Regulations for places of worship in Wales until April 18 2022 (Level 0 restrictions)

Here is Welsh Government’s summary of what Level 0 means [from March 28 2022]:

We have not yet reached a position where we can remove all protections and – in line with the latest scientific and public health advice – we are keeping some key rules in place in law. In these respects collective responsibility is needed rather than personal choice.

  1. [Until April 18] Businesses, employers and other organisations must continue to undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to, and the spread of, coronavirus.
  2. Adults and children over 11 must continue to wear face-coveringsunless exempt,  in health and social care settings. Although no longer a legal requirement in other settings, the voluntary use of face coverings is still strongly advised in indoor crowded or enclosed places, unless a person has a medical exemption.

In the light of point 1, Welsh Government has published detailed guidance regarding drawing up a risk assessment and the reasonable measures which may be taken and an ‘action card’ with more specific information for places of worship. These include helpful information about how the virus is spread and draws attention to activities which are particularly risky – such as singing. The general guidance ends with 11 basic questions to be asked as specific risk assessments are drawn up. Clause 18 of the regulations places a duty on the ‘person’ responsible for the premises to have regard to this guidance (and other relevant Government guidance – see below). It is important, therefore, that the ‘person’ responsible for a place of worship (or any other venue open to the public) reads this guidance carefully.
Responsibility for drawing up the risk assessment lies with the appropriate authority for each place of worship or activity – denominational arrangements vary, but in general it is the body responsible for other aspects of health and safety with regard to the particular place of worship or activity concerned who will carry the responsibility to prepare a Covid risk assessment.

The full text of the current Public Health (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations, as amended, can be read here.

According to clause 16 of the regulations, (until April 18) in the context of COVID-19 the principal additional legal duty of the ‘person’ (which can be a body such as a PCC or deacons’ meeting) responsible for the building is to:

Step 1
Undertake a specific assessment of the risk of exposure to coronavirus at the premises, and in doing so consult persons working on the premises or representatives of those persons.
[See section on ‘Risk assessments’ below for further details]
Step 2
Provide information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, including information to those working at the premises about the risk of exposure to coronavirus identified under the assessment undertaken under Step 1, and the measures to be taken under Step 3 to minimise the risk.

Step 3
Take reasonable measures to mitigate the risk of exposure to coronavirus that arises where persons gather on the premises, such as—
(a) seeking to prevent the following persons from being present at the premises—

(i) any person who has tested positive for coronavirus in the previous 10 days,
(ii) any person who has had close contact in the previous 10 days with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus,

(iii) any person experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19;
(b) ensuring that persons gathering at the premises gather outdoors where this is practicable;
(c) limiting close physical interaction between persons on the premises, in particular face-to-face interaction, for example by—

(i) changing the layout of premises including the location of furniture and workstations;
(ii) controlling the use of entrances, passageways, stairs and lifts;
(iii) controlling the use of shared facilities such as toilets and kitchens;
(iv) otherwise controlling the use of, or access to, any other part of the premises;
(v) installing barriers or screens;
(d) limiting the duration of time for which persons may be present on the premises;
(e) seeking to ensure that the premises are well ventilated;
(f) maintaining good hygiene on the premises;
(g) providing or requiring use of personal protective equipment.

[Sub-paragraph (2) deleted]
(3) Measures that may be taken under paragraph (1) include—
(a) not carrying out certain activities;
(b) closing a part of the premises;
(c) allowing and enabling a person who ordinarily works at the premises to isolate due to testing positive for coronavirus or having had close contact with somebody who has tested positive, for a period—
(i) recommended in guidance published by the Welsh Ministers;
(ii) specified in a notification given to the person by a contact tracer;
(d) collecting contact information from each person at the premises and retaining it for 21 days for the purpose of providing it to any of the following, upon their request—
(i) the Welsh Ministers;
(ii) a contact tracer;
(e) taking reasonable measures to ensure that such contact information is correct.

There are, of course, other legal requirements – such as general health and safety, safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, data protection, and so on – which remain in force also, and they should not be forgotten when making arrangements to worship or hold other activities.

There is no upper limit on the numbers who may attend an act of worship, indoors or out of doors – each place of worship should calculate a safe maximum within the Regulations above and enact it. This is the case whether or not the building is owned by a faith community.

Organised outdoor activities can take place for any number of people of any age. It is essential to conduct a full risk assessment for outdoor activities.

Face coverings

It is a requirement under Clause 20 of the Regulations for all those aged over 11 to wear a face covering in premises used for the provision of a social care service, including care home services, secure accommodation services, residential family centre services and adult day care services, including settings of this kind within places of worship or run by faith communities.

