Following the introduction of Level 2 restrictions in Wales on December 26, the full text of the Public Health (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations, as amended, can now be read here. Currently the principal regulations (pp 4-54) and Schedule 2 (pp 63-71) are operational. Welsh Government has published a summary of the principal requirements at Level 2 and answers to frequently asked questions. Welsh Government’s general guidance includes useful information about how the virus spreads and drawing attention to activities which cause particular risk – such as singing. There is also an action card with more specific information for places of worship. This action card should be read alongside the general guidance.
The Level 2 restrictions this time – unlike the similar restrictions in summer 2021 – have been introduced within the four step risk assessment process mandated by Welsh Government. In the light of this, we have completely updated Cytûn’s briefing page, following each of the four steps in turn. The page can be viewed here: https://www.cytun.co.uk/hafan/en/covid-19-briefing-paper/
In the light of questions already received, we would draw attention to three aspects of the regulations as they now stand which work rather differently from the last period when we were in Level 2:
- Maintaining a distance of 2m between each “permitted group”: Clause 16(4A) of the Regulations says that “permitted group” means— … a group which— (i) consists of no more than 6 people, not counting any persons under the age of 11 or any carer of a person in the group, or (ii) consists of members of the same household and any carer of a member of the household. This means that it is legal for premises, including places of worship, to permit people not from the same household to sit in groups of up to 6 people. However, places of worship or activity organisers are not obliged to permit this – they can, in accordance with their risk assessment, decide to require that only members of the same household sit together; or that a group must book in advance; or permit smaller groups only (for example, groups of 2 or 3 in order to permit people who would otherwise need to sit alone to have some company). The authorities of any premises, including places of worship, have the legal right to draw up a risk assessment to this effect and implement it. However, given that members of the public will be used to sitting in groups of up to 6 in cafes, pubs, etc., it may be useful to be ready to explain the decision to those who question it (for example, by reference to the numbers of vulnerable people in attendance).
- Working from home: Clause 18B of the Regulations provides no person may leave the place where they are living, or remain away from that place, for the purposes of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services provided that it is reasonably practicable for the person to work or to provide voluntary or charitable services from the place where they are living. This condition is far from specific, but we have been assured by Welsh Government officials that it is not intended to close places of worship entirely. But as all activities arranged in places of worship depend on those who work or provide voluntary or charitable services, careful consideration should be given in each instance as to whether the activity could be held with people in their own homes – using online communication, phone, etc.
- Schedule 2 limits gatherings in private homes (including manses, vicarages and church workers’ accommodation) to 30 people, and in private gardens to 50 people. But this is subject to the requirement to work or volunteer from one’s own home where that is reasonably practicable. So churches should consider very carefully whether it is appropriate to arrange activities or meetings in private dwellings or gardens. If it is decided to do so, although private dwellings are not “regulated premises”, Cytûn strongly recommends that a risk assessment be conducted and safety measures put in place equivalent to those that would apply if the activity or meeting were being held in a place of worship or community centre.