Church of England updates Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance – 5 March

Further to the guidance issued on 3 March 2020, on 5 March 2002 the Church of England published further information, extracts of which are reproduced below. In addition, the Government’s coronavirus action plan is being reviewed and further guidance will be issued “as needed”. The updated guidance includes:

The Church’s guidance is reviewed and re-dated on a daily basis.

Withdrawal of the Common Cup

In the event of increased community transmission of coronavirus, priests should take a view whether it is necessary to withdraw the Common Cup. If so they should:

  • Suspend the administration of the chalice and offer Communion in one kind only i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host, with the priest alone taking the wine.
  • Consider suspending handshaking or other direct physical contact during the sharing of the peace.
  • Consider suspending direct physical contact as part of a blessing or ‘laying on of hands’.

Where the priest has not suspended the administration of the chalice, communicants may nevertheless decide to receive in one kind only at their own discretion.

Member of congregation with COVID-19: What if a member of my congregation is diagnosed with COVID-19?

  1. At present, if a person who recently attended a service is diagnosed with COVID-19, Public Health England will need to contact all those who may have been in close contact with the affected person whilst they were infectious. If the person attended a church gathering or other activity, the parish priest or equivalent may be asked to assist in identifying and notifying relevant people advising them to contact their local PHE team for further advice.
  2. Anyone who may be a contact and who feels unwell and has a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath should contact NHS 111.
  3. It is likely that some of the congregation may be asked to self-isolate. Advice on self-isolation can be found on the Government website. It is important that in offering practical support to individuals self-isolating, church members and clergy are aware of the need to protect themselves.
  4. It may be necessary to deep clean the church and/or suspend services for a short period. PHE will advise on this.
  5. Make sure that the relevant Archdeacon and/or Diocesan Office are informed as soon as possible in order in part to help manage the media and provide support.
  6. Encourage people to respect the privacy of the church community and avoid all speculation on social media or elsewhere.
  7. Reassure people that you are receiving and acting on PHE advice.
  8. Do think of ways to support individuals who are self-isolating, whether by email, phone etc.
  9. Be aware of the impact this may have on the wider congregation and community.
  10. Further advice on COVID-19 can be found on Public Health England website.

Information for clergy: Coronavirus (COVID-19) additional information for clergy, other ministers and leadership teams

This new page provides stand-alone advice for clergy, other ministers and leadership teams. This includes:

Action to be taken now

All Parish priests should consider taking the following actions NOW to promote NHS advice about hygiene discipline in the community:

  1. Read the advice given on this page; and the FAQs on the our website.
  2. Ensure everyone maintains good hygiene (we should be doing this already as part of normal good practice) at all gatherings, whether services or other occasions.  This includes those who prepare or serve food, those handing out books etc or having other direct physical contact with numbers of people, as well as those administering the Eucharist (see below for more guidance.) Provide hand gel at entrances and ensure there is a good supply of soap or hand gel in cloakrooms and kitchens and any other appropriate areas.
  3. The best way of protecting us from spread is for everyone to use universal good hygiene, – this means everyone, all the time, which will effectively disrupt spread of the virus. So display the public information poster attached, which states:
    • Catch it – sneeze into a tissue
    • Bin it – bin the tissue
    • Kill it – wash your hands with soap and water
    • Do not touch your face unless you’ve washed your hands
    • Follow the good hand washing and gel use technique from the NHS website.  You can also download a poster version.
  4. Ask anyone with cold or flu symptoms to refrain from taking communion from the Chalice/Cup and receive the wafer/bread on the hand only.
  5. Intinction is NOT recommended, as it is a route for transmission from the individual through handling the wafer/bread, and could impact on those with allergies to gluten etc.

Intinction: The action of dipping the bread in the wine at a Eucharist so that a communicant receives both together.

  1. The placing of the wafer on the tongue by anyone administering Eucharist is NOT recommended as it is a potential source of transmission.
  2. Ensure good regular cleaning of surfaces people touch regularly, including such things as door handles.
  3. Ask those attending Eucharist in particular to sanitise their hands as they come into church using sanitized gel dispensers (make these available in porches or entrances).
  4. Ensure ministers of the Eucharist sanitise their hands before and after distributing communion. This can be done by washing hands thoroughly (for 20 seconds at least with soap and water) or using good quality hand gel.
  5. There is no need as things stand for the Chalice to be withdrawn. However anyone with coughs and colds would be advised to refrain from taking communion from the Chalice/Cup and receive the wafer/bread on the hand only.
  6. There is no need as things stand for the sign of peace to be suspended. However anyone with coughs and colds would be advised to refrain from shaking hands with others, and instead to offer The Peace verbally.
  7. There is no need as things stand for a physical blessing or laying on of hands to be suspended. However anyone with coughs and colds would be advised to refrain from physical contact with others.
  8. When visiting parishioners at home, wash hands before giving the sacraments.
  9. No pastoral visits should be undertaken to people who are self-isolating until isolation ends. However do offer phone support.
  10. Visits to people in care homes or Hospitals should follow advice from the staff on infection control.
  11. Distribute copies of this document to key members of parish/PCC.
  12. Plan to hold meetings with key members of parish/PCC to discuss how the parish would respond to a local outbreak based on this document.
  13. Check that the parish has mechanisms to identify vulnerable members of the parish.

