This is the latest weekly update covering the legislation and guidance on coronavirus COVID-19, and will include events to 26 December*.
Sunday 20 December to Saturday 26 December
Law and Religion UK‡
- Wales: Christmas guidance on COVID-19 precautions. (24 December 2020).
- Scotland: Christmas guidance on COVID-19 precautions. (22 December 2020).
- Stop press: changes to Christmas arrangements for Northern Ireland (21 December 2020).
- Law and religion round-up – 20 December. Don’t they know it’s COVID? (20 December 2020).
- COVID-19: Tier 4 and other restrictions announced. Links to Prime Minister’s Press Conference; Professor Chris Whitty’s statement about the new strain of Covid-19; DHSC new Guidance Tier 4: Stay at Home; and more specific guidance for the four tiers. (19 December 2020).
Church of England
Last updated Tuesday 22 December at 16:59
Read updated Government guidance:
- COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship
- COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships
- Can carol singing or carol services take place this Christmas? in the Singing, Carol Services & key Christmas considerations section
- What is permitted in my tier? in the Singing, Carol Services & key Christmas considerations section
- Who can attend church as part of a Christmas bubble (25 December) in the Singing, Carol Services & key Christmas considerations section
- Can weddings and funerals go ahead? in the Life Events section
Last updated Monday 21 December at 16:02
Following the announcement by the Prime Minister on Saturday a new Tier 4 level of restrictions is now in place. The latest Government guidance is here and specific guidance for those in Tier 4 areas is here. We await further updated guidance for Places of Worship and will share it here when available.
New Advice for clinically extremely vulnerable in new Tier 4 areas has been published.
Read a Church of England response to updated coronavirus guidance in response to the Prime Minister’s statement about Christmas arrangements, as updated Sunday 20 December at 12:42].
- COVID-19 Permitted Activities under the Tier System, v2.3.1. Sets out how the 4 Tier System of alert impacts on the main activities related to churches.
Diocese of Oxford
- Coronavirus latest (and something to smile about). (22 December 2020).
Other churches and faith organizations
- Baptist Church: Coronavirus – Essential advice for churches, (updated 20 December). Churches may once again open for worship following the end of the firebreak in Wales and the lockdown in England.
- Guidance on church worship (updated 20 December)
- Coronavirus advice: Children’s, youth and families ministry (updated 20 December)
- Guidance on re-opening Baptist church buildings (updated 20 December)
- Advice for ministers – pastoral visiting (updated 20 December)
- Guideline Leaflet L18: Covid-19 Coronavirus Legal Issues (updated 16 December)
- Update for churches as employers: New furlough scheme rules and removal of retention bonus – 4 December.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/1646. Made, 24th December 2020; Coming into force, 26th December 2020. These Regulations amend Schedule 4 to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All#Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 so as to make changes to the areas that are subject to Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4 restrictions for the purposes of those Regulations. These Regulations also make minor correcting and other amendments to those Regulations together with consequential amendments to other legislation. There is also an Explanatory Memorandum.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Travel from South Africa)(England) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/1644. These Regulations prohibit the arrival in England of aircraft travelling directly from South Africa and amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (England) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/568.
- The Exercise of Commissioning Functions by the NHS Commissioning Board (Coronavirus) Directions 2020. Statutory Guidance, Directions given to the National Health Service Commissioning Board. These directions enable NHS England to commission healthcare from independent sector providers to support the provision of services by the NHS to address the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency. This power will last until 31 March 2021 (21 December 2020). The updated Directions are: The Exercise of Commissioning Functions by the National Health Service Commissioning Board (Coronavirus) (No. 3) Directions 2020.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/1611. These regulations make changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers)(England) Regulations 2020. They create a further Tier of restrictions and place certain areas within that Tier. They also amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Obligations on Undertakings)(England) Regulations 2020 to clarify the obligations on certain undertakings.
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/1572. These Regulations make changes to the areas which are subject to the restrictions for Tier 2 and Tier 3, as defined in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020.
[With acknowledgements to Benjamin Lewis for highlighting the NHS Directions]
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, SI 2020/1610 (W.336). Regulations make amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1609 (W. 335))
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No. 8) Regulations 2020, SSI 2020/452. These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (“the Local Levels Regulations”). With the exception of regulation 5, these Regulations come into force on 21 December 2020. Regulation 5 comes into force on 26 December.
The latest updates and amendments to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 SR 2020/150 are on the web site of the NI Department of Health , the most recent of which are:
- The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2)(Amendment No. 24) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020, SR 2020/156, which come into operation at midnight on 25 December 2020, v infra.
- Government tiers review update. DHSC. Exponential rises in cases in the South East and East of England necessitate decisive action ahead of the formal review on 30 December. Updated to reflect that drive-in events are not permitted in Tier 4. (24 December 2020).
- COVID-19: Guidance for the Christmas period. Cabinet Office. (24 December 2020).
- Government tiers review update. DHSC. Exponential rises in cases in the South East and East of England necessitate decisive action ahead of the formal review on 30 December. (23 December 2020).
