Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Standing Guidance

The guidance for ringing in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland is considered separately here in line with different national rules and guidance from the respective Churches. With the latest level of lockdowns the guidance in each country is very similar. Each country is publishing its roadmap for reducing restrictions and we have developed our roadmap based on that. However the governments’ roadmaps are as yet silent on what amount of social distancing and facemasks are going to be needed in the latter stages and even beyond the full lockdown release. For England for instance, we know there are a number of government teams working on those questions (social distancing and facemasks) and they are not due to report until the end of each roadmap period.

We appreciate this makes it difficult to plan for things such as wedding ringing in early summer, when a lot of postponed weddings are likely to happen. We do not have a crystal ball but are cautiously optimistic that after 21 June (England) wedding ringing will be fine, and it might be possible in the ‘Rule of 6 indoors’ period before that.

England

Attending a Place of Worship is specifically allowed by law as a ‘reasonable excuse’ provided it is to worship alone or as a household group (the Church of England’s guidance can be found here). The ringing of a single bell or Ellacombe chime (or bells in the case of a ringing household) as part of an act of worship is not prohibited, and if you think it is important enough for a bell or bells to be heard in your community, and you can do it without putting yourselves or others at risk, then that is your decision to make.

The next key date in the England roadmap is 17 May when the country moves to ‘Rule of 6’ indoors. We are working on guidance for this period and expect to be able to ring bells for longer periods than last summer, particularly in well-ventilated towers.

Scotland

In Scotland places of worship have now reopened with strict 2m social distancing, enabling ringing on that basis where possible, and subject to any individual circumstances or your church. The move to ‘stay local’ now should enable more travel to towers within the local authority area.

Wales

Wales is in Alert Level 4. This is very similar to the lockdown in England with Places of Worship allowed to remain open but a general Stay at Home requirement. Ringing guidance is as for England.

Ireland

Both jurisdictions are on the severest lockdown level, thus precluding ringing.


The Central Council is not itself responsible for the implementation of these guidance notes, and the spirit underpinning all your decision making should be one of reasonableness and responsibility, taking into account the public health messaging from local and national leaders at all times, and in consultation with Chapters/PCCs, incumbents and churchwardens.

This guidance is being constantly updated to keep in line with any changes in the Church’s own guidance and policies, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This website will be updated weekly on a Friday, whether or not there is a change in guidance, unless a more urgent update is necessary. Any requests for clarification can be sent to president@cccbr.org.uk – it will get looked at as soon as possible. 

Guidance Notes

These documents are intended to be succinct and easily readable. They do not contain all the detail that could be put in them but instead focus on the key issues.

Further detail about tower safety and risk assessments can be found on the Tower Operation tab here:
https://cccbr.org.uk/resources/stewardship-and-management/

Updates

The England roadmap is approaching the next key milestone of 12 April when young ringers groups can start ringing. Detailed guidance is now available in Guidance Notes section. The rest of the roadmap remains as follows:

Stage 1 – current situation

Rule of six outdoors benefits handbell ringing (up to 15 for young people)

Stage 2 – 12 April

Young ringers groups possible following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance (see detail left)

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables ringing subject to social distancing rules. The Council is currently working on a major revision of guidance in advance of this although don’t expect it until relatively close to the date.

Stage 4 – no earlier than 21 June

All legal limits removed
(it remains to be seen whether facemasks will still be suggested or mandated – that is not absolutely clear yet)

There is no change in guidance this week. Easter Sunday ringing guidance is as published on 19 March below, and the general roadmap is as per the 12 March update.

We are being asked about specifics of the young ringers guidance after for 12 April onwards. As there is still time for this to change and there has been no specific goernment guidance on social distancing, we are currently agreeing guidance with the Church of England based on what we believe will be the state of play. We will update that next Friday. The ‘Ringing for children’s groups’ guidance note has been removed pending this amendment.

Many incumbents are asking if some bells can be rung as part of their church or cathedral’s Easter celebrations, and bellringers are also keen to play part. The Central Council believes that bells are an important part of the act of worship, particularly on Easter Sunday. Unlike at Christmas, UK and Irish Governments have not introduced any relaxations of the rules on meeting indoors for Easter. Those rules are readily available and well understood.

