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Coronavirus - latest information

The information available about Coronavirus is fast changing. Government advice seems to be being released on a daily basis. When we receive new updates we will endeavour to reflect those changes in these pages as quickly as possible.

** Covid update for Wales – 21st August 2021 **

We are still waiting for Welsh Government to publish guidance for compiling risk assessments for churches under the Level 0 regulations. We are not sure what the reason is for the delay. In the mean time:

  1. We are pleased to have been able to publish on the Cytûn website five steps towards risk assessment by David Oliver, Church and Leadership Consultant. The document was initially compiled for the Elim Pentecostal denomination, so its presuppositions are from within the ‘free church’ tradition, but the principles can be adapted for any situation. It is available in English and Welsh – go to our website and scroll down to the ‘Risk assessments’ section. This new document is the second document available for download in this section.
  2. The Church in Wales has produced guidance and a template for risk assessment for churches, which can be adapted for use by other denominations. It has also produced specific risk assessments for (infant) baptism; weddings and funerals; communion; and for church halls. These can all be found on the Church in Wales’ website.
  3. Welsh Government has prepared a template for a Covid risk assessment. The Health and Safety Executive has produced a similar Covid risk assessment template. Not all sections will be relevant to all places of worship, and there may be other risks which you should consider, but either template is recommended as a useful starting point for churches drawing up their own risk assessments, and can be used alongside David Oliver’s document.
  4. Welsh Government is also producing action cards for a variety of settings and types of activity. The complete selection can be accessed here. A number of churches will need to use the cards for retail, cafés, large events (indoor and outdoor) and visitor attractions, as appropriate. We anticipate that a places of worship action card will appear on this page in due course – so it is worth keeping a note of the link and checking it from time to time. 
  5. Similar action cards for children’s and youth activities can be found here.

** UPDATE ** MONDAY 19TH JULY 2021 **

England
England is now in the phase of recovery from the pandemic lockdown where most restrictions have been removed. People can gather in unlimited numbers, both outdoors and indoors. Weddings and Funerals can take place without restrictions imposed in various versions since March 2020, and in churches public worship is no longer governed by restrictions on social distancing and the wearing of facemasks, the absence of refreshments and prohibitions on congregational singing.

Guidance from Government has been released in time for the No.10 briefing by the Prime Minister on 19th July.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship

The guidance emphasises the empowerment of local managers of church buildings and chapels to undertake their own risk assessments, and to be confident that any continuation of restrictions during the current phases that are deemed sensible has the support of Government and the wider community. It is hoped that this will assist in the cautious changes that are required, as opposed to an immediate return to pre-pandemic practice.

The third wave of the pandemic is, however, still rising exponentially, with a forecast of 100,000 infections a day by mid-August and 1000 hospital admissions. While the success of vaccination for the adult population has been laudable, and the impact of two-vaccinations confers much lower risks of severe illness, hospitalisation or death, there remain serious consequences of catching Covid:
• Self-isolation for the many contacts of an infected person resulting in disruption to the lives of those who also are required to quarantine
• The risk — if small — of severe illness, even after the vaccination has been fully administered.
• The many younger people still waiting for one or both vaccines, and who remain unprotected (even if for them, Covid is generally a mild illness.)
• The impact of much greater social contact with the removal of restrictions fuelling a steep rise in infection rates.
• A rise in hospitalisations to levels that may become unsustainable, and in any case, diminish the ability of the NHS to reduce waiting lists for those requiring.
• The full extent and longevity of so-called ‘Long-Covid’ appears for a few to affect even those who were asymptomatic at the time of infection and an estimate of up to an additional 1 million long-Covid cases resulting from this third wave of infection may have severe consequences on individuals, their ability to work and their requirement for treatment on the NHS.

The Government believes that the warmer weather, and the schools’ long vacation, provides the best time to conduct this experiment in shifting responsibility from regulation to personal choices, and churches will have to play their part in discerning what amounts to responsible practices in gatherings over the next phase.

For this reason, the Prime Minister is urging caution, and a slow return to ‘normality’. Some public transport will require the wearing of masks as a condition of carriage, and many shops will still require their customers and staff to wear a mask, reducing risks of infection. Churches may well decide that masks should still be worn if worship is indoors, and that some restriction on numbers is advisable. Good ventilation is vital, and hand-sanitising recommended still.

The prohibition on congregational singing indoors is now lifted, but advice is that singing should still be undertaken with masks — at least while the third wave of infections is still raging. Equally important in mitigating the spread of viral-laden aerosols is good ventilation.

The NHS, and the Chief Medical Officers, have warned of a ‘bumpy winter’ ahead, with not only Coronavirus circulating still, but the possibility of a difficult flu season. Already unusually high summer levels of norovirus (the ‘winter vomiting bug’) have been noticed in care homes and nurseries, and for all those reasons many of the ways in which we have learned to take precautions when in public to limit the spread of Covid-19 will continue to apply for the avoidance of other, less severe, but nonetheless unpleasant infectious diseases that have not been circulating since the winter of 2019–20.

Church of England advice can be found here:

https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2021-07/COVID 19 Guidance from the 19th July 2021 v1.0.pdf

And advice from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales here:

https://www.cbcew.org.uk/covid-guidance-collective-worship/

And advice from the Methodist Church here:

https://www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/property/coronavirus-guidance-for-property/

And from the Baptist Union, Baptists Together, here:

https://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/337630/Coronavirus.aspx

** UPDATE ** Monday 19 JULY 2021 **

Wales
The changes from Saturday 17th July will mean the following for churches and church halls:

• There is now a limit of 1000 people (seated) and 200 people (standing) gathering indoors. However, the requirement to maintain two-metre social distancing is still in place so the capacity of buildings will still be reduced. However, for community activity, there should now be greater flexibility.
• The wearing of face coverings indoors remains a requirement.
• The need to provide for hand sanitising and premises cleaning remains.
• We have received clarification that the serving of tea and coffee etc after services can now take place. You should update your risk assessment to allow for people to sit in groups of six with social distance between groups for this activity.
• There remains some confusion over whether groups of six from six different households can be permitted to sit together for worship. Welsh Government guidance for Places of Worship at Guidance on reopening places of worship: coronavirus | GOV.WALES does not allow for the ‘rule of 6’ but in other settings this is now possible. We are seeking further guidance on the point and will confirm as soon as possible.
• It is important to emphasise to congregations and attendees that the restrictions in Wales have not yet been relaxed as much as in England.
• Generally, we support a cautious approach. Maintaining existing precautions and service arrangements seems a sensible approach at this time.
• Our detailed guidance will be updated in the next few days and republished to reflect the changes on 17th July.

There are clearly more changes planned on the 7th August. We hope to learn more details in advance of that date from Welsh Government and will update guidance accordingly. It is clear that there will be much greater onus on local decision making and assessment of risk in each setting. There will be fewer prescribed precautions going forward.

Please get in touch if you have an specific questions

Yvonne Campbell

Scotland
https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-phase-3-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship/

England
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic-from-4-july

Wales
https://gov.wales/guidance-reopening-places-worship-coronavirushttps://gov.wales/guidance-reopening-places-worship-coronavirus


On the right you will find a download about reopening churches and also the booklet that we have written to help churches think about some of the steps needed to reopening in general.

We also have links to the Safer Places of Worship, Churches Together in England and Government websites.