- Speech on coronavirus restriction tiers, vaccines and testing. Speech by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock at the Downing Street coronavirus briefing. (23 December 2020).
- Tier 4: Stay at Home. DHSC, Updated 22 December 2020.
- COVID-19: guidance for the safe use of places of worship from 2 December. Incorporates announcement of Tier 4 restrictions by the PM on 19 December 2020.
- COVID-19: Celebrating religious festivals during coronavirus COVID-19. MHCLG. (22 December 2020).
- COVID-19: Guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships. MHCLG. Updated to provide information about restrictions in Tier 4. Wedding and civil partnership receptions and celebrations are not permitted to take place in Tier 4. (23 December 2020).
- Tier 4: Stay at Home. DHSC. Updated guidance regarding weddings and care home visits. (21 December 2020).
- Tier 3: Very High alert. DHSC. Updated travel advice. (21 December 2020).
- Alert level 4. Welsh Government. What you must do; What can open; and What must be closed. (18 December 2020).
Guidance on reopening places of worship: coronavirus. Welsh Government. Guidance written specifically with places of worship and gatherings of faith and belief groups in mind in alert level 4. (23 December 2020).
Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance: what the restrictions mean for you. NI Direct. “These regulations will apply from 12.01 am on 26 December 2020 for six weeks, with a review after four weeks”. v supra.
- COVID-19: Guidance for Safe Group Music-making in Church: UPDATE. (23 December).
Historical Religious Buildings Alliance
- Coronavirus (COVID-19). Last updated 20 December 2020.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19). (21 December 2020).
- Christmas ringing and Tier 4 – England. ( 21 December 2020).
Post last updated, Wednesday 24 December 2020 at 16:17.
*Information on COVID-19 on L&RUK
These updates are published at the start of each week; they are not reissued, but new items are added throughout the week as they become available, providing a “rolling update” of the latest developments during the current week. They are also added to COVID-19 Coronavirus: legislation and guidance which is the main source of information; those items in the weekly updates yet to be added are marked “§“. The updates for the earlier weeks are here.
For Church of England documents, the information on the document itself – date and version number – provides the best indication of the date on which it was issued
The BBC were incorrect in stating that the new restrictions came into effect ‘from midnight.’ The amending regulations [correct title: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Obligations of Undertakings) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, SI 2020 No. 1611] were only made at 6.00 am on Sunday 20 December and came into force at 07.00 am that day.
Presumably parliamentary counsel were working through the night to produce the 33 pages of new regulations before dawn. (I’m assuming that Boris Johnson did not ensure that there was an ‘oven-ready’ copy prepared earlier in case he had to do a U-turn and announce that, for many in England, Christmas 2020 was ‘cancelled’ after all).
Accordingly, perhaps those who drafted the regulations can be forgiven the following obvious errors:
(i) Weddings. Amending regulation 2(13) inserts a new Schedule 3A into the principal regulations: ‘Tier 4 restrictions’. Paras 3 and 4 of the schedule impose restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, subject to exceptions listed in para 6, ‘General exceptions relating to gatherings.’ Exception 9 is ‘Marriages and civil partnerships etc.’ Para 6(11) provides: “Exception 9 is that the gathering meets the conditions in sub-paragraph (12) or (13).” Sub-para (12) sets out certain conditions and then sub-para (13) provides:
“(13) A gathering meets the conditions in this sub-paragraph if it consists of no more than 6 persons and— … (c) it is not reasonably practicable for the gathering to take place in accordance with sub-paragraph (13)… ”
Presumably the reference should have been to sub-para (12) and we can look forward to Amendment (No. 2) regulations to correct it.
(ii) Communal worship. A further exception is “Exception 16 – Communal worship”. Para 6(24) provides:
(24) Exception 16 is that—
(a) the gathering is for the purposes of communal worship in a place of worship,
(b) the person concerned participates in the gathering alone or as a member of a
qualifying group (see paragraph 7), and
(c) the gathering organiser takes the required precautions in relation to the gathering. ”
But para 7 is nothing to do with qualifying groups. Para 7 is concerned with two “exceptions relating only to indoor gatherings and outdoor gatherings in a place which does not satisfy the conditions set out in paragraph 4(4)”, namely visiting a dying person and visiting a person receiving treatment in a hospital or care home etc. ‘Qualifying groups’ are defined in para 9, not 7, with the rather tortuous provision that “A person participates in a gathering as a member of a qualifying group only if the person is a part of a qualifying group and, whilst participating in the gathering, the person does not—
(a) become a member of any other group of people participating in the gathering
(whether or not that group is a qualifying group), or
(b) otherwise mingle with any person who is participating in the gathering but is not a member of the same qualifying group as them.”
(As our benefice put it when advertising an outdoor carol service, “jingling without mingling”!)
Another correction required – and there may well be others that I’ve not spotted.
It will be interesting to see whether these errors (and any others that may have been noticed) are corrected in the amending regulations required to extend the Tier 4 area (and change the tiering of other parts of England) prior to the announced coming into force of the changes at 00.01 on 26 December 2020.
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