COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities
Updated 17 May 2021
This guidance was withdrawn on
This guidance is withdrawn as it’s no longer current. While cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. This is why we are keeping in place key protections on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. You should also follow the measures in the working safely guidance.
Applies to England
© Crown copyright 2021
This publication is licensed under the terms of the Open Government Licence v3.0 except where otherwise stated. To view this licence, visit nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3 or write to the Information Policy Team, The National Archives, Kew, London TW9 4DU, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where we have identified any third party copyright information you will need to obtain permission from the copyright holders concerned.
This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities
A new COVID-19 variant is spreading in some parts of England. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you need to do.
The government has published the COVID-19 Response Spring 2021 setting out how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in England. This explains the current proposed timetable for the easing of restrictions, including any restrictions on places of worship and faith activities. The decision to proceed with each of the four steps in the roadmap will be guided by consideration of current data, and not particular dates, and the four tests set out in the roadmap.
Activity specific guidance should be considered as when considering relevant activities.
This is national guidance of a general nature and should be treated as a guide. In the event of any conflict between any applicable legislation (including the health and safety legislation) and this guidance, the applicable legislation shall prevail.
Community centres, village halls, and other multi-use community facilities support a wide range of local activity. However, their communal nature also makes them places that are vulnerable to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
This information is for those managing multi-use community facilities. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces.
Managers of community facilities will have discretion over how they make premises COVID-19 secure following the advice in the relevant guidance.
Many community facilities are also workplaces and those responsible for the premises should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers. The government is clear that no one is obliged to work in an unsafe workplace.
Organisations also have a duty of care to volunteers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety and are afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. See government information on coronavirus volunteering and how to help safely. Volunteers and other individuals clinically extremely vulnerable should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Each community facility should apply relevant guidance listed here, locally, depending on circumstances, including its size and type of activities it hosts, its users, how it is organised, operated, managed and regulated.
You should also consider the security implications of any changes you intend to make as a result of COVID-19. Some key principles relevant to owners, operators and managers of multi-use indoor community facilities are highlighted below.
2. Core principles for safely reopening community facilities
Community facilities are used for a range of purposes, and relevant guidance on specific activities is signposted below (section 3). However, there are general principles that managers of community spaces should follow in making their space COVID-19 secure, and safely re-opening for permitted activity.
Any reopening plans should be consistent with:
- core public health guidance regarding health, hygiene, and social distancing
- safe workplace guidelines, to ensure employees are safe to return to work
Anyone with control of non-domestic premises (such as a community centre, village or community hall) has legal responsibilities under health and safety law, and must take reasonable measures to ensure the premises, access to it, and any equipment or substances provided are safe for people using it, so far as is reasonably practicable.
To help decide which actions to take prior to re-opening the building for permitted activity, a COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed, taking account of the core guidance on social distancing and the points set out below. This will be in addition to any risk assessment which is already in place for the community facility. See guidance on completing a risk assessment.
Users and hirers of a community facility have responsibility for managing risks arising from their own activities when they have control of premises and should take account of any guidance relevant to their specific activity or sector.
A fire risk assessment should be undertaken if your building or space is repurposed, for example when there is any change in use or type of use.
2a: Social distancing and capacity
COVID-19 secure rules, including social distancing requirements, continue to apply in public venues.
Measures should be in place to ensure all users of community facilities to maintain social distancing and keep 2m apart from anyone who is not in their household or support bubble, or 1m with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings).
You should consider and set out the mitigations to stop the spread of the virus. These may include:
- if an enclosed area, owners and operators should identify an advisory limit on the maximum number of users able to use the community facility
- move outdoors, where the activity allows
- if indoors, make sure rooms have plenty of fresh air by keeping windows and doors open
- in indoor spaces, follow advice on wearing face coverings
The size and circumstance of the premises will determine the maximum number of people that can be accommodated while also facilitating social distancing. In defining the number of people that can reasonably follow 2 metres distancing (or 1 metre with risk mitigation), the total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas should be taken into account (e.g. entrances, exits) and where possible alternative or one-way routes introduced.
