The revised guidance for places of worship In England makes 'interesting' reading. There are no surprises - as we already know there is no longer a legal obligation for congregation members to wear face masks, no requirement to social distance and yes, it confirms we can sing (and dance!) - "there will no longer be limits on the number of people who can sing indoors or outdoors. This includes indoor congregational and communal singing".
But the way the guidance is worded is strange. On the one hand, it reads as if directed at the individuals considering attending a place of worship: "you will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with", "it is important that we all use personal judgement to manage our own risk. All of us can play our part by exercising common sense and considering the risks" and "wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day."
In other places, it is difficult to see its relevance "the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport" - I have seen places of worship in a variety of unusual places, but not, so far, on a bus!
And of course, the guidance then addresses itself to those that are responsible for running the place of worship (strangely referred to as "employers and venue managers" running a "business or organisation") and here is the sting in the tail - "all businesses should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance" and "employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. The way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of Covid-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks you identify." And there it is - individuals may no longer have a legal obligation to wear a face mask or social distance BUT places of worship have a legal obligation to minimise the risk to those attending an act of worship or working there, of catching coronavirus. Yes - it is now the decision of those (usually charity trustees) responsible for a place of worship, their risk and of course, potentially their liability should someone choose to take issue with the steps (or lack of them) that they take as the pandemic continues. So, don't be too hasty in binning the face masks, cramming 100's of people in and shutting the windows - time for trustees to risk assess and then persuade their congregation members to abide by the very rules they thought no longer applied - ah well, at least we can sing from behind our masks!
Employers and venue managers continue to have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business or organisation.