Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Standing Guidance

The guidance for ringing in England, Scotland and Wales is now considered separately in line with different national rules and guidance from the respective Churches.

England

In each Tier, the wording from the Government’s “Covid Winter Plan” is presented followed by our guidance for bellringing:

Meeting friends and family

Tier 1: Medium alertTier 2: High alertTier 3: Very High alert
Maximum of six indoors or outdoors, other than single households or support bubbles.  No mixing of households indoors, apart from support bubbles. Maximum of six outdoors.  No mixing of households indoors, or most outdoor places, apart from support bubbles. Maximum of six in some outdoor public spaces (e.g. parks, sports courts, public gardens).  

Places of worship

Tier 1: Medium alertTier 2: High alertTier 3: Very High alert
Open, but cannot interact with more than six people.Open, but cannot interact with anyone outside household or support bubble.Open, but cannot interact with anyone outside household or support bubble.

Ringing guidance

Tier 1: Medium alertTier 2: High alertTier 3: Very High alert
Can ring up to six bells, maintaining social distance of 1m+ mitigations of face coverings and hand hygiene, provided tower affords good ventilation and subject to specific risk assessment.   Limit ringing to 15 minutes pending results of ventilation research.  

Rule of 6 applies to handbell ringing indoors and outdoors.
No tower bell ringing other than by members of the same household, or single bells or Ellacombe chimes (which would be unlimited in duration).  

Handbell ringing in any outdoor space including gardens for up to six people, socially distanced.
No tower bell ringing other than by members of the same household, or single bells or Ellacombe chimes (which would be unlimited in duration).  

Handbell ringing in any public outdoor space (could be a churchyard) for up to six people, socially distanced.

Wales

Bell ringing allowed in places of worship subject to:

  • Inclusion in the overall risk assessment for the place of worship
  • 2m social distancing between bell ringers unless they are in the same household (both the Church in Wales and Welsh Government are very strict on this)
  • Face coverings and hand hygiene
  • Limit ringing to 15 minutes pending results of ventilation research

Handbells allowed outdoors in public spaces subject to the overall guidance on social distancing and avoiding large gatherings. Handbells in gardens allowed for households and their extended household if they have one.

Scotland

Overall social distancing requirement between people (not ropes) of 2m. Individual Covid protection levels are interpreted for ringing as follows:

Protection
Level 0
Protection
Level 1
Protection
Level 2
Protection
Level 3
Protection
Level 4
No towersRinging permitted with social distancing and limiting duration to 15 minutes  
Handbell ringing outdoors for up to eight people from three different households  
Ringing permitted with social distancing and limiting duration to 15 minutes  
Handbell ringing outdoors for up to six people from two different households  
Ringing permitted with social distancing and limiting duration to 15 minutes.

Handbells as level 2  
No ringing as public worship has stopped.

Handbells as level 2  

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 Monday, 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

  • Reducing risk overall (PDF)
    This considers how long we ring for, how close together we get when ringing, and how generally to reduce the risk of infection when ringing
  • Considering the physical environment (PDF)
    All our towers are different, This gives some key things to think about, with ventilation being very important.
  • Individual risks (PDF)
    Some people are more at risk than others. This sets out the factors to consider not just for the risk to yourself but the risk you pose to others.
  • Process of return to ringing (PDF)
    A typical process for returning to ringing or considering what you are currently doing.

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

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. 

This update is specifically for England, and is responding to the lockdown that started on Thursday 5th November and lasts until 2nd December. 

The government in England is asking people to stay at home if at all possible. Churches are closed except for private prayer and broadcast worship. ‘Group bell ringing’ is specifically not permitted in a Place of Worship during this period. 

Detail can be found in this statement from MHCLG

However, the ringing of a single bell on Remembrance Sunday has been specifically agreed by the House of Bishops Recovery Group (with permission of the incumbent and churchwardens). The tolling of a single bell is a powerful symbol of remembrance understood by communities and will mean a great deal to many. Please be particularly aware of the risks associated with entering a tower and ringing on your own – make sure someone knows you are doing it and can watch for you. A muffle is not needed when tolling a single bell.

Following further discussions with the Church of England Recovery Group, there is no longer a blanket restriction on ringing in Tiers 2 and 3 in England.

See this news release.

Following the announcement on Monday October 12 of a new three-tier risk alert system for COVID-19 in England, we are considering the implications for ringing and will publish our opinion by the end of Friday 16th.

Although Places of Worship can remain open at all Tiers, at the ‘High’ and ‘Very High’ Tiers there should be no mixing between households (see Church of England guidance website).

The accompanying legislation for Tier 2 (the middle tier) says this:

Participation in gatherings indoors

No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 2 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place indoors.”

The accompanying legislation for Tier 3 (the top ‘Very High’ tier) says this:

Participation in gatherings indoors and in private dwellings

No person may participate in a gathering in the Tier 3 area which consists of two or more people, and takes place in a private dwelling or any indoor space.”

Tier 1, the lowest or ‘Medium’ level continues to apply the ‘Rule of Six’ indoors.

There is no change to the guidance this week but an article has been published here which explains the Central Council’s current roadmap for guidance, paving the way for more localised decision making. We are also undertaking a wholescale review of guidance documents.

From now on, guidance updates are going to be published on Mondays, which gives time to digest hgher-level guidance that is often published on Fridays.

