As anticipated in its earlier communication, Cytûn published an updated COVID-19 Briefing Paper on 25 April 2022. This reiterates the statement that all but one of the COVID-19 regulations made by Welsh Government under the Public Health Act 1984 have been suspended. The one remaining exception is the requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings; this would include in places of worship and community centres when being used for such purposes.
In all other respects, “in purely legal terms, the responsibilities of all employers, premises managers and trustees and event organisers – including those linked to places of worship and faith communities – have reverted to those which applied pre-pandemic (in February 2020). Welsh Government’s summary of that legal position can be found here.”
The long term strategy of the Welsh Government for living with endemic (rather than pandemic) coronavirus envisages two broad scenarios: Covid Stable and Covid Urgent, of which the present situation is viewed as the latter. The Briefing Paper notes [emphasis added];
“However, Covid remains prevalent in Wales and the understanding and attitudes of many members of the public towards the risk of catching contagious illnesses has changed due to the experience of the pandemic. The implementation of legal and moral duties, therefore, is now happening in a different context from that which prevailed in February 2020, and simply reverting to the practices of that time may be neither desirable nor appropriate.
“It is for the appropriate governing/managing body of each place of worship to understand their legal position. Congregations which are part of a denomination should seek advice from their denominational authorities in the first instance. Those which are not part of such a body may need to seek their own professional advice. This paper is issued as general information only and cannot cover all possible circumstances or governance arrangements.”
It continues with a summary of the main legal responsibilities of employers, premises managers and trustees, and event organisers in four overlapping areas: Health and safety; Safeguarding; Fire safety; and Data protection. “It is a key aspect of each of the categories of responsibility listed above to identify, assess and reduce any risks associated with them, and to mitigate the effects of the risks that remain”.
With regard to continuing coronavirus, the Welsh Government advice covers seven specific public health control measures which should be considered in any formal or informal risk assessment. Matters which may be of particular importance to places of worship and events organised by faith communities are: Sufficient ventilation; Robust cleaning, personal hygiene and hand washing practices; Training; Physical distancing; Working from home; Exclusion of symptomatic individuals and individuals who have communicable diseases; Vaccination.
The Briefing Paper concludes with a consideration of “Long Covid”, an issue not covered in the Welsh Government guidance; links to Other sources of information and guidance are also listed, and this section will be periodically updated.
Although addressed to places of worship subject to the legislation and advice issued by the Welsh Government, much of the Briefing Paper is of general application, particularly the statement:
“The implementation of legal and moral duties, therefore, is now happening in a different context from that which prevailed in February 2020, and simply reverting to the practices of that time may be neither desirable nor appropriate”.