There is no legal obligation to wear a face covering in other places, including places of worship and community centres when not being used for the above purposes, but Welsh Government continues to recommend doing so. Where a risk assessment (see below) concludes that face coverings should be worn during an activity (for example, while singing), a place of worship or centre may continue to enforce such a requirement.

The exceptions to the requirement to wear a face covering are limited. Here they are in full:

(a) where P is unable to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010);
(b) where P is undertaking an activity and wearing a face covering during that activity may be considered to be a risk to P’s health;
(c) where P has to remove the face covering to communicate with a person who has difficulty communicating (in relation to speech, language or otherwise);
(d) where P has to remove the face covering in order to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to P or others;
(e) where P is at the premises to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and does not have a face covering;
(f) where P has to remove the face covering to— (i) take medication; (ii) eat or drink, where reasonably necessary;
(g) where P is asked to remove the face covering by an enforcement officer.

Risk assessments (until April 18 2022)

It is a legal obligation on the ‘person’ (or body) responsible for “regulated premises” (including places of worship, community centres, etc) to undertake a risk assessment prior to allowing public access to the premises for any purpose. The wording of the regulations makes it a requirement to conduct a full risk assessment (covering general health and safety matters as well as those relating to coronavirus specifically).

Welsh Government has chosen to word the regulations by referring to Health and Safety regulations made in 1999, which have been amended several times since, and then require them to be read as if they were worded differently from the actual wording. So, in order to assist our member churches to update their risk assessment and templates in accordance with the law, we have prepared a guide to what is now mandatory, which can be downloaded here.

We would draw particular attention to five aspects of the regulations:

  1. Our understanding is that the effect of the regulations is to make conducting a full risk assessment – covering general health and safety risks and fire risks as well as the coronavirus related issues – mandatory for all “regulated premises”, even for premises where that was not previously the case.
  2. It is a requirement to ‘consult’ about the risk assessment with those who are ‘working’ in the premises. As many members of a congregation will volunteer in various ways, in practice this means consulting with the active members of the congregation. Welsh Government guidance regarding volunteering includes useful guidance on this. As most tasks required to operate places of worship and faith communities are carried out on a voluntary basis, this guidance will be helpful to places of worship in making arrangements for keeping their volunteers safe.
  3. The regulations require a review of the risk assessment to be made each time the coronavirus regulations are amended or the uses of the premises change (as this would be a significant change in the matters to which it relates) and also when the wider situation regarding the pandemic changes (as this would be reason to suspect that it is no longer valid).
  4. The regulations require the risk assessment to be in writing when five or more persons are working at the premises. As ‘working’ includes working voluntarily, this would cover nearly all circumstances likely to be relevant to faith communities. The regulations also require consultation with these ‘workers’ in drawing up the risk assessment.
  5. There are special requirements relating to risk assessment for young people ‘working’ in the premises.

We hope that the document will be of assistance to you, but please note that it is not legal advice, and professional advice should be sought if there is any doubt about how to apply the regulations in your particular circumstances.

We are pleased to be able to publish below the 5 steps guidance to risk assessment written by David Oliver, Church and Leadership Consultant. This document was prepared originally for the Elim Pentecostal denomination in Wales, and so is based on a ‘free church’ pattern of worship and church life. The 5 steps can easily be adapted for otehr denominations and traditions.

From March 28 2022, it will not be a legal requirement for those who test positive for Covid-19 to self-isolate, although that is still strongly recommended. In drawing up a risk assessment for any setting where people have tested positive may be present, the following clause (adapted from the action card for such attendance at funerals) may be adapted:
taking particular care in relation to any such person present – including (for example) by requiring that person to wear a face covering, maintaining strict physical distancing, reducing the length of the event, ensuring good ventilation and holding as much of the event as possible outside. 

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.

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.
Welsh Government is also producing action cards for a variety of settings and types of activity. The complete selection can be accessed here, and the most appropriate ‘card’ may be used as a starting point in drawing up your own specific risk assessment.
Similar action cards for children’s and youth activities can be found here.

Ventilation will be an important aspect of any risk assessment for indoor activity. Welsh Government guidance (scroll down to the section headed ‘Ventilation’) includes a summary of the latest scientific information which emphasises the need for good ventilation when people from different households meet indoors. A summary of the same information may be found in the guidance from the Health and Safety Executive, and we would draw attention especially to the practical suggestions in sections 4-6.