Centre managers should also consider what changes might be needed to enable safe access to the building. These may include:
Making use of multiple exit and entry points: to introduce a one-way flow in and out of the premises, with appropriate floor markings or signage. Any changes to entrances, exits and queues should take into account the need to make reasonable adjustments for those who need them, such as people with disabilities.
Managing the arrival and departure times of different group so as to reduce the pressure at exits and entrances.
Queue management: the flow of groups in and out of the premises should be carefully controlled to reduce the risk of congestion. It may be necessary to introduce socially distanced queuing systems.
Centre managers should make users aware of, and encouraging compliance with, limits on gatherings.
Further guidance on how to manage visitors and customers can be found in the BEIS guidance on workplaces.
Individual businesses or venues should consider the cumulative impact of multiple events and activities happening at the same time in the same venue, or in a small area.
This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying additional mitigations. These could include:
- Further lowering capacity – even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue.
- Staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.
- Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues.
- Advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.
- There is separate guidance for local authorities on organised events.
- If appropriate, local authorities have powers under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) (England) Regulations 2020 to close venues, prohibit events and restrict access to public places should there be a serious and imminent threat to public health.
2b: Hygiene and face coverings
On entering and leaving a community facility everyone, including staff, should be asked to wash their hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds using soap and water or to use hand sanitiser if hand washing facilities are not available.
In England, face coverings are currently required by law to be worn in the following settings: shops, supermarkets, indoor transport hubs, indoor shopping centres, community facilities, banks, building societies, post offices and on public transport.
On entering a community facility users will be required to wear a face covering, and will be required to keep it on, unless covered under a ‘reasonable excuse’ for example, if they have a health or disability reason to not wear one. For a full list please refer to guidance on wearing face coverings.
Face coverings are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main confirmed sources of transmission of virus that causes coronavirus infection (COVID-19).
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you and your household should isolate at home; wearing a face covering does not change this.
Face coverings do not replace social distancing. Even if a face covering is used, staff and users of the space should continue to wash hands regularly and maintain social distancing. If users of the space choose to wear one, it is important to use face coverings properly and thoroughly wash hands before putting them on and taking them off.
Please note, a face covering is not the same as the surgical masks or respirators used by healthcare and other workers as part of personal protective equipment. These should continue to be reserved for those who need them to protect against risks in their workplace, such as health and care workers, and those in industrial settings, like those exposed to dust hazards.
Face coverings are not required for children under the age of 11 or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly – see a list of individuals this might apply to.
You should be prepared to remove your face covering if asked to do so by police officers and staff for the purposes of identification.
Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.
Those operating close contact services in a community facility, including hairdressing, any treatments on the face such as eyebrow threading or make-up application, will be required by law to wear a face covering that covers a person’s nose and mouth when providing these services.
2c: Clinically extremely vulnerable people
Anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will have received a letter (a formal NHS notification) to inform them of this. They may have been advised to shield in the past.
Clinically extremely vulnerable people can attend community facilities. They are advised to take extra precautions, including minimising close contact with others, to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus and should follow the guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable. They may wish to participate remotely if possible.
Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to inform those organising events and activities that they will be attending. If you become aware that someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will be attending an event or activity that you are responsible for, you should:
- give the option of remote participation where this is possible
- remind attendees that some people are more vulnerable than others
- ensure other people are aware if clinically extremely vulnerable people are attending, and of their need to minimise close contact, especially in larger groups
Public toilets, portable toilets and toilets inside premises should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Steps that will usually be needed:
Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and to avoid touching your face, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
Consider the use of social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form, and the adoption of a limited entry approach, with one in, one out (whilst avoiding the creation of additional bottlenecks).
