Following the latest announcements by Welsh Government, the Revd Gethin Rhys, Policy Officer of Cytûn, has issued a helpful update – reproduced with permission – on the position as it affects places of worship.
- Attendance at a place of worship is a “reasonable excuse” for travelling beyond the “Stay local” restriction, as it was with regard to the previous “Stay at home” restriction.
- The situation regarding worship outdoors is unchanged: worship outdoors beyond the curtilage of the place of worship is not permitted. While it would be possible, within the regulations, to worship in the open air on land within the curtilage of a place of worship, the Welsh Government asks that consideration should be given not only to COVID safety but also to the possible effect on community relations of being seen to meet visibly outdoors for worship when other sections of the community cannot meet at all.
Cytûn and other faith communities have asked the Welsh Government to consider changing the guidance for places of worship to allow greater freedom to worship outdoors as Easter approaches, but they have not yet received a positive response from the Government.
- The Welsh Government has announced that it hopes to permit “organised children’s activities outdoors” from 27 March. There is no further information yet as to the definition of “organised children’s activities”, nor as to which age-groups might be covered by this easing of restrictions.
- 28 March is Palm Sunday – in many parts of Wales marked as “Sul y Blodau” (Flower Sunday) with visits to cemeteries. It has been legal throughout lockdown to visit cemeteries, subject to maintaining physical distancing between households, but with the “Stay local” restrictions likely to be relaxed on 27 March to permit travel throughout Wales (but not across the border with England), many people are likely to wish to visit cemeteries on 27-28 March. There is a legal duty on those responsible for cemeteries to take all reasonable measures to ensure the maintenance of physical distance between households within the cemetery, and Cytûn would therefore urge churches to ensure that appropriate signage is clearly visible throughout the cemetery, by water taps, etc, by that weekend.
The Welsh Government’s guidance for places of worship remains unchanged.