A risk assessment will need to be based on the prevalence of Covid-19 in the catchment area of the place of worship or activity concerned. Information about your area can be found on the Public Health Wales interactive dashboard. A table by local authority area can be found here. You can also use the drop-down menu to find more local information by hovering over the map provided under the ‘MSOA area’ tab. Use the drop down boxes to look at information for the ‘rolling 7 days’ – as daily figures vary greatly depending on the day of the week. As well as the local infection rate, it makes a difference if the number of cases is rising or falling.

With the provision of information more important than ever at Level 0, when there are so many fewer specific regulations, it should be remembered that Welsh Government has published bilingual signage that can be downloaded to help fulfil the legal duty to provide such information.

Welsh Government contacted the Wales Faith Communities Forum to offer the following additional guidance regarding preparing and implementing risk assessments:

It is important to recognise that the risk assessment should be bespoke to the venue and the activities to be undertaken and that risk assessment should be a dynamic process which is kept under review as activities and the broader environment and therefore the risks change. The published guidance has a statutory basis in law and organisers should be able to demonstrate they have considered it.
However, decisions about the mitigations to be taken are bespoke and as such reasonable decisions can be taken. For example, the guidance refers to ‘requiring members of the congregation to take a test before entering’, however this mitigation might be appropriate in some circumstances and not others. Organisers might want to adopt this where a place of worship were to be particularly crowded, where good ventilation is difficult to achieve, where the act of worship is due to take place over an elongated period or similar. It might be excessive and unnecessary where the risk of infection is not pronounced. All that organisers are required to do is to apply thought to the question and be able to demonstrate their thinking.
It is also important to recognise that the process of risk assessment and mitigation requires organisers to communicate their protocols to the public and staff and to take reasonable steps to enforce them. Clearly it can be difficult to challenge members of the public who would wilfully ignore measures put in place to tackle Covid. However, informing and reminding people of a requirement to keep windows open for ventilation or follow one way systems, where these mitigations have been identified by the risk assessment, is part of the responsibility to take reasonable measures. Equally, reminding people of the legal duty to wear a face mask indoors would be a reasonable expectation on organisers. The right and the moral authority to exclude people from places of worship would be likely to be specific to the venue and group. However, the duty is to put in place reasonable measures and this includes acting to ensure that the mitigations you have put in place are not undermined.

Covid passes, lateral flow tests and self-isolation

From February 18, it is no longer a legal requirement to ask for an NHS Covid pass  or an equivalent proof before admitting people to any event. However, individual places of worship, community centres and other premises may, if they wish, continue to ask attendees to show a Covid pass or equivalent.

Welsh Government advises that everyone who believes they have Covid symptoms should take a lateral flow test, and if such a test proves positive, should self-isolate.

Funerals and weddings

There is no longer any legal restriction on who, or how many, may attend a funeral or wedding service. But in drawing up a risk assessment, it should be remembered that congregations on such occasions may be larger than usual, and include people who are not aware of the arrangements made in places of worship to keep people safe.

Welsh Government guidance regarding funeral services is part of the ‘action card’ for places of worship, available here. It is the responsibility of the appropriate authority covering the place of worship concerned to compile and implement the risk assessment for a funeral service in the place of worship. Equivalent responsibilities will be borne by the authorities covering the cemetery or crematorium and any hospitality setting that are serving the same family. Usually, the funeral director will be able to advise on the implications of the risk assessments for the various elements of the day.

Some of the changes to arrangements for registration of deaths introduced by the Coronavirus Act 2020 have expired, but others have been retained using other legislation. Although faith communities do not register deaths as such, these arrangements affect the arrangement of funerals. It may therefore be helpful to read the concise guidance about the new legal arrangements which can be found here.

Welsh Government no longer publishes specific guidance for weddings and civil partnership ceremonies, marriage blessings and the like. It is the responsibility of the appropriate authority covering the place of worship concerned (and not the family) to compile and implement the risk assessment for a wedding service in the place of worship. However, the family (or wedding organiser, if there is one) will need to co-ordinate the risk assessments of the hospitality settings, transport providers etc for the various elements of the day.

The Church in Wales has produced guidance and a template for risk assessment for weddings and funerals, which can be adapted for use by other denominations.

Pastoral visiting

It is permissible to arrange pastoral visiting indoors, including in private homes. Those visiting should continue to take all reasonable steps to keep themselves and those they are visiting safe, and when the weather is favourable should still consider visiting outdoors.

Welsh Government has published detailed guidance on visiting care homes (updated on January 28 2022) and visiting hospitals. Note that visitors to these settings need by law to wear face coverings when indoors, but residents in care homes do not need to do so unless the home’s own risk assessment requires this. The guidance regarding hospitals has not been updated since June 18 2021, and the hospital concerned should be contacted to enquire about their current arrangements.