Action on reports of increased outbreaks

Parish priests should consider taking the following actions if there are reports of INCREASED OUTBREAKS:

Actions in churches

  1. Pay increased attention to hygiene practices and availability of tissues, gels within churches; and to communicate the need for good hygiene practice. Make sure service books, corporals and purificators and other linen, oils etc do not become contaminated in case you pass the infection from one person or home to another.
  2. It is important to reinforce advice given by the Government that if Parishioners:
    • Feel unwell or suspect they may be coming down with an illness that they stay at home and contact the NHS as appropriate eg  NHS 111 for advice.
    • Have concerns they may have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 then they should contact the NHS 111 website for specific advice. NHS 111 defines close contact as:
      • Living in the same house.
      • Face-to-face contact, for example, talking for more than a few minutes.
      • Being coughed on.
      • Being within 2 metres of the person for more than 15 minutes.
      • Contact with their body fluids.
    • Those caring for the sick are best advised to stay at home to avoid them spreading the virus.
    • Giving communion from the chalice, physically sharing The Peace or a blessing or “laying on of hands” may need to cease because the risk of droplet spread is increased.
    • Think about using individual disposable service sheets during a pandemic rather than shared song or prayer books, so people attending a service are not at risk of being infected if the book has been contaminated.
    • Remove holy water stoups.
    • Do not pass the collection plate around.
    • Vestments which are easily washed (e.g. surplices, cassocks) should be washed on the hottest cycle you can without damaging them. Chasubles etc which become contaminated e.g. by someone coughing on them, may not be able to be washed. Instead they should be put somewhere secure so people cannot be exposed to the virus on them for at least 48 hours before re-use, and ideally held in a well ventilated and brightly sunlit area.
    • Suspend catering (teas, coffees etc) at large parish gatherings where multiple people touch mugs, utensils, biscuits etc
    • When visiting parishioners at home, wash hands before giving the sacraments. No pastoral visits to people who are self-isolating until isolation ends. However do offer phone support.
    • Visits to people in care homes or Hospitals should follow advice from the staff on infection control.
    • Hold meetings with key members of parish/PCC to review plans.
    • Regularly (daily) check the advice on the Church of England website.

Other information

Supporting your wider community

  1. You will need to think about care for your community who are ill or self-isolating, and how you can support them. Current advice for those who are self-isolating is to try to avoid visitors to your home – it’s OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food. You might be able to collect essential supplies and medication for them. Also consider other methods of communicating with those who are ill or self-isolating, such as phone or email
  2. Pay particular attention to the care and needs of single people, and the elderly who are isolated from their families. Do they have enough food, medicines such as pain-killers, fluids?
  3. In the event that wider social distancing measures are considered or that the Government orders the suspension of all public gatherings you need to think about how you will pastorally and spiritually support your community during what may well be a stressful and frightening time – can you use newsletters, prayer sheets, social media, tapes and CDs or the Internet to keep people in touch with their faith and offer emotional and social support more broadly?
  4. You will need to think about other core services you provide such as Foodbanks, drop in centres and community support groups. There is a need to balance the wellbeing of staff and volunteers who support these activities with the need to offer support to the community, particularly our more vulnerable groups.
  5. How will you look after your buildings if key members of your congregation, including those who may currently do so, are ill?
  6. You will also need to think about the fact that your community will be affected by bereavement. Workers and ministers paid and unpaid may be bereaved. Ensuring that care is provided for everyone who is bereaved will be important.

What you should do if you have symptoms or are ill?

If you become ill do not simply carry on working. Seek appropriate NHS advice. When you are able, report it to your parish priest, manager or occupational health department. If the parish priest becomes ill contact the Rural Dean or Archdeacon’s office.


It is possible that an outbreak or pandemic could occur in multiple waves. It is important therefore that priests and parishes think about resilience – particularly of staff and those volunteers who are supporting the church and wider community. For priests and lay ministers there might be a need to agree plans at a deanery (or alternative) level for mutual support. Everyone will face increased pressures, both at work and potentially their own personal illness or caring for others. Supporting “staff” welfare is critical at this time.


The above advice relates to the advice issued by the Church of England at 20:02 on 5 March 2020; it will review this and update the guidance as needed, which we will summarize on L&RUK.

Our post Church in Wales updates Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance – 5 March summarizes the equivalent guidance issued by the Church in Wales.

[Since this guidance was issued, there have been a number of updates within the Church of England and elsewhere, and these are now listed in a separate post, which itself is frequently updated frequently.]

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church of England updates Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance – 5 March" in Law & Religion UK, 5 March 2020,


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