At 6pm today (Sept 8) new restrictions came into force in the Caerphilly County Borough Council area. The regulations in full can be found here –https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2020-09/the-health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-no.2-wales-amendment-no-8-caerphilly-regulations-2020.pdf – and Government guidance can be read here –https://gov.wales/caerphilly-county-coronavirus-lockdown and here –https://gov.wales/caerphilly-county-coronavirus-lockdown-frequently-asked-questions
What follows is not legal advice, but our initial understanding is that the main implications of the regulations for churches and faith communities are:
- Places of worship in Caerphilly may remain open, but all those aged over 11 who attend activities indoors must wear a face covering (apart from those who are exempt for medical reasons). There is no exemption in the regulations for worship leaders, so it will be necessary to wear a face covering when leading worship indoors in Caerphilly.
- It is not permissible to travel into or out of the Caerphilly County Borough area in order to attend a place of worship (except for attending a funeral or wedding – see 3 below). That is, those who live in Caerphilly CBC must worship in the area, and those who live outside Caerphilly CBC may not travel there to worship. It is permissible to travel into or out of the Borough in order to “work or provide voluntary or charitable services”, so a worship leader or someone who works voluntarily in a place of worship may travel for that purpose, if it is not reasonably practicable to do this work from home (see 5 below).
- It is permissible to travel into or out of the Borough to attend a funeral or wedding service to lead it, by invitation, or as the carer of a participant or invitee, but it is not permissible to attend a wedding reception or catering in connection with a funeral if you have travelled into or out of the Borough for the service. [This restriction appears to apply even to the couple being married and the immediate family of a deceased person].
- It is permissible to travel into or out of the Borough to (amongst other things) “access or receive public services” or “access or receive childcare or education services”. Note that it is not permissible to travel into or out of the Borough for purposes such as accessing voluntary services, attending exercise classes or socialising, and this will restrict which activities it is practicable for places of worship in Caerphilly CBC to host during this local lockdown.
- It is required to work or provide voluntary services from home if it reasonably practicable to do so. So clergy and places of worship should consider carefully which work and Services should be offered from home rather than from elsewhere.
- Cafes may remain open, but no one may meet anyone from outside their household there – each household must sit separately and keep strict physical distancing between each household.
We are aware that restriction (2) above means that some people in Caerphilly CBC may not be able to attend a place of worship of their own faith or denomination. We have asked Welsh Government whether they are satisfied that such a strict restriction for some is proportionate, and whether it is consistent with the Government’s human rights and equality responsibilities.