Briefing paper July 2020
On 20 July 2020 this guidance for reopening places of worship in Wales was published by Welsh Government: https://gov.wales/guidance-reopening-places-worship-coronavirus
On 30 July 2020, Welsh Government issued guidance for using multi-purpose community centres, including community use of places of worship: https://gov.wales/safe-use-multi-purpose-community-centres-covid-19.
On July 10 2020 Welsh Government published the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020. These are entirely new regulations, rather than a further update of the regulations first introduced in March 2020. The provisions which affect churches come into force on Monday July 13. They have subsequently been amended, and the latest version which came into force on August 3 2020 – showing the changes – can be accessed here: https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2020-07/the-health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-no-2-wales-regulations-2020-as-amended-with-changes-illustrated.pdf
Clause 12(3)(b) designates a place of worship as “open premises”, i.e. it is lawful for it to be open to the public. Clause 12(2) places duties on the “person responsible” for the premises (in law a ‘person’ may be a constituted body such as an Elders’ or Deacons’ Meeting), for the purposes of minimising the risk of exposure to coronavirus at the premises, to:
(a) take all reasonable measures to ensure—
(i) that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer);
(ii) where persons are required to wait to enter the premises, that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between them (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer),
(b) take any other reasonable measures for that purpose, for example measures which limit close face to face interaction and maintain hygiene such as—
(i) changing the layout of premises including the location of furniture and workstations;
(ii) controlling use of entrances, passageways, stairs and lifts;
(iii) controlling 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; (vi) providing or requiring use of personal protective equipment, and
(c) provide information to those entering or working at the premises about how to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Clause 13(1) then places a duty on the same ‘person’ to:
have regard to guidance issued by the Welsh Ministers about those measures.
See the top of this page for links to the relevant guidance.
Some churches run community centres and many places of worship are also made available for a range of community uses. Currently, under Clause 10(4) community centres (which include places of worship being utilised for community use) must remain closed, except to provide:
(a) essential voluntary services, or
(b) public services upon the request of the Welsh Ministers or a local authority.
There is no definition of “essential voluntary services” in these regulations, but in previous regulations food banks and services for the homeless were specifically referenced. Under (b), blood donor sessions have been referenced previously, and also child care services with the permission of the local authority.
Churches who wish to arrange activities for children and young people or other public services over the summer are advised to read the guidance for community centres linked at the top of this page, and to contact their local authority for detailed local guidance.
Some churches run cafés. Guidance on reopening cafes was published by Welsh Government on 31 July and can be found here: https://gov.wales/tourism-and-hospitality-businesses-guidance-phased-reopening
Clause 14A of the revision of the regulations which came into force on 3 August 2020 allows gatherings outdoors for any purpose of up to 30 people, subject to maintaining social distancing between households. Gatherings of more than 30 people are permitted to, amongst other things, provide voluntary or charitable services.
Welsh Government is publishing new guidance regularly, and this can be found at: https://gov.wales/topic/980/latest
Cytûn will continue to try to draw churches’ attention to relevant new guidance as it is published.
Gethin Rhys 03.08.2020