A “circuit break” is to be introduced across Wales at the end of this week to help regain control of coronavirus COVID-19. This means that a series of restrictive measures will be in place from 6pm Friday 23 October until the start of Monday 9 November 2020. The following extracts from the Welsh Governments Guidance: Coronavirus circuit break: frequently asked questions, published on 19 October are of relevance to churches and faith groups, including:
- What restrictions will be in place;
- Places of worship, marriages and civil partnerships, cemeteries and funerals; and
- Enforcement and fines.
The initial assessment of the impact of the circuit-breaker by the Church in Wales, summarized below, was followed by further advice after the publication of the The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 3) (Wales) Regulations 2020, WSI 2020/1149 (W,261) late on Wednesday 21 October.
Welsh Government FAQs
There are 5 main things:
- people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
- people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with
- certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and most shops must close
- secondary schools will provide learning online only for the week after half-term, other than for children in years seven and eight. Primary schools and childcare settings will remain open.
- face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), including on public transport and in taxis
If you break these new laws:
- You may be told to go home or removed from where you are and returned home.
- You could have to pay a fixed penalty notice of £60. This will rise to £120 for the second breach,
- Or you could have criminal proceedings brought against you, and if found guilty, you will have to pay a fine.
Even where something may be allowed, we ask you not to think about whether it is permitted but whether it is truly necessary and sensible. The purpose of this short lockdown is to create a concerted national effort to do everything we can to stop the spread of coronavirus, and every individual contribution to that counts.
What are the rules for religious services?
Places of worship will not be open to the public, other than for wedding or civil partnership ceremonies or funerals, where people can attend at the invitation of the organiser. Please see the guidance on funerals for more information.
Ministers may access the place of worship to broadcast (without a congregation) an act of worship or funeral, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast.
Are all potential wedding or civil partnership ceremony venues now allowed to open?
Places of worship and Register Offices are able to remain open for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies. This is subject to the need to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of spreading the virus on the premises.
Other ‘approved premises’ are required to close alongside other businesses in the hospitality sector.
Wedding or civil partnership ‘receptions’ are not permitted, and in practice many venues will be required to close for the duration of this short lockdown.
Are there limits to the number of people who can attend ceremonies?
The number who will be able to attend a ceremony indoors will be limited by the capacity of the venue where it is being held, once physical distancing measures have been taken into account
To ensure that the maximum number that can attend is observed attendance must be by invitation only. Please see the relevant guidance on weddings and civil partnership ceremonies.
What are the rules on holding receptions?
Wedding and civil partnership receptions are not allowed.
A close family member has died and I need to organise the funeral – what do I do?
Funerals can be a distressing experience, and the impact of coronavirus is making it even more difficult to make practical arrangements. Guidance on funerals has been issued.
Can I go to a funeral?
Yes, but you must be invited. Numbers are constrained by the need to put physical distancing measures in place.
Can I hold a wake or another form of gathering following a funeral?
No – for the duration of the lockdown period, these gatherings are not allowed.
Can I go to a cemetery to visit a family member’s grave?
Yes. But you should ensure that you follow physical distancing practices when doing so.
Who enforces the restrictions?
The restrictions are being enforced by local authority environmental health officers and the police.
What can enforcement officers do?
They can issue fixed penalty notices or recommend prosecution in a magistrates’ court. In addition, they have wide-ranging powers to take practical steps to disperse gatherings, require people to go home and enter property.
What if reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus aren’t taken on premises or in the workplace?
Local authority enforcement officers are now able to issue a “premises improvement notice”. This requires the person responsible for the premises to take specified measures, and if those measures are not taken an officer may issue a “premises closure notice” requiring the premises to close. Where necessary, an officer may also issue a premises closure notice without having previously issued a premises improvement notice.
So if people don’t comply premises can be closed down.
What will the police do?
The police in Wales will engage with people, explain what they need to do and encourage them to comply. But our police forces have been given powers and they will use them – the restrictions will be enforced if people don’t respond.
What are the financial penalties?
The coronavirus regulations include provisions for a fixed penalty notice to be issued for most types of breaches of the regulations, carrying a fine of £60; this is increased to £120 for a second offence and continues to double for repeated offences, up to a maximum of £1,920. If prosecuted, however, a court can impose any fine (it is not limited).
Organising an unlicensed music event of more than 30 people is a separate criminal offence. These are events that are not licensed or otherwise authorised under the Licensing Act 2003. A breach of this prohibition will be an offence punishable by conviction and an unlimited fine or, as an alternative to conviction, by a fixed penalty set at £10,000.
The unlimited fine or significant fixed penalty for organisers of these illegal events reflects the potentially serious public health consequences at this time.
We hope people understand the severity of the situation we are facing and will comply with the regulations, without having to be issued penalties.
Church in Wales initial assessment
The Guidance from the Bench of Bishops, issued on 19 October 2020, notes that the Coronavirus Circuit Break ‘lockdown’ commences on Friday 23rd October at 6.00pm and will end at the start of Monday 9th November.
“This will mean that our churches and church halls must be closed during that period (with some very limited exceptions, such as continuation of food bank provision and to broadcast, without a congregation, an act of worship or funeral, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast).
You will note that funeral and wedding services can continue in our churches under current arrangements but any related celebration or social gathering is not permitted. We are seeking urgent clarity on the permissible arrangements for Remembrance Sunday.”
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 3) (Wales) Regulations 2020, WSI 2020/1149 (W,261) were published late on Wednesday 21 October, and comprise seven parts:
- Part 1 provides that these Regulations come into force at 6 p.m. on 23 October 2020 and expire at the end of the day on 8 November 2020.
- Part 2 imposes limits on movement and travel.
- Part 3 relates to business and services whose premises are ordinarily open to the public, requiring many to close, see below.
- Part 4 makes provisions for the purpose of minimising risk of exposure to coronavirus.
- Part 5 relates to the enforcement of the restrictions and requirements.
- Part 6 makes provision about offences and penalties.
- Part 7 contains defined terms and revokes the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (No.2) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/725 (W. 162)) as they were amended (regulation 34). Regulation 33 also makes provision which modifies the numerous restrictions on individuals in the Regulations which limit interaction with anyone who is not a member of their household.
Additional guidance has been issued by the Welsh Government,
- Guidance for Places of Worship – English (PDF)
- Guidance for Places of Worship – Welsh (PDF)
- Closure of businesses and premises: coronavirus (COVID 19), Non-essential businesses and premises that must be closed from 6pm on 23 October 2020.
and by the Church in Wales, which was summarized in our post Coronavirus Firebreak Lockdown – Church in Wales Guidance.
Updated 23 October at 18:56.