: Recreation, leisure and social gatherings
Support groups ( such as victim support and mental health groups) can take place in gatherings of any number (subject to capacity) in a COVID-19 secure community facility if organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings.
this may cover church small groups, who are a support group for church members. Does the baby and toddler group count as a support group for parents/carers, or a 'club' (see below)?
If partaking in permitted activities users of COVID-19 secure community facilities should limit their social interactions with anyone they do not live with. Whilst activities may have 6 or more people participating (where it is safe to do so and capacity permits) it is important for all parties to maintain socially distant, 2 metres or 1 metre with actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission (where 2 metres is not viable) between households. For example, use of face coverings and encouraging good hand hygiene on entering premises and throughout visit.
Recreation, leisure and social gatherings
Managers and providers in community facilities are not permitted to organise or hold informal or formal social groups, clubs and activities unless limited to groups of six people following social distancing rules.
However, for activities and social groups where there is a significant likelihood of groups mixing and socialising ( and where it will be difficult to prevent mingling and therefore breaking the law) should not take place in a community facility. These may include but are not limited to:
· formal or informal clubs and hobby clubs (e.g. women’s institute, veteran’s associations, freemasons, sewing clubs, book clubs, crafts clubs, reading groups)
· amateur choirs and orchestras
· informally organised sport activities on facilities grounds (professionally organised sport activities are exempt)
Community facilities following COVID-19 secure guidelines can run children groups and other youth activities, subject to their own capacity limits. See section 3a: Early years and youth provision for links to relevant guidance. It is, however, important for people to maintain social distancing and good hand hygiene when visiting these spaces.
People meeting in a club or group context at a community centre should be encouraged to socially distance from anyone they do not live with or who is not in their support bubble.
It's still not clear whether you can have an activity in a community centre where more than 6 people attend, but people are put in groups of up to 6 and not permitted to interact with other groups - e.g. you could do this for a coffee morning, knitting group etc. just by setting out tables and chairs in a safe layout and asking people to stay put during the session.