To enable good hand hygiene consider making hand sanitiser available on entry to toilets where safe and practical, and ensure suitable handwashing facilities including running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying (either paper towels or hand driers) are available.
Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage. Use normal cleaning products, paying attention to frequently hand touched surfaces, and consider use of disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.
Keep the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open where appropriate.
Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets and larger toilet blocks.
Putting up a visible cleaning schedule can keep it up to date and visible.
Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.
All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes – but is not limited to – refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission – particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission. We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible. You should take similar steps to prevent other close contact activities - such as communal dancing.
2f: Test and Trace (collecting customer data)
The opening up of the economy and public services is reliant on NHS Test and Trace being used to minimise transmission of the virus.
The rules on what you need to do when a group enters your venue have changed. You must ask every customer or visitor to scan the NHS QR code using their NHS COVID-19 app or provide their name and contact details, not just a lead member of the group. This is to ensure everyone receives the necessary public health advice in a timely manner.
Organisations in designated sectors must:
- Ask every member of a party of customers or visitors to provide their name and contact details. (This is not necessary where an individual scans a QR code.)
- Keep a record of all staff working on their premises and shift times on a given day and their contact details.
- Keep these records of customers, visitors and staff for 21 days and provide data to NHS Test and Trace if requested.
- Display an official NHS QR code poster so that customers and visitors can ‘check in’ using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details.
- Have a system in place whereby you can collect contact detail information and store it safely and securely for those who do not have access to a smartphone.
- Adhere to General Data Protection Regulations.
Community centres and village halls must collect contact information for all activities and events taking place within the venue. This should be collected by the person who hires the space. The venue must display an official NHS QR code poster which can be used for every activity that takes place there. They must also offer a system which does not require individuals to own an electronic device.
Any designated venue that is found not to be compliant with these regulations will be subject to financial penalties; starting at £1,000 - (or £500) if that amount is paid before the end of the period of 14 days following the date of the notice) - and rising up to £10,000 upon repeat offences.
It is vital that relevant venues comply with these regulations to help keep people safe, and to keep businesses open.
Designated venues will need to keep records of customers, visitors and staff for a period of 21 days and make them available when requested by NHS Test and Trace or local public health officials to help contain clusters or outbreaks.
You can find out more about these requirements.
2g: Travel and parking
Car parks are permitted to be open and managers of premises and councils should consider practical measures such as changing the car park layout to help people socially distance. Decisions to reopen car parks are to be made locally.
Face coverings are now mandatory on public transport, apart from those who meet the exceptions. Guidance on social distancing relevant to transport, parking and the public realm can be found below.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer public places – urban centres and green spaces
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer travel guidance for passengers
2h: Food and drink
From Step 3, on 17 May, food and drink can be provided by a venue or caterer, whether indoors or outdoors. You may also provide your own food and drink but you should ensure actions are taken to reduce the risk of transmission.
When consuming food and drink, you should remain seated and take steps to minimise any risk of infection. You should not touch communal or shared objects, or handle items other than your own (for example, avoid the use of shared cutlery, dishes or service sheets).
For more information on providing food and drink, including important considerations on when table service is required, you should refer to the hospitality guidance.
Encourage contactless payments. Where this is not an option, cash should be collected in a container that is kept in one place and handled by one individual, as opposed to being passed around.
2j: Singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments
COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact. Singing, playing some musical instruments, shouting and physical activity increases the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols.
Where singing takes place, people should continue to follow the social distancing rules and follow the principles of safer singing and performing arts guidance.
Indoors: a group of up to 6 singers will be allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance with social distancing being maintained at all times. Indoor communal singing should not take place.
Outdoors: singing is permitted outdoors in a group of up to 30.
Singing can also take place in multiple groups of 30 outdoors provided it is organised as a permitted organised gathering and follows the guidelines set out in the events guidance for local authorities. Each group must adhere to the legal gathering limits and be kept separate for the duration of the activity. For further information, please see the section on permitted organised activities.
