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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-places-of-worship-during-the-pandemic-from-4-july/celebrating-religious-festivals-during-coronavirus-covid-19
This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide and used alongside the guidance for the safe use of places of worship.
The UK is currently experiencing a public health emergency as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and restrictions continue to remain in place across the country
COVID-19 response - Spring 2021
The government has published ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. This explains how restrictions will be eased over time, 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 data, not dates, and the four tests set out in the roadmap. A week’s notice will be provided before any step is taken.
On 12 April, some of the rules on what you can and cannot do changed. However, many restrictions remain in place. Find out what you can and cannot do.
For further information, including the key changes involved in each of the Steps that apply for Places of Worship and faith communities, please refer to the guidance for the safe use of places of worship.
We recognise that detailed government guidance may be difficult to apply to unique situations, events or places. There are some key principles that can help us make decisions that ensure we take part in special religious services and cultural gatherings safely.
Wherever possible, we recommend the use of digital technology to record and transmit or livestream acts of worship that can be joined by the community virtually and limiting any in-person gathering.
We know that it might be disappointing to be unable to celebrate significant moments in the same ways as we usually would, but it’s important to remember that the virus is still with us, and we need to do all we can to protect ourselves and our family and friends.
Celebrating religious festivals in your home or with family
During the current restrictions, you should not be mixing in the home or indoors with anyone that is not part of your household or support bubble.
A household is a person or a group of people who live together in the same accommodation.
A support bubble is a support network which links 2 households. You have to meet certain eligibility rules to form a support bubble and therefore, not everyone will be able to form one. See further information on support bubbles.
You can meet up outdoors, including in private gardens, with friends and family you do not live with, either:
- in a group of up to 6 from any number of households (children of all ages count towards the limit of 6) or
- in a group of any size from up to two households (a ‘household’ can include a linked support bubble, if eligible)
When celebrating religious festivals, you should ensure you consider the risks around the transmission of the virus. Those risks increase whenever different households mix.
Celebrating religious festivals at your place of worship
Communal worship or prayer can be attended by as many people as the place of worship can safely accommodate, in a way which complies with COVID-19 secure guidance and the law. This means that people from different households (or support bubbles) must not mix when participating in communal worship.
This guidance highlights the key principles for people attending religious festivals and events, and acts of worship that take place both indoors and outdoors within the grounds of a place of worship.
The principles set out should be used alongside the guidance for the safe use of places of worship.
The key principles for those visiting a place of worship to celebrate a religious festival include:
- Follow the mitigations that places of worship have put in place, for example using booking systems, changes to entrances and exits and staggered arrivals.
- Consider taking part in any services that are broadcast online instead, to avoid large gatherings, especially for those who need to stay at home or are able to mark the event at home.
- You must follow the general guidance for gatherings at each stage of the Roadmap.
- Adhere to social distancing, meaning you should stay 2 metres apart from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place if you cannot stay 2 metres apart.
- You must wear a face covering (unless you are exempt) when visiting a a place of worship. This is the law. This also applies to many other indoor settings such as shops and public transport.
- You should provide your contact details to the place of worship to support the NHS Test and Trace service designed to track and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This can be done through the NHS Test and Trace App.
- Make sure only you touch your own belongings, for example shoes if removed.
- Take home any personal items brought in to aid worship, such as a prayer mat, prayer beads, or any ritual items associated with the festival.
- Where food or drink (‘consumables’) are essential to the act of worship, they can be used. However the sharing of food should be avoided, as should the use of communal vessels
- People should leave promptly after prayers/worship and should not mingle with anyone who is not in their household or support bubble following a service.
Key principles that venue managers should follow in a places of worship include, but not limited to:
- Where possible, continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Remove communal resources such as prayer mats or prayer books. Single use alternatives should be removed after use and disposed of by the worshipper.
- Speak into a microphone to lead devotions or sermons to avoid shouting, which can increase the risk of aerosol transmission. Avoid sharing microphones between different speakers.
In addition, when an event or act of worship is taking place outdoors in the grounds of a place of worship you must not mingle in groups larger than 6, except for where everyone present is from the same 2 households. A household can include a linked support bubble, if eligible. You should maintain strict social distancing from other groups and households at all times.
When communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing. You should follow the principles of safer singing and Performing Arts guidance. The congregation cannot join in with singing indoors.
When planning to host a religious festival, event or act of worship in a place or worship or its grounds, the venue manager should follow the steps set out in the guidance for the safe use of places of worship. Venue managers should take all possible steps to secure the safety of the public, including, but not limited to:
- A risk assessment must be conducted and COVID-19 Secure measures implemented.
- The number of people who are able to gather will therefore be dependent on the size of the space available.
- A risk assessment should also consider the security of worshippers. This may require involving local partners such as the police.
People who are symptomatic
Self-isolate if you have coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms
Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 must self-isolate at home. Self-isolation means you must stay at home at all times and not have contact with other people, except in very limited circumstances, for example to seek medical assistance. Anyone self-isolating should not attend a place of worship or grounds of an event (even if they remain in their vehicle throughout) and should not prepare food for others. Anyone self-isolating could consider any other available ways to mark the event, such as watching it online.
If you or someone you’re with is clinically extremely vulnerable
There is separate guidance for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and those around them should also be mindful of this.
Singing, chanting and the use of musical instruments in a place of worship
We know that singing and music are important elements of many religious festive celebrations. However, COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact. Singing, playing some musical instruments, shouting and physical activity increase the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols.
Where singing takes please, you should follow the principles of safer singing.
Indoors at a place of worship: Small groups of singers are allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance, only where essential to an act of communal worship. This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place.
Outdoors, in the grounds or the outside space of a place of worship: When communal worship takes place in the outside space of a place of worship, the congregation may join in with singing, and should follow the principles set out in the Performing Arts guidance. This includes ensuring that congregation members follow social distancing rules. Social contact limits apply, meaning that participating groups must not mingle. Communal singing in other outdoor spaces should not take place.
For further information, including guidance on singing in other settings or outside of communal worship, please refer to the Performing Arts guidance.
Gathering in other public or private outdoor places
You can meet outdoors either in a group of 6 (from any number of households), or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible). This includes private outdoor spaces, such as gardens, and other outdoor public places and venues that remain open.
Some outdoor events, organised by a business, charitable organisation, sporting and public body, can take place at Step 2.
For further information, including a list of the types of events that are permitted at each Step, please refer to the organised events guidance.