The Welsh Government has updated its COVID-19 guidance: Places of worship and funerals: potential reasonable measures action card (alert level 0), explaining the measures that places of worship must take, by law, in response to the pandemic.
Those responsible for them must take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of people being exposed to COVID-19 and spreading the virus at their premises. In deciding what measures should be taken, they must also carry out a specific risk assessment of the risk posed by COVID. The action card highlights the risks generally associated with these venues and activities and considers what reasonable measures could be taken to mitigate those risks.
The list is not exhaustive, and other reasonable measures not referred to in the guidance may be appropriate. The main headings are:
- Reducing the chance of coronavirus being present by requiring testing or proof of vaccination and suggesting that anyone who is symptomatic, has tested positive, is awaiting a test result or has been told to self-isolate by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect, should stay away;
- Maintaining physical distancing between groups and individuals wherever practical, and using signs and markings to manage the flow of people entering and exiting the premises and inside in order to avoid bottlenecks;
- Maximising natural or mechanical ventilation and making sure that mechanical ventilation systems are effectively maintained and have been serviced;
- Keeping the premises clean;
- Adopting additional measures to minimize risk where more vulnerable people congregate at the place of worship, such as shortening the length of the service and asking worshippers to undertake lateral flow tests before attending;
- Avoiding face to face interaction and orientation;
- Singing with mitigations such as fewer people or increasing distancing between singers; and
- Helping to ensure that those present comply with their legal obligation to wear a face covering, for example through signage and/or verbal reminders.
[With thanks to Gethin Rhys.]
Thanks. Frustratingly, the updated guidance has not kept up with the updated regulations, and wearing face coverings is no longer a legal requirement in Wales other than in health and social care settings. Places of worship can, however, still regard asking people to wear a face covering as a “reasonable measure” in their risk assessment – and my observation is that many are still doing so.