- where music plays a big part in the activity or event in the community space, and recordings are available, we suggest you consider using these as an alternative to live singing or performing
- instruments should be cleaned thoroughly before and after use
- performers should be positioned in a way that avoids face-to-face performance, as far as possible
- limit the duration of any singing, as far as possible
- improve ventilation to ensure plenty of fresh air whenever possible, including opening windows
- ensuring there is a gap of at least 2 metres between any performers and the audience. Further mitigations like screens or other barriers between performers and the audience may also be considered
- if the activity or event takes place inside, the audience should not participate in any activity that can create aerosols, including communal singing, shouting and chanting
3. Permitted activities in multi-use community facilities: signposting to relevant guidance
Community facilities such as community centres and village halls are used for a wide range of local activities and services – from childcare provision to hosting social and recreational clubs.
Those organising activities in multi-use community facilities should follow wider guidance on this page on making premises COVID-secure.
From Step 3 – on 17 May – up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors, and up to 6 people or 2 households will be able to meet indoors. You must not interact with anyone outside of these numbers unless an exemption applies. A household can include a linked support bubble, where eligible.
When organising group activities in community spaces, you should check first whether your activity has a specific gathering exemption (listed below). If it doesn’t, you will need to follow the guidance for a permitted organised gathering which is on this page.
The police can enforce the limits on gatherings outlined on this page. These include fines (fixed penalty notices) of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.
All organisers of permitted activities should follow the wider guidance in section 2 above.
Permitted organised gatherings
From 17 May, larger gatherings exceeding the social contact limits may take place providing certain conditions are met. This may enable certain social gatherings such as informal classes, activities, and events (subject to the capacity caps on events) to go ahead.
These gatherings must be organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation.
The organiser must take reasonable steps to ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted – up to 6 people or 2 households indoors and up to 30 people outdoors – (unless another exemption exists, such as for organised sport or exercise, supervised activities for children or a significant life event).
Activities which are exempt from social group limits or which have different group limits include:
- support groups
- childcare provided by a person who is registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006 or supervised activities for children
- education or training
- providing essential voluntary services or public support services, including digital access to public services, medical treatment, the provision of food bank or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation services or support in an emergency
- voting, counting of votes or activities ancillary to voting or the counting of votes in an election or referendum
See full guidance on what you can and cannot do for a list of activities with legal exemptions from the social contact limits.
Those managing community facilities, and those using community facilities for the following activities, should take account of the relevant guidance below:
3a. Support groups
Support groups can take place in gatherings of up to 30 (subject to capacity) in a COVID-19 secure community facility if organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings.
Examples include support to:
- victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
- those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
- those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable (including those with a mental health condition)
- those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
- those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
- those who have suffered bereavement
- vulnerable young people, including to enable them to meet youth workers
The limit of 30 does not include children under 5 who are accompanying a parent or guardian. Where a person has a clear and formal role (paid or voluntary) to run the group or help it operate, rather than only attending as a member of the group to obtain support, they do not have to be counted as part of the gatherings limit.
People who are clinically extremely vulnerable are able to attend support groups. They may wish to participate remotely if possible but, if they do choose to attend, should inform those organising the event. They are advised to take extra precautions, including minimising close contact with others, to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus and should follow the guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
Those organising and attending support groups should continue to socially distance from anyone they do not live with or who is not in their support bubble whilst at the support group, and to follow the government’s advice on stopping the spread of COVID-19. COVID-secure principles, including social distancing requirements and wider guidance on this page should continue to apply in support groups settings.
Those organising support groups should follow the wider guidance in section 2 above.
3b: Early years and youth provision
Community facilities which serve as premises for early years provision, childcare and youth facilities should follow the relevant guidance:
- Registered early years providers caring for children under the age of 5 should refer to the guidance for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Providers operating in a community facility should also follow government guidance on Implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.
- Providers of activities and provisions for children and young people (between the ages of 5-18 and youth groups up to the age of 25) and should implement the protective measures for out-of-school setting guidance.
- Providers of youth services and activities should also refer to the National Youth Agency’s guidance for managing youth sector spaces and activities during COVID-19 as well as their accompanying tools and resources to support safe service provision.
- Providers of before or after school clubs, and other out-of-school activities operating within a community facility should also follow the protective measure for out of school settings guidance. The guidance has been updated to include specific content on what measures providers should put in place to minimise mixing between different groups of children, and to reduce the risk of infection and transmission of the virus for children, staff and parents who attends these facilities.
Where possible, those attending a community facility for early years provision, childcare and youth facilities should practice social distancing in line with the government’s social distancing guidance and to observe any mitigating interventions being implemented by the facilities manager. Parents and carers are encouraged to limit the number of settings their children attend as far as possible, and to ensure their children attend the same setting consistently.
Parent and child groups
Parent and child groups can take place with up to 30 people and children under 5. Anyone working or volunteering as part of the group, such as a group leader, is not counted in this number.
The groups can take place indoors as well as outdoors (subject to capacity) in a COVID-19 secure community facility.
They must be for the benefit of children aged under 5 and organised by a business, charity or public body.
Those organising parent and child groups should follow the wider guidance in section 2 above and the protective measures set out in the Actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as keeping a record of all visitors to the setting.
Groups and activities should take place separately from areas being used at the same time by registered children attending an Ofsted registered setting and any rooms used by these groups are cleaned after each use.
Where singing is to take place indoors, no more than 6 adults in the room, including the group leader, should sing along with children aged under 5.
Singing should be limited to the same 6 adults for the duration of the group session. Good ventilation with fresh air should be maintained throughout the session. There is additional guidance that should be followed in the principles of safer singing and performing arts guidance.
Outdoor singing is permitted in groups of up to 30. This number includes participants of all ages.
3c: Voluntary sector and other service provision
Community facilities are currently able to open for essential voluntary activities and urgent public services. Organisers should follow wider guidance on this page, including advice on social distancing and reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
3d: Recreation, leisure and social gatherings
COVID-secure community facilities can hold social events, provided they follow limits on social gatherings. From Step 3 – on 17 May – this means up to 30 people can meet outdoors, and up to 6 people or one other household indoors. Minimise the number of people you meet within a short period of time to limit the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19).
Activities which are exempt from these limits or which have different group limits are listed above.
3e: Retail and shop facilities
See the guidance relevant to shops and retail settings, including indoor markets, which may also apply to some activities in community facilities.
3f: Places of worship
See the guidance for places of worship and faith activity.
3g: Office spaces
Where community facilities feature office space, see the relevant guidance for office spaces.
3h: Outdoor space
Where community centres feature outdoor space, see the guidance for safe use of outdoor public spaces.
Where the enforcing authority, such as the HSE or your local authority, identifies employers and building operators who are not taking action to comply with the relevant public health legislation and guidance to control public health risks, they are empowered to take a range of actions to improve control of workplace risks. For example, this would cover employers and building operators not taking appropriate action to ensure social distancing, where possible.
Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law.
The actions the enforcing authority can take include the provision of specific advice to employers and building operators to support them to achieve the required standard, through to issuing enforcement notices to help secure improvements. Serious breaches and failure to comply with enforcement notices can constitute a criminal offence, with serious fines and even imprisonment for up to 2 years. There is also a wider system of enforcement, which includes specific obligations and conditions for licensed premises.
Employers and building operators are expected to respond to any advice or notices issued by enforcing authorities rapidly and are required to do so within any timescales imposed by the enforcing authorities. The vast majority of employers and building operators are responsible and will join with the UK’s fight against COVID-19 by working with the government and their sector bodies to protect their workers and the public. However, inspectors are carrying out compliance checks nationwide to ensure that employers and building operators are taking the necessary steps.