Operating places of worship safely in national lockdown
A checklist of measures to help protect yourself, your staff and your customers during coronavirus
The Government announced that the borough moved into Tier 3 'Very High Alert' on Saturday 19 December and then Tier 4 'Stay at home restrictions' from Sunday 20 December. On Monday 4 January, the whole country moved into national lockdown.
National Lockdown ‘Stay at home’ – Places of worship
These are the priority actions to help keep your premises safe and legally compliant during coronavirus.
- Let worshippers know that by law they can only visit with members of their own household or support bubble, in any indoor setting. Attendees should socially distance from anyone they do not live with (unless they are in their support bubble). They should maintain strict social distancing at all times.
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. It is a legal requirement that you undertake a risk assessment and put in place control measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Share it with all your staff. Find out how to do a risk assessment.
- Ensure self-isolation requirements are complied with. It is a criminal offence to allow an employee who you know is required to self-isolate to come to your premises to work. Ensure that all staff know that they must inform you as soon as they know that they are required to self-isolate, including the start and end dates of their self-isolation period. This includes those who have received a positive Covid-19 test result or who have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from £1,000.
- Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a worshipper has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating and must not be allowed to come into work or your place of worship.
- Remind your visitors that it is a legal requirement to wear face coverings when inside your place of worship. You must also prominently display signs or notices to advise your customers that face coverings must be worn. Some exemptions apply. For more information visit Face coverings: when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own (Gov.uk website).
- Face coverings are not legally required to be worn by employees in places of worship, but you may wish to encourage staff to do so in appropriate situations. Use the link above to check when to wear one and exemptions.
- Display the official NHS QR code poster for your premises and ask your worshippers, visitors, and staff to ‘check in’ using it on arrival. You can create the QR code poster for your business and learn more about the QR code poster.
- Ask visitors to provide their contact details of those who can’t or choose not to check in using a QR code by keeping a record of their details for 21 days. Use the link in the previous bullet point to check the detailed requirements and exemptions.
- Keep a record of all staff working on your premises and shift times on a given day and their contact details.
- In outside settings, multiple groups can pray in a place of worship or its grounds. Attendees should socially distance from anyone they do not live with (unless they are in their support bubble).
- Funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees –30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and up to 6 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stone settings. Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Attendees should socially distance from anyone they do not live with (unless they are in their support bubble).
- Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. Where possible, these should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.
- Check the guidance applicable to other activities taking place in the premises, such as formal childcare and education, support groups etc., including the requirement to maintain social distancing between different households.
- Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs, using floor markings or introducing a one-way system that people can follow.
- Identify the number of individuals or households that can reasonably follow social distancing within the premises, considering the available space.
- Take precautions to stop people arriving at the same time, no matter the size of the building.
- Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your worshippers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
- Increase ventilation. Keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times. Ventilation systems should be optimised to ensure the maximum fresh air supply is provided to all areas of the premises wherever possible.
- Lower music and other background noise. Where singing or chanting is essential to an act of worship, this should be limited to one person wherever possible. Communal singing should not take place. This applies even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used. Chanting, shouting and/or playing of instruments that are blown into should also be avoided in communal worship and in rehearsals.
For the full Government guidance please visit COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic