On 21 March 2022, the Church of England issued updated guidance to reflect latest Government advice:
- COVID-19: Opening and managing church buildings, v3, (21 March 2022). This is an update on version 2.4: “The Government has published its plan for living with COVID-19 and from the 24th February has removed the remaining restrictions put in place to manage the pandemic. This update provides the most recent references to remaining guidance to help churches make decisions that continue to balance provision of services with care for the vulnerable”.
- Risk Assessment Template for Opening Church Buildings to the Public, v11. “This update has been reviewed to reflect the removal of restrictions from 24th February 2022 and the publication of the Government’s Living With Covid guidance. The Church of England’s guidance may also be a helpful reference point”.
The policy document referred to in the new guidance, COVID-19 response: living with COVID-19, (21 February 2022), states:
“The global pandemic is not yet over and the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is clear there is considerable uncertainty about the path that the pandemic will now take in the UK. This document therefore also sets out how the Government will ensure resilience, maintaining contingency capabilities to deal with a range of possible scenarios”.
Nevertheless, a significant component of this policy is the removal of many of the remaining COVID-19 mitigations. Professor Christina Pagel has observed:
“[the] decision to end free testing, surveillance studies & relax all public health measures was made at a time when govt assumed COVID prevalence would be low by now. They were wrong and we are in the midst of yet another big wave which has not peaked yet*. Timing could not be worse.”
Also on 21 March 2022, the BMJ published the opinion piece of Kit Yates Opinion: Closing our eyes to COVID-19 won’t make it go away which notes:
“…a perhaps underplayed factor driving the recent rises is behavioural change. As COVID-19 falls off many people’s radars and the government sends the message, both explicitly and implicitly through the relaxation of mitigations, that the UK is ‘past the pandemic,’ people’s behaviour becomes less cautious. Opinion polls suggest that people in the UK are taking fewer precautions now against COVID-19 than at any point during the pandemic. Inevitably this will make a big difference to the spread of the disease.”
* The official UK government website posts data and insights on coronavirus (COVID-19); information on People tested positive and Hospital admissions indicates that unlike in January 2022, both are now rising.