The snappily-titled The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings in a Relevant Place) (England) Regulations 2020 were made at 9.00 a.m. on 23rd July 2020, laid before Parliament at 1.15 p.m. on 23rd July 2020, and come into force on 24th July 2020. These Regulations require members of the public to wear face coverings whilst inside a relevant place specified in the Regulations in England to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus, except in certain limited cases.
The Secretary of State is required to carry out a review of the need for the requirements in these Regulations within the period of 6 months of their coming into force. No regulatory impact assessment has been prepared for these Regulations. There is an accompanying Explanatory Memorandum.
The House of Bishops Recovery Group has published COVID-19 Advice on Face Coverings in which it reflects government guidance COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic issued on 17 July, and states:
“We strongly advise that face coverings should be worn by all those attending a place of worship, including ministers, worshippers, staff, volunteers, contractors and visitors, where there may be other people present; remembering that they are mainly intended to protect other people, not the wearer, from coronavirus COVID-19 and that they are not a replacement for physical distancing and regular hand washing.”
Places of worship are not included in the new legislation, and consequently, the wearing of face coverings in them is not mandatory. However, it is strongly advised by the House of Bishops Recovery Group. This new advice has been incorporated into the updates of a number of other documents:
- Advice on the Conduct of Public Worship
- Advice on individual private prayer
- Advice for clergy conducting weddings
- Advice for conducting funerals
- Advice for conducting baptisms
- Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion
The Advice on the Administration of Holy Communion states:
“Each communicant should also be encouraged to sanitise their hands before and after removing their face covering to receive the bread, and before and after putting it on again. The bread should only be administered into the hand with care being taken by the president not to touch communicants’ hands. If this does happen, both the president and communicant should sanitise their hands immediately.”