Coronavirus Advice- 29th June 2020

The Government have published new guidance for the safe reopening and use of places of worship. The full guidance can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-4-july/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-4-july#how-can-places-of-worship-communicate-this-guidance-to-visitors

Below is a summary of the key points:

From 4 July, 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 e.g. Weddings and Funerals.

Whilst engaging in an activity in the place of worship or surrounding grounds, all parties should adhere to social distancing guidelines. From 4 July, 2 metres or 1 metre with risk mitigation (where 2 metres is not viable) between households are acceptable.

This guidance applies to places of worship when being used for a religious purpose or in preparation for a religious purpose.

Where a place of worship’s premises is used by other user groups, only those activities permitted by law should take place.

A place of worship refers to a building used for regular religious ceremonies, communal worship or similar gatherings by religious organisations. It includes the use of surrounding grounds, for example, adjoining car parks, courtyards or gardens for which the venue managers are also responsible.

The guidance also covers premises when being used for religious gatherings, even when their primary purpose is not for religious gatherings, such as a community centre. These premises will only be able to be used where they are permitted to be open and additional guidance may be applicable.

This guidance does not cover public parks, private homes, cultural sites or other open spaces, such as woodlands which may be used for religious purposes. If people do want to engage in worship in these spaces, then the guidance relevant to that place should be adhered to.

Each individual place of worship is strongly advised to apply this guidance with reference to its own specific circumstances, including its size and type of activities, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated. Discretion is to be used over when they consider it safe to open and should decide to remain closed if they are not able to safely adhere to the guidelines outlined below.

To help decide which actions to take, a COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed by each place of worship. This will be in addition to any risk assessment already in place. Guidance for this can be found on the Government website.

Practices should be adapted to reduce the spread of infection. There is specific guidance about the use of shared items, food and drink, singing/chanting/musical instruments, the use of water, cash donations, children and young people, and weddings/ life-cycle events.

Places of worship will be required to take general actions to reduce the spread of infection. These will include keeping temporary records of visitors to the church to assist with test and trace, restrictions on capacity, observing social distancing. There is also information about general hygiene, toilets, cleaning and face coverings. Those who are ‘shielding’ should continue to follow the Government advice. Those who are vulnerable e.g. those over 70 years old, those with certain medical conditions etc. should continue to stay at home as much as possible.

Please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-4-july/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-from-4-july#how-can-places-of-worship-communicate-this-guidance-to-visitors for the full guidance.