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Diocese of Monmouth Esgobaeth Mynwy

 
THE REPRESENTATIVE BODY OF THE CHURCH IN WALES CORONAVIRUS – COVID19
GUIDANCE ON RE-OPENING OF CHURCH HALLS
August 2020


Introduction

Church Halls fall under the definition of community centres under the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

Section 7(5) states that:

(5) A person responsible for a community centre must ensure that, during the emergency period, the community centre is closed except where

(a) it is used to provide essential voluntary services or, upon the request of the Welsh Ministers or a local authority, public services

(b) all reasonable measures are taken to ensure that a distance of 2 metres is maintained between every person on the premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer) while those services are provided.

Welsh Government guidance on this provision is available at: https://gov.wales/safe-use-multi-purpose-community-centres-covid-19

MACs/PCCs should follow Welsh Government guidance in re-opening their halls. Set out below are some key considerations in the light of Welsh Government guidance.

General Considerations for the Re-opening of Church Halls

The regulations restrict opening for essential voluntary and public services. The guidance is clear that such uses are at the discretion of the local authority. As managers of the hall, the MAC/PCC should establish with the user that they have obtained local authority approval to undertake their activities at the hall. Activities that involve social gathering will not be permitted at this time.

In opening the hall for any approved use, you are obliged by law to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The operation of the hall, and any activities within it must comply with Covid-19 secure guidelines. The principles of these are the same as for opening churches or any other building: maintaining two-metre physical distancing between people, ensuring regular hand washing/sanitizing and regular cleaning of premises especially surfaces.

Church Halls are facilities provided by a MAC/PCC as building manager in which activities are organised. Some of these activities are operated directly by the MAC/PCC whilst others are operated by a third party (a user/hirer).

Considerations for the MAC/PCC as Building Manager

As the building manager, the MAC/PCC has an overall duty to make sure the building is used in such a way as to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This means you should take reasonable steps to ensure activity organisers plan their activities appropriately. It is not sufficient to ‘leave it to the user’. You should:

1. Review the Guidance: Take time to work through the guidance from Welsh Government at https://gov.wales/safe-use-multi-purpose-community-centres-covid-19

2. Prepare: Make sure the building is ready for use including maintenance checks, electrical and heating checks, check water systems (e.g legionnaires disease measures). The grounds and access routes should be tidy and safe

3. Survey and measure: survey the building to think about how its layout would impact on maintaining 2-metre distancing. Consider walkways and access routes in and around the building. You need to calculate the safe capacity for different activities whilst maintaining 2-metre distancing. With this information, you can discuss detailed use arrangements with each user.

4. Signage: Ensure signage is in place to remind people of requirements. See
https://gov.wales/safety-and-physical-distancing-signs-employers-coronavirus

5. Plan your cleaning regime: The general requirement is that areas of buildings that are used are cleaned before and after use. The section in the Welsh Government guidance headed Cleaning and Infection Control is very useful in helping you think about your cleaning regime. You should review your cleaning arrangements to ensure that an appropriate cleaning regime is reliably implemented.

6. Hygiene: Whilst activity organisers are likely to include this in their own precautions, you should ensure sanitizer/hand washing facilities are available.

7. Toilets: Toilets are a particular challenge and will need detailed planning. WG guidance is that toilets can be opened providing that physical distancing and hand hygiene guidance is followed. These areas should be cleaned regularly using normal cleaning products with particular attention to areas that are frequently touched such as door handles and taps. Suitable handwashing facilities should be available including running water and liquid soap. Drying should be by paper towels or hand dryers (not communal towels). Paper towels should be in a dispenser and disposed of carefully. Specific guidance is available at https://gov.wales/providing-safer-toilets-public-use-coronavirus

8. Record your arrangements (Risk Assessment): You must complete a risk assessment before re-opening. This should set out the precautions and mitigation measures you will put in place. This should then be shared with users/activity organisers. You should share this Risk Assessment with your Archdeacon too. A template risk assessment document is availble on The Church in Wales website.

9. Liaise with Activity Organisers: Make contact with your activity organisers to start discussing appropriate risk mitigation measures. You should check that they have permission from the local authority to operate their activity under prevailing Covid-19 restrictions. They should provide you with a risk assessment for their activities within your building. This should be based on any government guidance for the safe operation of their particular activity. You should carefully study this to make sure that it dovetails with your own arrangements.

A major part of managing physical distancing so as not to exceed the safe capacity of your hall is to control access carefully. Generally, it should be for activity organisers to manage this as they are inviting people to attend. This will be easiest for pre-booked attendees. If attendees can simply ‘turn up’, the activity organiser will need to consider stewarding arrangements.

If the PCC/MAC is not satisfied that proper arrangements can be put in place for safe operation, the activity should not be permitted. There may be sense in re-opening for a limited range of activities as a first stage. Groups that make use of the hall on a very regular basis e.g nurseries, would be a good place to start. It makes sense to work with trusted users as you develop your procedures.

Considerations for MAC/PCC when directly organising an activity in the hall

1. Permission: Establish that you have necessary permissions from the local authority to operate the activity from the hall

2. Consider the activities you wish to undertake: The way these are undertaken will need to change to ensure appropriate precautions. Be creative to ensure activities can be undertaken safely but also enjoyably. Don’t forget that some elements of your activity might be most safely conducted on-line rather than in person.

3. Risk Assessment: Prepare a risk assessment setting out how you will operate the activity to comply with government guidance. The focus should be on physical distancing, hygiene and cleaning arrangements. The risk assessment template can be easily adapted for this purpose. You should prepare a risk assessment for each separate activity. This should be discussed and shared with all involved with running the activity.

4. Physical Distancing Issues: It may be that essential activity will require some breaching of the two-metre distancing. You will need to consider carefully how this will be safely managed. This might include rigorous hand washing regimes before and after such a breach and the wearing of face coverings.

In these situations, Welsh Government is requesting that a record of the time and date of the event and the names and telephone contact of those who have come within 2 metres of other households are kept. These records must be handled in accordance with GDPR to protect the individuals’ privacy. These records should be kept for 21 days after the event and then destroyed. Further guidance on this is available on the Coronavirus pages of the Church in Wales website.View the guidance from The Church in Wales here.