UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
Guidance for activities in the church premises
What is allowed?
These guidelines, some of which are backed by legislation and fines are based on official regulations and guidance1 and are for the leaders of groups meeting anywhere in the church premises. Please read them carefully!
This document was last updated on 3 December 2020. The latest version will always be available on the church website via a link at the bottom right of the home page.
The church premises are within Greater London and therefore subject to the Tier 2 restrictions.
The type of groups that are permitted to meet in our premises are listed in this document. Note especially that:
"Other activities, such as hobby groups, organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided that different households or support bubbles do not mix."
It is not stated what constitues 'mixing', but in our view, participants are not mixing if:
- Strict 2m social distancing is maintained at all times
- The nature of the activity is such that participants focus on a leader or trainer rather than on each other, or they focus on some task performed individually
- The participants do not socialise with each other, ie converse other perhaps than a quick 'hello' and 'goodbye'
The following information applies only to those activities that are permitted as above.
Before you meet
The primary responsibility for the safety of the people attending your group or event lies with you. The church will do its best to comply with the guidelines and good practice, but you need to be satisfied that the risk of holding a meeting or event is as low as reasonably possible.
Before your group meets you must complete a risk register. We have prepared some guidance and a template which you can download and use, but if your organisation has its own format you may use that. Please complete your register and send a copy to the church office (office) before your first event.
On every occasion your group meets, someone must be appointed as the Covid Monitor. That person must be present, must be familiar with this document and must be familiar with your risk register and any mitigations (actions taken to lower the risk) in the register that need action during your session - for example controlling the use of the toilets or enforcing the wearing of face coverings. A member of the church Management Committee may look in on your session and ask to speak with the Covid Monitor or view your activities.
Some of the guidance refers to 'Covid-secure premises'. We are operating the church premises as Covid-secure, but it will require cooperation by our users as outlined below for us to retain that status. You will understand that if any group compromises our ability to keep the buildings Covid-secure we may have to ask them to leave.
You will see that at various entrances to the premises we have displayed QR codes for use with the NHS Test and Trace app. Participants in your events who have the app on their phones are strongly advised by the NHS to scan the code. If they do so, you do not need to record their attendance in your register, but you may do if you wish.
The following are the maximum numbers of points that can be occupied by a static group of people remaining seated and facing in the same direction, at 1m and 2m spacing. Each point can be occupied by a single person, or by two people from the same household. If more than two people are from the same household they may sit together, but they will count as two points in order to maintain social distancing. A household may include an additional single person with or without children who are in their pre-established bubble.
As explained below, the capacity of each hall or room is dependent on the activity and other factors.
|Space||at 1m||at 2m||Excluded areas|
|Church||102||40||Gallery, raised platform, piano, sound desk|
|Chapel||9||3||Raised platform, piano|
These figures are based on people remaining seated in parallel, staggered rows and all facing the same way, which is unrealistic for most events. It also takes no account of whether those numbers could manage with one-by-one use of the toilets. The practical figures will therefore usually be significantly lower.
Note that you must not form 'groups' of more than 6 people, for example for social interaction, whether in the premises or outside. Please ensure that such groups do not form, for example before the start or after the finish of your activity.
As you arrive
We recommend that you allow your group to enter the premises by one door only. You should position at least one responsible person outside or just inside the door who must:
- Ask everyone entering whether they have Covid-19 symptoms: persistent cough, loss of the sense of smell or taste, or a high temperature. If they answer yes, you must not allow them to enter. You may wish to acquire a contactless thermometer to take your attendees' temperature and anyone reading 38C or above must not be allowed in.
- Ask everyone if they are self-isolating because they have been in contact with someone who has Covid-19 or have been in certain foreign countries, or if they have had a positive test for Covid-19 within the preceding 7 days. If they answer yes, you must not allow them to enter.
- Advise anyone classed as vulnerable, meaning over 70 years old or having underlying health conditions, that they are advised not to attend. If they are highly vulnerable, meaning they were on the Government’s ‘shielding’ list or they have a serious health issue, they should be strongly advised not to attend.
- Make a list of the names and phone numbers of everyone entering who has not scanned the building QR code on their phone. This is so that NHS Test and Trace (T&T) can trace contacts if anyone attending contracts Covid-19 in the following few weeks. These details should be held securely by you and destroyed after 21 days unless T&T requests them, in which case you should comply. Please note that under data protection law individuals are not required to supply these details and you may, but are not required to, refuse entry if they decline to supply them. There is a template you can use here.