Community use of places of worship and community centres

Community centres (and therefore also places of worship being used for community activities) can open for any activity, subject to a risk assessment and taking reasonable measures to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Welsh Government no longer publishes specific guidance for community centres. Cytun recommends using the guidance from WCVA, updated for Level 0 on August 26 2021.
Welsh Government action cards for events and hospitality will be relevant to some community activities, and will provide a useful starting point in drawing up a risk assessment.

The Church in Wales has produced guidance and a template for risk assessment for church halls, which can be adapted for similar situations in other denominations.

Churches who are residential landlords

Welsh Government has published guidance for Landlords of residential property (updated on September 28 2021).

Note that the requirement for landlords in Wales to give six months’ notice to residential tenants expired on March 24 2022, and the terms of the original tenancy agreement and relevant legislation come back into force. But it should be noted that the requirement for six months’ notice will return in Wales (under most circumstances) when the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 commences on July 15 2022. That Act will also introduce a number of further conditions which must be met prior to giving notice to a residential tenant (in most circumstances).

Other guidance

There is further guidance that will be useful for some places of worship:

Churches which are part of a denomination, especially where the denomination is the trustee of the local building, should seek the advice of their denomination regarding any specific denominational requirements. It should be noted that the guidance issued by a number of cross-border churches is based on the Regulations applicable in England rather than those applicable in Wales. This is a matter for the individual denomination, and where there is any conflict between denominational advice and the Welsh Regulations, this should be raised within the relevant denomination.

Many of those who are responsible for places of worship are concerned about their liability for conforming to the regulations, especially when they are changing regularly. It may be helpful, therefore, to read Welsh Government’s guidance for enforcement officers (updated for Level 0), to see what they will be looking for and how they will proceed in order to ensure compliance.

Some FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions. We will add to this section on a regular basis.

Musical instruments and singing

Congregational singing is permitted as is the playing of any kind of musical instrument, subject to a full risk assessment. Welsh Government guidance notes that singing can be a high risk activity, and the ‘action card’ for places of worship says the following:
Singing or chanting increases the amount of aerosol expelled into the air from people’s mouths. Reducing the amount of singing or stopping singing can help to reduce the risk of transmission. If singing or chanting takes place, other mitigations should be put in place, which could include improving ventilation, moving the activity outdoors, increasing the space between people, or having fewer people present.

The technical advice which underlies this may be read here.

Worship and events for special occasions (indoors or outdoors)

Outdoor and indoor activities – including services of worship – can take place involving any number of people. It remains essential to conduct and implement a full risk assessment. Welsh government guidance on this can be found here.

Serving refreshments before or after worship

Refreshments may be served subject to an appropriate risk assessment. Welsh Government’s action card for hospitality venues will be a useful starting point in drawing up a risk assessment.

Cleaning the building

Welsh Government’s ‘action card’ for places of worship recommends the following:

  • Regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and equipment. Allowing for breaks between service and ensuring thorough and regular cleaning, using disinfectant in high footfall areas and in high contact touchpoints such as door handles or rails.
  • Where objects are touched as part of worship, cleaning the object between each worshipper that touched it  and require worshipers to sanitise or wash their hands before and after touching the object. .
  • Providing hand sanitiser and encouraging regular hand washing.

The Health & Safety Executive has provided guidance regarding cleaning and hand sanitising materials.

Public Health England has published detailed guidance about general cleaning and about cleaning a building when it is found that someone with Covid-19 has been present.

Test, Trace, Protect

Regulation 16 notes that one “reasonable measure” to safeguard people against coronavirus is:
collecting contact information from each person at the premises and retaining it for 21 days for the purpose of providing it to any of the following, upon their request—
(i) the Welsh Ministers;
(ii) a contact tracer;
and taking reasonable measures to ensure that such contact information is correct.

Detailed guidance on keeping Test, Trace, Protect records can be found here.

The QR codes using the Covid-19 app are not operational as a means of recording attendance from February 24 2022, so churches who wish to keep a record of attendance need now to do so manually.

Those who have Covid-19 symptoms may order lateral flow tests. If they test positive, they should self-isolate.

