Following the announcement by the Prime Minister on 8 December to move to Plan B measures (ENGLAND ONLY) to combat the spread of the Omicron variant, a number of restrictions will affect those worshipping, using or working within Methodist church property settings.
All those using a place of worship or ancillary buildings have to wear a face covering by law from Friday 10 December 2021. There are reasonable exemptions from this, while someone is leading worship or giving a reading for example.
There are currently no restrictions on continuing to use our church buildings. Although the Government is now advising office workers to work from home if they can from Monday 13 December. Churches should therefore consider how this advice affects those who work or use the church building and if temporary adjustments can be made during this period.
The current Government changes have not advised against singing. In relation to face coverings whilst singing, the current Government guidance states the following:
"There is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance. This does not extend to circumstances where it is not reasonably necessary to sing. For example, it may not be reasonably necessary for someone to sing whilst shopping, on public transport, or whilst in an in-scope setting such as a cinema, theatre or library. This change allows those who are taking part in activities where singing is reasonably necessary to choose to remove their face covering if they prefer whilst singing. When singing, you should consider keeping the face covering on."
Government SAGE data suggests that opening windows regularly for 10 minutes, or a small amount continuously, can help reduce the risk of transmission compared to no ventilation. The use of CO2 monitors can also help highlight areas of poor natural ventilation in a building.
There is currently no Government requirement for the reintroduction of social distancing within church settings. A level of distancing to protect those who are vulnerable can be considered though as part of a specific risk assessment for the room or activity. This is a local decision for the managing trustees, based on the local situation.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and take a free PCR test as soon as possible. Anyone who tests positive must self-isolate. Equally, anyone notified they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive should also take a free PCR test as soon as possible and self-isolate if required. Stay at home if you are feeling unwell.