- Ensure everyone sanitises their hands on entry, is reminded that they should not touch their face, and should wash their hands for 20 seconds using soap after using the toilet.
- Ensure that everyone has, and if your risk register requires it, is wearing a face covering, unless they are under 11 or have a disability.
As the above will take some time you may need to station another person outside to ensure that any queue maintains 2m social distancing.
We are very sorry that this may seem tedious and may exclude some of your group, but these are the guidance and regulations under which we are allowed to operate at present.
During your meeting
The current requirements are that everyone must wear face coverings at least while entering, leaving or moving around, and must maintain social distancing. The distancing willl normally be 2m, but a reduction to 1m is allowed if necessary and mitigated. Note that the spacing is the gap between two adjoining people, and as people are typically 0.5m wide, their chairs or positions need to be 2.5m (or 1.5m) centre to centre.
The church takes the view that if the attendees are mostly adults wearing face coverings, they remaining seated facing in the same direction for the duration of the event, windows are opened to provide ventilation and a full register of attendees has been obtained then that is sufficient mitigation for the lower (1.5m) spacing.
If your group sits in an inward-facing circle at least 5m in diameter and mitigates the risk as described in the previous paragraph, again the church considers 1.5m spacing to be allowable; a 5m diameter circle could then comprise 10 people.
If your group includes people from the same household or bubbled with their household, they need not socially distance from each other and can sit side-by-side, socially distanced as above from anyone else.
Note that live drama, dance and musical performances with an audience are not currently permitted. However amateur musical (and perhaps other performing arts) groups may now meet to rehearse if they meet certain conditions. There is some useful guidance from Making Music here.
For groups performing physical activities where the participants remain in the same positions, such as exercise groups, the full 2.5m spacing should be allowed. If the individuals use mats or other equipment, they should if possible bring and take home the same set each time. There is specific Government advice relating to sports and exercise activities.
For groups where the participants move around the rules are especially restrictive, and it seems impossible at present that these groups can meet safely. This includes children's play groups, and sports or dancing where the players mingle and move around or share the use of equipment or toys. Although chldren will be in close contact with each other in school 'bubbles', they cannot be grouped in different bubbles for out-of-class activities without running the risk of passing infection between their school bubbles or between different schools.
If your group does not fit into the categories above, or if you feel you have different risks or mitigations, please contact us to discuss these.
Action if someone falls ill on the premises
Your risk register must include this as a risk. You must isolate the person as soon as possible and arrange for them to go or be taken home as soon as possible.
Food and drink
The current recommendation is that you do not provide any shared food or drink, including tea or coffee, biscuits or water. If your event is of a duration or nature that food or drink is required, it is suggested that you ask the participants to bring their own, not to share it, and to take home any wrapping or uneaten items. The church kitchens are currently out of use for all users except church staff and explicitly authorised volunteers.
All of the toilet facilities in the church buildings are of a size that a one-in, one-out policy is needed to preserve social distancing. If your group is of a size or nature that might not self-regulate their use you must appoint someone to make sure that the policy is adhered to. It is also important that after using the toilet hands are washed for 20 seconds using the soap and water provided as surfaces may have been contaminated by a previous user. Paper towels or the hand driers may be used.
Leaving the premises
We have found that people, especially younger ones, tend to relax once an event is over and to forget to socially distance. Please encourage your group to keep their facemasks on, to leave promptly maintaining social distancing, and to move away from the church buildings before engaging in conversation with others.
Please ensure that you close any windows that you opened, or that you found open.
Cleaning and disinfecting
The church cleaners disinfect all surfaces, door handles, light switches and toilet areas early every morning, 7 days a week. However, the buildings are large and old and we cannot guarantee that every possible point of contact has been reached. Unless you are the first user of the day you should arrive earlier than your group and wipe any surfaces you think your users may touch. If you are using church chairs and tables we also recommend that you wipe those before use.
The church will supply cleaning materials or you may bring your own. Note that only normal cleaning products containing soap or detergents are needed: they do not need to be specifically disinfectant.
Please use a dry or nearly dry cloth when wiping light switches or electrical sockets.
I am sorry that these requirements are long and restrictive. I hope you will understand that they are there to protect us all and to limit the spread of the coronavirus. If you have any questions or comments please fell free to contact me.
Peter Campbell Smith
Convenor, Management Committee
01372 728593 – 07599 992350 – pj,campbell,smith^gmail,com