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 working along its own roadmap for reducing restrictions and our roadmap is based on that. Thankfully it is nearing an end. It is important to note that the governments’ roadmaps are as yet silent on what amount of social distancing and facemasks are going to be needed in the final 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, and even the 21 June date is now in question.

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 country is now following the ‘Rule of 6’ indoors. Guidance for this period can be found here.

A new one page summary of all current guidance is available here

Talk by Phil Barnes on ventilation and Covid safety in 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. Discussions are underway with one of the churches to try and accept reduced distancing based on the England and Wales guidance.

Wales

Wales has now moved down to Alert Level 3. This is more permissive than England as it allows 15 to meet indoors although it doesn’t say you have to. Guidance for Wales can be found here.

Ireland

Ringing is returning to towers in Ireland based on local interpretation of government guidance.


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

There has been no change to guidance this week. Engand is in Stage 3 with the Rule of Six applying indoors.

Mindful of there being a lot of guidance and how things have changed in recent months, we have prepared a one page summary that considers each of the guidance topics and mitigation measures (facemasks, hand sanitiser, rope sharing, rule on numbers, length of time, etc), explains the rationale for it, and what it means for ringing in practice.

It is specific to England but Welsh and Scottish versions will be prepared.

There has been no change to guidance this week. Engand is in Stage 3 with the Rule of Six applying indoors.

Our guidance for this period suggests a limit of 45 minutes subject to 1m+ social distancing rules, hand sanitising, face coverings, lateral flow tests in certain circumstances, and good ventilation. Detailed guidance is here and no longer needs to be considered as draft.

Many have questioned whether the wearing of facemasks is necessary when whole bands have received their second jab. Wearing of facemasks in places of worship in England at least is the law. Government guidance on the wearing of facemasks can be found here (and it refers to other countries). It explicitly includes places of worship.

The exemption to the law most likely to be claimed by ringers is “if you are undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so.”

Bear in mind that wearing a facemask is for the protection of others, particularly the unvaccinated. Young ringers in particular will not have had the benefit of vaccination.

We have published our paper explaining the rationale for using CO2 monitoring as a way of determining whether towers are adequately ventilated and hence remain a safe space should virus levels rise again in the autumn. We have plenty of time to plan for this, so this will start the discussion and enable some towers to conduct some investigations. The paper, written by Dr David Pouncey, is included with the Guidance Notes here.

Meanwhile the England roadmap is approaching the next key milestone of 17 May when the Rule of Six applies indoors. Before then ringing is limited to handbell ringing outdoors, and young ringers’ groups who can ring following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance (see detail left).

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables more ringing and our guidance suggest a limit of 45 minutes subject to 1m+ social distancing rules, hand sanitising, face coverings, lateral flow tests in certain circumstances, and good ventilation. Detailed draft guidance is here.

Guidance for ringers to assess their own risks has been updated for the current situation with the virus in the community and levels of vaccination. The guidance note “Is it appropriate for an individual to ring” should be read in conjunction with the draft 17 May guidance.

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)

The next release of lockdown restrictions in Wales has been accellerated to 3 May, when 15 are allowed to meet indoors. The guidance for England published in draft form last week as been adapted and agreed with the Church in Wales. It is published here.

The England roadmap is approaching the next key milestone of 17 May when the Rule of Six applies indoors. Before then ringing is limited to handbell ringing outdoors, and young ringers’ groups who can ring following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance (see detail left).

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables more ringing and our guidance suggest a limit of 45 minutes subject to 1m+ social distancing rules, hand sanitising, face coverings, lateral flow tests in certain circumstances, and good ventilation. Detailed draft guidance is here.

Guidance for ringers to assess their own risks has been updated for the current situation with the virus in the community and levels of vaccination. The guidance note “Is it appropriate for an individual to ring” should be read in conjunction with the draft 17 May guidance.

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)

The England roadmap is approaching the next key milestone of 17 May when the Rule of Six applies indoors. Before then ringing is limited to handbell ringing outdoors, and young ringers’ groups who can ring following the ‘out of school settings’ guidance (see detail left).

Stage 3 – no earlier than 17 May

Rule of six indoors enables more ringing and our guidance suggest a limit of 45 minutes subject to 1m+ social distancing rules, hand sanitising, face coverings, lateral flow tests, and good ventilation. Detailed draft guidance is here.

Guidance for ringers to assess their own risks has been updated for the current situation with the virus in the community and levels of vaccination. The guidance note “Is it appropriate for an individual to ring” should be read in conjunction with the draft 17 May guidance.

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)

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.

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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