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Christmas guidance released on church-going and carol services

by Cara Bentley

The Government has released guidance for England for the Christmas period about how to limit coronavirus infection, allowing outdoor carol services and door-to-door carolling. 

It includes advice about social gatherings, attending pubs and celebrating New Year, as well as church attendance and the rules around carolling.

The Government has said: “From 2nd December, you can attend places of worship in all tiers. The rules on who you can meet with whilst at places of worship will depend on your tier.

“Between 23rd and 27th December, you may also attend a place of worship with members of your Christmas bubble. This applies in all tiers.”

Regarding singing, the Government has reminded people that “Covid-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact. Singing, shouting and physical activity increases the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols.

“If singing does take place, steps should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission, including limiting the number of people participating as far as possible.”

Carol singing or carol services can take place if all attendees follow advice in the suggested principles of safer singing which was released last week.

Those performing or rehearsing professionally or are part of an activity for under 18s are not limited in number and do not have to adhere to gathering limits.

For adult amateur performances and rehearsals, the Government is advising organisations, such as churches, to consider whether to proceed “given the wider health context in your area and the context of your participants, particularly if vulnerable individuals are involved.”

Churches that do hold carols services will be subject to local gathering limits. This means that if more than one group of six (in Tier 1) or household (in Tier 2 or 3) is performing or rehearsing indoors, they must not interact, ‘mingle’ or otherwise socialise together. Social distancing between groups or households must be maintained at all times, including when entering or leaving the building or in any breaks.

Direction can continue to take place during the activity, such as between a conductor and a group, but other physical and social interaction is prohibited.

Indoor carol services

Professional and amateur choirs may perform in any indoor venue permitted to open but the congregation should not participate in any activity indoors that can create aerosols, including singing, shouting and chanting. Particular attention should be paid to how participants can arrive and leave the site safely while maintaining social distancing.

Outdoor carol services

Professional and amateur choirs may perform outdoors in any venue permitted to open.

A church congregation may join in with singing outdoors but they should follow social distancing of 2m and event organisers should ensure this is maintained. Outdoor attendees should also remain seated where possible. The maximum number of people present should take into account the area of the outdoor space.

Door-to-door carol singing can take place in groups of no more than six. If there are more than six people, each ‘group’ of six must not interact, ‘mingle’ or otherwise socialise. Carollers should maintain at least 2m distance from anyone they do not live with and the threshold of anyone’s front door.

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