Individuals who are anxious about attending

There is no requirement on anyone to attend a place of worship for any purpose, and it is important to ensure pastoral care of anyone who is anxious regarding this. We endorse the comments on the Baptists Together website: We are acutely aware that the process for making decisions going forward has the potential to be divisive. In some respects it was easier when rules were more restrictive but at least definite. How we make decisions may prove to be as important to churches as the decisions themselves. We appeal to everyone involved to be kind to each other, to listen well, to appreciate the pressure leaders are under, and to compromise accordingly. This is a very vulnerable time for churches and we ask you to recall the exhortation in Ephesians 4 to ‘be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’.

Welsh Government advice to those who are extremely clinically vulnerable was updated on July 27 2021 and easy read guidance was published on August 16.

The United Reformed Church has drawn up a personal risk assessment tool for members of congregations.

Welsh Government has produced a suite of easily read materials for the public offering general advice on keeping safe.

Welsh Government has created badges and lanyards for individuals to wear in order to remind others to keep their distance.


Baptism by immersion and infant baptism may be arranged subject to a detailed risk assessment – bearing in mind the risks to those involved in the baptism, and to a congregation which may include people who are not familiar with the church’s arrangements.

When baptising an infant, and depending on the denominational tradition involved, an officiant who wishes to avoid touching the baby may be able to administer the water using a liturgical vessel or a common vessel (such as a cup or a large spoon) from arm’s length, and this may be more dignified and practical than splashing water from a distance. A practice using a doll could be arranged to ensure that the method chosen is appropriate.

The Church in Wales has produced guidance and a template for risk assessment for (infant) baptisms, which can be adapted for use in other denominations.

Communion services

A specific risk assessment should be prepared for the administration of communion. This is especially important if it is intended to use a shared loaf or a common cup.

A number of commercial suppliers provide individual packs containing a wafer and a plastic cup of wine. If appropriate within the church’s tradition, these can be blessed and distributed, or they may be placed in the pews prior to the service or be left for collection by worshippers as they arrive. If worshippers are asked to bring their own elements, a supply of these packs may be kept in reserve for worshippers who forget or are visiting. Some churches will be reluctant to use these packs due to the volume of unreusable plastic which they contain.

The Church in Wales has produced guidance and a template for risk assessment for communion. Church traditions who administer communion in different ways would need to adapt this risk assessment before use.

Confirmation, ordination and the laying on of hands

A specific risk assessment should be drawn up when laying on of hands is part of worship. There should be advance consultation with those whom it is intended to touch regarding what is acceptable to them.

Children and young people

All activities may be held subject to an appropriate risk assessment. The following Welsh Government guidance will be useful in drawing up the risk assessment:

Church governance meetings

It is no longer a legal requirement to work (including undertaking voluntary work) from home, however it remains Welsh Government advice to do so. Churches should therefore seriously consider holding governance meetings remotely. Where this is not reasonably practicable, church governance meetings may be held, subject to a risk assessment, in a place of worship, community centre or in a private dwelling, such as the minister’s residence. Where some members of the meeting are elderly and/or in poor health, this should be taken into account in the risk assessment.

Worshipping in premises not owned by the faith community

It is the ‘person’ responsible for the premises who is required to ensure conformity with the regulations and arranging a risk assessment. It is, therefore, necessary to discuss with that ‘person’ how worship may be arranged.

Support schemes provided by Welsh Government and others

The following Welsh Government funding is available, and may support community activities carried out by faith groups. On the whole, it will not provide support for religious activity.

The Third Sector Resilience Fund provides funding for third sector organisations under two strands; survive and thrive. The fund prioritises organisations that support people or communities with protected characteristics, including faith/belief groups.  The third round of funding closed to applications on 31 January 2022. It is hoped that a further round may be announced in the new financial year.

There are a large number of other grant programmes offered by organisations outside of the Welsh Government which will provide funding for projects led by faith groups. This includes Welsh Churches Act funds operated by local authorities (refer to your local authority website)  and programmes run by the National Lottery Community Fund, the Community Foundation Wales and a variety of trusts and foundations. Information on these sources of funding and many more can be found on the Funding Wales website.

The Business Wales website includes comprehensive information about other support schemes which are available and about an expanded apprenticeship scheme to assist those who are out of work due to the pandemic.

WCVA has collated a detailed list of sources of funding available to third sector organisations, many of which are open to applications from churches and faith groups.

It is also worth any faith group making contact with their local county voluntary council for support in identifying local and national funding sources. You can find information on your local county voluntary council at Third Sector Support Wales.

UK Covid-19 Inquiry

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry chaired by Baroness Hallett has been consulting on draft terms of reference here. The final terms of reference will be published in May 2022.

The group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru are campaigning for a voice for families bereaved in the pandemic and they can provide collective legal representation for their members. They can be contacted via Facebook or by email:

Gethin Rhys