Church in Wales – moving to Alert Level 3

On 26 April 2021, the Church in Wales updated its guidance on moving from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3, extracts of which are reproduced below.


Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance

Update: 26 April 2021: Moving from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3. A Practical Advice Update

Wales remains at Alert Level 4 but Welsh Government has set out the next anticipated steps of relaxing restrictions towards Alert Level 3.

From 26 April, the following activities are permitted:

  • organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people
  • outdoor wedding receptions for up to 30 people
  • outdoor hospitality can open
  • outdoor visitor attractions can open

Organized outdoor activities includes worship. The key point is that such activities are organised i.e planned and controlled by a recognisable body such as the PCC/MAC/LMAC. Such activities should be accompanied by a risk assessment to decide the right risk mitigation measures for the activity. Social distancing of two metres must be observed at all times for such activities. Welsh Government guidance should be consulted for specific limitations on permitted activities.

From the 3rd May, the following activities will be possible:

  • The resumption of indoor supervised activities for children
  • Indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults (such as exercise classes and swimming lessons)
  • And the re-opening of community centres.

Welsh Government guidance is available at:

The following Church in Wales guidance on undertaking activities safely is available:

These documents are updated regularly as Welsh Government guidance is published so do regularly revisit the pages. Welsh Government guidance is available at:

Buildings will be able to open for limited community use from 3 May. Welsh Government guidance is available at:

This guidance has not yet been updated to reflect the changes at 3 May but does give a general steer on key considerations in opening for community use. Church in Wales guidance on opening Church Halls will be published as soon as clearer guidance is available.

Opening Churches for Worship

Whilst places of worship can, by law, be open for worship, funerals and weddings, Welsh Government continues to advise, during Alert Level 4, that: “those who are responsible for places of worship should consider whether there are alternative ways of holding worship services.”

That is clearly sensible advice but the Bishops do feel that, for those churches which can safely do so, a resumption of a limited number of in-person services may now be more appropriate. Accordingly, those responsible for churches who intend holding services in person, you must:

  • Rigorously review and update your risk assessments and consequence risk management measures to ensure that recommended arrangements can be sustained.
  • Adjust your arrangements in the light of experience and the observed behaviour of attendees, when open for worship, and make adjustments to prevent lapses. It is vital, despite vaccinations, that social distancing is maintained, face coverings are worn and that hygiene and cleaning standards are fully observed.
  • Pay particular attention to arrangements for people to leave your building after services. The end of a service is a particular time when social distancing can be breached. Generally, controlled exit row-by-row is advised. Clergy should generally avoid standing by entrances or exits to meet and greet people as this can create bottlenecks and bunching.
  • Strictly observe guidance on the administration of Holy Communion (still in one kind only) as this is a moment of closer contact.
  • Submit your updated risk assessment to your Archdeacon for approval
  • Remember that as an open church you are an exemplar of good behaviour.
  • Follow Government and Provincial guidance and do not take chances.

For those churches which cannot safely hold in-person services with the necessary precautions in place, organised outdoor worship may provide a useful first step in bringing back in-person worship.

Vaccination

We celebrate the fact that well over 1.6 million vaccination first doses have been administered in Wales. It is important to remember that although vaccination greatly reduces the risk of severe COVID-19, Public Health Wales is still learning about how the vaccine affects transmission of the virus and someone could still pass it on even after being vaccinated.

However, even if someone has received their two vaccine doses, they should still follow the same steps to keep themselves and Wales safe; wearing a mask, keeping a 2m distance, washing their hands regularly and keeping rooms as well ventilated as possible.

Even where a whole congregation has been vaccinated, there should be no relaxation of risk mitigation measures. Vaccination is not a cure but is likely to significantly reduce the impact of the virus on those vaccinated.

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Comment

The latest amendments to the legislation were made through The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 8) Regulations 2021, WSI 2021/502 (W.50). These were made at 3.16 p.m. on 23 April 2021; laid before Senedd Cymru at 5.45 p.m. on 23 April 2021, and come into force in accordance with regulation 1(2) to (4) – i.e. before 26 April. The Explanatory Note states:

“These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1609 (W. 335)) (“the principal Regulations”) as follows.

  • The period during which the temporary provisions in Schedule 3A apply (in transition from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3) is extended to the end of the day on 2 May 2021.

  • The restriction on people gathering when work is carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, is clarified by providing that at Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3 (and in the transitional period that applies at present) this is allowed without it needing to be “reasonably necessary” and without there needing to be “no reasonable alternative”.

  • The general restrictions on gathering with others outdoors are relaxed by removing the requirement that those gathering can only come from two different households. This means that any 6 people can now gather outdoors, not including children under 11 (so long as they don’t come from more than 6 households) or carers. This change takes effect on 24 April 2021 and will apply also at Alert Level 3.

  • In addition people may gather outdoors for the purposes of participating in formally organised activities involving up to 30 people (this involves a designated person being responsible for the activity, all reasonable measures being taken to minimise the spread of coronavirus while undertaking the activity and no consumption of alcohol). This change has effect from 26 April 2021.

  • Formally organised activities can include protesting and picketing, which can take place without a limit on the number of people present at all Alert Levels apart from Alert Level 4.

  • Specific provision is made to allow gatherings outdoors, of up to 30 people, to celebrate a solemnisation of a marriage, formation of a civil partnership or alternative wedding ceremony that took place on or after 26 March 2020. And, similarly, outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people are allowed to celebrate the life of a deceased person whose funeral is held on or after 26 March 2020. This change has effect from 26 April 2021.

  • Certain businesses will be allowed to reopen their premises for outdoor activities. This includes food and drink businesses, visitor attractions and swimming pools. This change has effect from the start of the day on 26 April 2021, except for food and drink businesses which may open from 6 a.m. onwards that day.

  • Organising “pilot” events is allowed with the permission of the Welsh Ministers. This is also to apply at Alert Level 3 (and was already allowed at Alert Levels 2 and 1).

  • Amendments are also made to Schedules 1, 2 and 3 (the Schedules that apply at Alert Levels 1, 2 and 3). These are to reflect the content of the Coronavirus Control Plan published by the Welsh Government in March 2021 and other minor changes made to the restrictions during the period of transition from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 that are intended to continue to have effect at the other Alert Levels. In consequence of this and other amendments referred to above, Schedule 3 is reproduced in full.”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church in Wales – moving to Alert Level 3" in Law & Religion UK, 27 April 2021, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2021/04/27/church-in-wales-moving-to-alert-level-3/

 

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