We have established guidance on reducing the risk of ringing both to ourselves and each other, and most recently published our latest thinking on virus transmission and ventilation in ringing chambers, with chancel crossings at one end of the risk scale and small airless rooms at the other. We recommend considering all these factors when decided how many bells can be rung and for how long, in consultation with the incumbent, churchwardens or Cathedral Chapters.

One or more bells ringing on Easter Sunday will surely be appreciated by our churches and communities.

For general guidance on the roadmap for unlocking ringing see the 12th March update.

An article providing our latest thinking on virus transmission in towers, and considerations regarding vaccination and ventilation has been added to the Guidance Notes.

Otherwise there is no change to the guidance that was issued on 26th February, and we do not as yet have any specific guidance regarding Easter Sunday.

In England, the stages of unlocking have the following implications:

Stage 1 – starts 29 March

Rule of six outdoors will benefit handbell ringing (up to 15 for young people)

Stage 2 – no earlier than 12 April

Young ringers groups possible following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance (expect social distancing restrictions)

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables ringing subject to social distancing rules to be confirmed (could still be 2m)

Stage 4 – no earlier than 21 June

All legal limits removed
(it remains to be seen whether facemasks will still be suggested or mandated – that is not absolutely clear yet, or whether some level of social distancing will still be required)

During any of these stages, ringers may still be cautious as not all ringers will be vaccinated, particularly young people. There is still risk of transmission and infection for us to be aware of; vaccination is not a passport.

Scotland is looking to remove all legal limits on social contact on 21 June provided strict conditions are met. On the plus side from 15 March some handbell ringers could take advantage of being able to meet outdoors in pairs of households.

Neither Wales nor Ireland have yet published lockdown roadmaps with dates in.

We are being asked about ringing for Easter and will clarify guidance when we have more from the Church of England Recovery Group.

On Monday 22 February, the UK Government published a roadmap for exiting lockdown over the coming months, detailing how and when restrictions will be eased if everything goes to plan. It is a welcome and cautious framework for a return to normality. The roadmap provides us with an opportunity for ringing to return over the coming months.

While there is still detail to be studied, and every chance of change, all indications are that ringing in England at least will come out of lockdown as follows:

Stage 1 – starts 29 March

Rule of six outdoors will benefit handbell ringing (up to 15 for young people)

Stage 2 – no earlier than 12 April

Young ringers groups possible following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables ringing subject to social distancing rules to be confirmed (could still be 2m)

Stage 4 – no earlier than 21 June

All legal limits removed
(it remains to be seen whether facemasks will still be suggested or mandated – that is not absolutely clear yet)

During any of these stages, ringers may still be cautious as not all ringers will be vaccinated, particularly young people. There is still risk of transmission and infection for us to be aware of; vaccination is not a passport. An article will be published in next week’s Ringing World with updated analysis of transmission in ringing chambers and the benefits of ventilation. This will just be for guidance though to be interpreted in accordance with local circumstances – the law will be the primary driver for what ringing is possible.

Yesterday’s announcement applies to England only, and so we continue to work closely with our contacts in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales to understand the situation here over the coming weeks. Scotland for instance has rule of six outdoors from 5 April and churches reopening for limited numbers from that date also. Then from 26 April at the earliest Scotland intends to go back to a “tiers” system of local restrictions.

This is the clearest we can be at the moment based on the information available, and after discussion with the Church of England Recovery Group this afternoon. It is a roadmap, with more detail to be considered as we move forward. We appreciate ringers are all now starting to plan ringing events from late June onwards, and being asked whether bells will be available for weddings, etc. The main word of caution is that the Government is at pains to stress that these dates are the earliest possible, so commitments made for shortly after those deadlines should be made with that in mind.

It does now feel like the end of an incredibly difficult year for ringing is in sight. Thank you for your ongoing trust and support.

There is no change to any guidance this week, however next week’s round of government updates on a road map may give more indication of when some ringing can resume.

Guidance has been updated to remove all guidance that was based on Tiers and replace that with simple intepretation of lockdown conditions.

England and Scotland have entered lockdown again. In England, Places of Worship remain open but in Scotland they will be closed from Friday 8th.

