COVID-19 Guidance - 28 May 2021
All liturgical celebrations held in the Church (Mass, Baptism, Marriage, Funeral Rites, Confirmation etc.) are subject to the limit of numbers determined by the risk assessment. For the time being, guidance relating to social distancing between household groups, face-coverings, hand sanitizing, good ventilation, and the adaptations to simplify the liturgy should continue to be observed.
The latest guidance from the Department of Health was circulated to Parishes on 26th May. We would remind clergy and pastoral workers (including members of Bethany Teams) to continue to exercise caution and to observe measures such as face-coverings, hand hygiene and limiting face-to-face contact as key ways of mitigating the risk of catching and/or spreading the virus when visiting homes and conducting funeral rites.
Wakes are covered by the regulations and guidance relating to indoor gatherings in private households (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/coronavirus-covid-19-regulations-guidance-what-restrictions-meanyou#toc-3) therefore traditional wakes are still not permitted.
Post funeral gatherings, in non-domestic settings only, are permitted. The numbers attending will be determined by the size of the venue and subject to a risk assessment by the venue operator. Parishes with graveyards are reminded to ensure that burials continue to comply with the Department of Health Guidance.
Outdoor Gatherings, e.g. Cemetery Sunday, Mass Rock Gatherings etc.
Up to 500 people can attend outdoor gatherings. To determine maximum number that can attend, the organiser must have carried out a risk assessment. Outdoor gatherings of 30 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment. The organiser must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. A person responsible for organising a gathering must be able to produce, on request by an authorised official, a copy of the risk assessment and an account of the reasonable measures taken. At all events maintain social distancing, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.
As the regulations now permit indoor visits mixing of up to 6 persons from two households, routine visitation including first-Friday calls may resume. You are advised to continue to phone in advance to ensure that a visit is possible and that there will not be other visitors etc. You should continue to observe mitigations including the wearing of face coverings, careful hand hygiene and keeping visits short. Continue to use cotton buds for anointing.
Nursing Home and Hospital Visits
Each nursing/residential home and hospital will have its own arrangements in place for patient visits, both routine and emergency. Hospital chaplains will be able to advise regarding current arrangements in the acute hospitals.
To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an indoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment. Indoor gatherings of 15 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment. The organiser must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus. A person responsible for organising a gathering must, if requested to do so by a relevant person, provide a copy of the risk assessment and an account of the reasonable measures taken. The organiser of a specific activity should provide the Parish with the evidence that the activity is permitted by NI Executive regulations and provide evidence as to how they will comply with the guidance relating to that activity. It is important that indoor spaces are always well ventilated, by leaving doors and windows open. Frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, should be cleaned regularly. Good hand hygiene should be encouraged and social distancing between households maintained. Groups providing hospitality, such as post-funeral teas/coffee mornings etc. must comply with the regulations and guidance provided for the hospitality industry. Similarly, commercial caterers using parish premises to provide similar services must provide evidence of their compliance.
All parish offices and workplaces should continue to operate in accordance with the Diocesan Protocols provided by the HR Team (copy attached to this email for ease of reference). Meetings of Parish pastoral councils, finance committees etc can take place face-to-face provided you can comply with the regulations relating to indoor gatherings, as detailed in the notes about Parish centres (above). You should now reinstate best practice around counting of collections, putting these same measures in place for parish count teams.
NI Executive Regulations and Guidance
Up to date details of government regulations and guidance can be found at: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/coronavirus-covid-19 There are links on this page to restrictions, guidance and activity-specific information. No further faith group specific advice has been received from the Executive Office. If and when it is received, we will share with parishes.