The next guidance update will therefore be Monday 19th October.

Although there is no change in the guidance this week we are commenting on the increased lockdowns in certain parts of the United Kingdom.

All restrictions imposed by Governments override guidance either from our Churches or the Central Council. The UK’s ‘Rule of Six’ (in its various forms) for instance is a legal restriction aimed at reducing social contact, rather than guidance.

If (as in the North East of England at the end of September and parts of Lancashire shortly thereafter) no indoor mixing of different households is allowed, (“you must not meet with people who you do not live with in indoor settings, whether inside or outside of the affected local areas“) then it appears that it would prevent anyone other than members of the same household from ringing together. Detailed guidance says “You may attend a mosque, church, synagogue, temple or other place or worship for a service, but you must not mix with anyone you do not live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them).”

The position is unclear as it relies on a definition of ‘mixing’, although the UK Government’s intention is clearly to reduce social contact in non-essential settings, citing work and education as the only exemptions. It should be interpreted locally in consultation with your incumbent.

A full list of the places with increased lockdown, along with the specific conditions of lockdown, can be found here.

Elsewhere, if extra restrictions (but still allowing six to meet indoors) have been imposed where you live, then the transmission of Coronavirus is high, and the level of risk greater. The CCCBR’s guidelines do aim to be “Covid-Secure”, but you need to make a local risk assessment (focussing especially on the size and ventilation of your tower and the characteristics of your ringers) to decide if it is appropriate to ring – and it may well not be. Remember that the final decision rests with the Incumbent.

Finally, the Frequently Asked Questions have been refreshed to remove those which are now common knowledge and add in more recent concerns such as the implications of ringing in areas of increased lockdown.

There has been no change to guidance this week.

The Council’s small guidance team is pleased to welcome David Pouncey to the team. David is a recently retired GP who during a long career spent time dealing with epidemics in Africa, and most recently managing coronavirus patients. As well as taking a share of the workload, David will be specifically looking at the next phase of guidance.

David rings in Gloucestershire.

Dicussions are ongoing regarding the potential reduction of distance between ropes, although in view of the upsurge in Covid cases and the number of areas of the United Kingdom entering increasing states of lockdown there is extreme caution over reducing distancing for bellringing at the moment. 

The ‘rule of six’ is now in force in England, Scotland and Wales, albeit with regional variations. Places of worship have an exemption provided those in church stay in groups of six.  

The period of time between ringing sessions has been reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours. This is on the assumption that all hand hygiene guidance is being followed. 


We do not yet have the green light to reduce distance between ropes below current guidance, but it is under consideration on the basis that this will enable more towers (and ringers) to ring. The CofE Recovery Group is very sympathetic to the case but are consulting with others included MHCLG in the light of the upsurge in cases. 


The ‘rule of six’ is being implemented in England, Scotland and Wales, albeit with slight regional variations. Places of worship have an exemption but the extent of that is not yet clear and further details are awaited. Although this is unlikely to impact on tower bell ringing, if there is any conflict between guidance and the law, the law prevails. 

There has been no change to the guidance this week. Updated guidance to reduce distance between ropes to enable more towers to ring more bells has been submitted for approval. Note that ringing is still limited to 15 minutes but does not have to be for a service, provided it is with the permission of the incumbent. 

Guidance on the use of simulators is being written and will be available shortly.

There has been no change to the guidance this week.

There has been no change to the guidance this week.   

Following last week’s update on wearing face coverings for ringing (which is mandatory in churches in England and Scotland) the individual guidance notes have been updated to include references to face coverings. A number of people have enquired whether ringers who claim exemption from wearing a face covering can ring without them. It is our view that face coverings reduce the risk of transmission of the virus and therefore protect our fellow ringers, and hence anyone who is unable to wear a face covering should not ring.

Local lockdowns continue and may increase. The effect of these lockdowns on ringing is principally on handbell ringing in people’s gardens.

Guidance notes 2 and 4 have been amended slightly to clarify the 1.5m allowed separation for ropes which fall in a straight line, i.e. that the middle of three ropes which fall in a straight line should be 1.5m from the two adjacent ropes.

The only two things changed this week are that use of the word ‘facemask’ in this guidance has been replaced with the words ‘face coverings’ to bring this guidance in line with the Church of England’s guidance. The churches in Scotland also refer to face coverings rather than facemasks, while the Church in Wales does not appear to have stipulated the wearing of face coverings yet. Face coverings does not include visors.

We would like to also clarify that ringing does not specifically have to be for a service, but should still be with the permission of the incumbent. Ringers have been asked to ring for weddings, and on Sundays where there is no service but where the sound of bells is welcome to remind communities of the presence of the church. It is still only 15 minutes though, whatever the purpose of the ringing.

The wearing of face coverings is mandatory from 8th August in places of worship in England and Scotland (Wales doesn’t appear to be mandatory but advice welcome). Wearing face coverings does not reduce the minimum distances approved for ringing which remain as :

  • 2m spacing between ringers (which will generally mean alternate bells)
  • 1.5m spacing allowable if ropes fall in a straight line (ringers facing inwards not towards each other)
  • Adjacent bells can be rung by ringers from the same household

An increasing number of places may have lockdown restrictions brought back as happened first in Leicester, then in Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and most recently in Preston. The effect of these lockdowns on ringing is principally on handbell ringing in people’s gardens

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