The exact guidance for ringing will be published at the end of the week.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who chairs the Church of England’s Covid Recovery Group, said the following this evening:

“The Government has chosen not to suspend public worship in England at this time and we will continue to follow the guidance and ensure that churches remain as safe as possible. The Government guidance on the safe use of places of worship makes clear that those attending a place of worship must not mingle with anyone outside their household or support bubble.

“However, some may feel that it is currently better not to attend in person, and there will be parishes which decide to offer only digital services for the time-being. Clergy who have concerns, and others who are shielding, should take particular care and stay at home.

I would urge everyone in our churches to pray for those on the front line in our public services – the NHS and those working in social care, for schools and many others on whom we depend; and for parents and carers of children at this anxious and stressful time.

“There is hope. The vaccination programme is underway and, as Christians, we have a deeper hope in God that comforts us beyond fear itself. As we have been remembering this Christmas Season, even in the midst of our darkest fears, that hope brings light.”

The guidance for ringing for children’s groups has been updated in the light of the introduction of the new Tier 4.

Unfortunately the Government guidance that allows the running of activities for children in out-of-school settings specifically excludes Tier 4, so young ringers groups can only operate in Tiers 1-3.

Christmas guidance for England has changed following the Government’s scaling back of relaxations.

Tier 4 guidance added as in the table above.

The adoption of Tier 1 guidance in Tiers 2 and 3 should be for the most important services over Christmas only, at your discretion and based on local circumstances.

Christmas guidance for England is unchanged from the announcement made on 8th December.

The current guidance for ringing in Tier 1 will be adopted for towers in all three Tiers just for the five-day Christmas period – 23rd to 27th. That is to ring up to six bells, with 1m+ separation and using facemasks. The recommendation is to ring for 15 minutes but to assess your tower’s characteristics. Ventilation is key to reducing the risk of aerosol transmission. Note that bellringing guidance no longer has 72 or even a 48 hour recommended gap between sessions, but to maintain good ventilation and hand hygiene.

Review the Guidance Notes on this page to assess the risk of your own ringing chamber and for members of your band to assess their own personal risk. No doubt many ringers (especially those at special risk personally or in their family) will decide not to ring, just as many towers will lack sufficient ventilation to sufficiently mitigate risk even for this one-off occasion.

The Prime Minister and Chief Medical Officer are urging us to exercise caution and to “keep Christmas celebrations small, short and local to reduce these risks.” We can do that in our ringing of bells to celebrate Christmas – small, short and local.

The specific guidance on ringing for children’s groups has been added to the Guidance Notes. This covers groups of up to six children under 18 ringing together and can be done in Tiers 1-3 in England. Unfortunately it does not apply in Tier 4

The guidance for Northern Ireland has been replaced with guidance for all of Ireland.

There is no change to the guidance this week. Specific guidance on Northern Ireland has been added to the standing guidance by country.

New guidance has been published for ringing in various Tiers in England in advance of the end of the lockdown on 2nd December. Guidance has also been updated for the protection levels in Scotland, and for the situation in Wales where ringing is permitted subject to the Council’s guidance.

Bellringers in England have been asked to support the Church of England’s call to prayer during this month of lockdown by ringing a single bell at 6pm each day. The request came directly from Lambeth Palace, and has been repeated by many individual Bishops.

The Recovery Group is of the opinion that a single bell ringing is an act of individual prayer, and as such complies with their own guidance and that of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. 

Additional Guidance

  • The UK Government guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic can be found via this link
  • The Church of England guidance on Opening Cathedral and Church Buildings can be found via this link

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions were updated on 2nd October, removing questions the answers to which are now common knowledge, and adding in more recent concerned such as what to do in areas of increased lockdown and whether or not ringing on simulators is possible.

Additional Information

A detailed analysis from Dr Philip Barnes and Dr Andrew Kelso is available to download.

This document seeks to provide information and advice for ringers and those responsible for bell towers regarding Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and what issues ringers and church authorities should consider in responding to changes in Government guidance as we start to ease the current lockdown. It is focused on the situation in the Church of England, which is responsible for the vast majority of churches with bells hung for ringing. While the specific advice from leaders of other churches and in other countries may vary, the basic issues for ringers and ringing are the same wherever we ring.

Useful Links

The latest guidance from the Church of England is available on their website.

The latest guidance from the Church in Wales is available on their website

The latest guidance from the Scottish Episcopal Church is available on their website

The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy

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