Lifting Covid Restrictions - Bulletin 36 

 So! Here’s what we have gleaned from post July 19th government Covid regulations and Exeter Diocese’s reflections, our staff meeting and comments and recommendation in the light of them.
 
The main things decided by parliamentary law with effect from July 19th which affect us are:
  • Cleaning of buildings is no longer mandatory.
  • Hand sanitising is no longer mandatory.
  • Singing is allowed.
  • Wearing of face masks cannot now be enforced in churches.
  • Social distancing is not compulsory but should be considered where appropriate.
  • Touch, handshake and embrace are allowed with caution. 
Ever since the threat of Covid19 started, we have always tried to keep ahead of the game and remain prudent as well as obedient about safety regulations. The above list is both very exciting but will also fill some with anxiety and even fear.
 
As a staff team, we do not propose a dropping of all Covid precautions, neither is the government or central church proposing such action. We must find a way of acting prudently, legally and lovingly within the limits of what has been decreed which serves our church and regains what freedoms are sensible.
 
The main issue of safety surrounds the wearing of masks which the government have now said we do not have to wear but would benefit from wearing in more crowded situations. Indeed, in circumstances such as church congregations they have said that it is unlawful to insist upon mask wearing but nevertheless prudent. So, we have come up with the following logic with reference to mask wearing…
 

At Emmanuel, our local policy up to the end of August will be to request that where possible, the congregation still consider wearing a mask for the sake of protecting the more vulnerable minority until we are a little more certain about the behaviour of the Delta variant and its consequences for the vulnerable.

 
Here’s the reasoning behind continuing masks a little longer:
  1. Despite being ‘double jabbed’ even a reduced and short spell of Covid could pose acutely vulnerable members of our congregation with a serious threat.
  2. As we are no longer legally able to require people to wear masks in church even though we may request it, increasingly, people are likely to choose to stop wearing them.  This is within their rights and beyond our control, but not outside our ability to deal with.
  3. The increasing numbers of the congregation not wearing masks will gradually deplete the safety achieved by everyone wearing them.
  4. But if mask wearers change to wearing FFP2 rated medical masks, not only do they stop us potentially polluting the building, they also filter out what we breathe in. This is a ‘game changer’ because it almost certainly allows much better protection for the vulnerable than they currently enjoy with other masks at present.  The FFP2 standard masks are what ambulance crews, for example, wear. 
In this way, the majority less vulnerable will initially serve the minority vulnerable by wearing FFP2 rated masks when legally they are not obliged to. As time passes and mask wearing diminishes, it will be the minority serving the majority by protecting themselves so that the majority no longer need to wear them. We hope this might take shape in September.
 
To serve the congregation, we have procured 100 FFP2 rated, individually wrapped, free masks while people source their own. They are available on the internet and at chemists and look the same as other white masks.

 
And the reasoning on the other announcements below…

So, with effect from Sunday 25th July until Sunday 29th August:
  • Sanitising of buildings will no longer happen
We have felt this OK for some time, but it had not yet been within the law. There is little to no evidence for touch causing infection.
  • Hand sanitising will no longer be requested of the congregation
But hand sanitation will still be readily available around the church for those who feel they need to continue using it.
  • Singing will happen.
Restrictions on how we sing will no longer apply.
  • Wearing of face masks will still be requested for the time being but will not be insisted upon
During this phase we are commending face masks rated as FFP2 which provide much higher-grade medical protection. An initial 100 of are available on the door.
  • Social distancing will not be compulsory but will still be provided for, as well as closer seating.
Most of the church will remain socially distanced seating. except the left hand central block for closer seating.
We will also keep back doors open in summer months for increased ventilation.
  • Touch, handshake and embrace are allowed.
We are trusting that members of the congregation will not impose themselves on one another but ‘judge the moment’ as to how it might be received.
  • Lateral flow tests
These are free, we are hoping people will avail themselves of them and test themselves before coming to church. All the clergy do this and many of the congregation already.
If we all do this it will reduce risk hugely and provide great assurance to the more vulnerable or anxious.
  • Review
Obviously, we may, at very short notice, re-tighten some of the above should prevailing Covid conditions prevail against us. All this is subject to review at the end of August.
 

Rev. Karl