Here’s the latest message from the Revd Gethin Rhys, Cytûn’s Policy Officer. We are so thankful for their advice and leadership at this time.
Many thanks to all who have sent questions about the latest guidance. I have been in correspondence with Welsh Government regarding your questions. The Government has also updated the Regulations a little –https://gov.wales/health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-no-2-wales-regulations-2020-amended – although only one of the latest changes affects places of worship directly.
- The change in the regulations is the addition of Clause 12(2A)(c) which adds to Measures that may be taken under paragraph (2) for the purposes of minimising the risk of exposure to coronavirus at the premises also include— (c) collecting contact information from each person at the premises or, in relation to persons from the same household, from one of them, and retaining it for 21 days for the purpose of providing it to the Welsh Ministers or to a public health officer upon either’s request.
It is compulsory to keep such a list only if it cannot be guaranteed that each household will keep 2 metres apart throughout their time inside the place of worship, but this clarifies legally that places of worship may decide to keep such a list under any circumstance, and thus may refuse admission to anyone who refuses to co-operate. Full guidance on this has been published here:https://gov.wales/keeping-records-staff-customers-and-visitors-test-trace-protect Some Cytûn denominations already recommend mainatining such a list at all times. Remember that it is necessary to keep the list – and in due course destroy it – in accordance with data protection regulations (GDPR).
- Welsh Government has announced that it intends to update the regulations regarding funerals this Friday (August 21) in order to allow indoor memorial gatherings of up to 30 people to happen following funeral services. We understand that the Government will take the opportunity to remove the inconsistency between the guidance regarding singing in crematoria and singing in places of worship (where congregational singing is not currently permitted).
- Welsh Government guidance regarding reopening community centres and buildings (including community use of places of worship) has not yet been published. We do not know when publication is likely. In the mean time, we have been advised that the meaning of Clause 14 in the current Regulations is that it is permitted to gather (in a Covid-secure manner) in a centre to work or provide voluntary or charitable services (with no restriction on the nature of those services), BUT the public may gather indoors only for the following purposes [omitting purposes not relevant to community use of places of worship]:
(a) obtain medical assistance, ….
(b) provide or receive care or assistance, including relevant personal care, within the meaning of paragraph 7(3B) of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act 2006(24), where the person receiving the care is a vulnerable person;
(c) provide or receive emergency assistance;
(d) donate blood;
(ha) attend a place of worship;
(i) meet a legal obligation …;
(j) access or receive public services
(ja) access childcare or participate in supervised activities for children;
(k) in relation to children who do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents, continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children, and for the purposes of this paragraph, “parent” includes a person who is not a parent of the child, but who has parental responsibility for, or who has care of, the child; (ha) mynd i fan addoli;
(o) avoid injury or illness or escape a risk of harm.
(p) exercise with others, in a gathering of no more than 30 people, at a fitness studio, gym, swimming pool, other indoor leisure centre or facility or any other open premises.
The previous requirement that “services” offered must be “essential” has been withdrawn, and also the requirement that the Local Authority must give permission for such services to be provided in the building. It is therefore a matter for the ‘person’ (including body such as PCC, Elders’ Meeting, etc) responsible for the building to decide what is a “public service” and what constitutes “worship”.
With regard to the definition of “worship”, Welsh Government have said they do not wish to introduce a legal definition, and that they trust each faith community to interpret the term in a responsible manner in the context of their own tradition.
With regard to public services, until further guidance is made available, Cytûn’s guidance is that a committee may be convened and work undertaken (in a Covid-secure manner) in order to agree on steps towards re-opening community activities, but such services should not be re-opened immediately, unless they fall into one of the above categories. In particular, our understanding is that buildings may not currently be let to commercial operations which are not included in the above list (such as weight loss clubs which do not include exercise) nor for activities which are purely social with no element of “service”, nor which are closed activities for the members of a club or society only (and therefore not “public”).
Cytûn’s strong recommendation is that any decision to re-open a community activity under the auspices of the place of worship, or by hiring the building, should be clearly minuted, with an explanation of the reasoning adopted in coming to that decision, in case questions are raised at a later date.
In terms of re-opening activities for children and young people (clause ja), reference should be made to the specific Welsh Government guidance:
Child care registered with the Local Authority, or exempt from such registration – https://gov.wales/protective-measures-childcare-settings-keep-childcare-safe
Activities for children aged 5-16 – https://gov.wales/protecting-staff-and-children-coronavirus-playschemes-open-access-playwork-providers (Although the heading to this guidance refers to “playschemes”, it will be seen that they are relevant to a wide range of organised activities for children)
It will be seen that detailed adherence to this guidance may require some reorganisation of the building, and possibly restricting access by other users, in order to resume children’s activities safely. In the case of regulated children’s activities, it is the responsibility of the childcare provider to ensure the consent of the Local Authority to the arrangements.
- It was good to see that the First Minister attended a Covid assistance scheme under the auspices of churches in Caerffili on Friday. You can read about his visit here: https://gov.wales/first-minister-thanks-volunteers-and-launches-new-fund-help-coronavirus-recovery