Religion, faith or belief
Together with other public bodies across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, we are working closely with faith groups and organisations to do what they can to limit the spread of coronavirus and support our local communities.
Leicester has now been placed into Tier 3: very high alert level. These rules came into force from 2 December. You can see the rules for Tier 3 on gov.uk.
This is a reflection of the serious situation here. Cases in Leicester are starting to fall, but they remain very high. The recent measures are beginning to work so we must keep going to protect our loved ones. You can find detailed guidance for Leicester on our latest advice page.
Places of worship
Government guidance relating to Tier 3: very high alert level areas sets out that places of worship can reopen.
An up to date risk assessment will be required to ensure that places of worship operate in a COVID-safe manner. Risks and control measures should be clearly identified and documented as part of that process, and those responsible for the building(s) are required to implement these actions. More guidance on undertaking risk assessments can be found at GOV.UK.
Communal worship is now possible once again, even in Tier 3 areas. Friends and family members must not however meet up indoors in any setting, including a place of worship, unless they are part of a household or support bubble. Whilst engaging in an activity in the place of worship or surrounding grounds, all parties should always adhere to social distancing guidelines. Importantly, limits for communal worship should be decided based on the capacity of the place of worship following an assessment of risk.
The number of people permitted to enter the place of worship at any one time should be limited, so that a safe distance of at least two metres, or one metre with actions taken to reduce the risk of transmission (where two metres is not viable) is able to be maintained between households.
The size and circumstance (including ventilation) of the premises will determine the maximum number of people that can be accommodated whilst also facilitating social distancing.
The safe number of people should be decided by those responsible for the building(s), and after having conducted a properly documented risk assessment. This assessment should be reviewed regularly.
In defining the number of people that can reasonably follow social distancing, the total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas should be considered (such as entrances and exits) and where possible alternative or one-way routes introduced.
Those experiencing coronavirus symptoms should not attend a place of worship. Any individuals who are self-isolating due to a possible or confirmed case of coronavirus in the household or extended household; or if they are a contact of a case and have been advised to self-isolate should not attend.
Certain groups of people may be at increased risk of severe disease from coronavirus, including people who are aged 70 or older, regardless of medical conditions. Individuals who fall within this group are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.
Consideration should be given to whether it is essential for the activity to go ahead or not, given the wider health context in Leicester.
Tier specific gathering limits and the Performing Arts Guidance at GOV.UK should also be reviewed when considering this activity.
Carol singing or services can take place during the Christmas period (23 to 27 December) and if those in attendance follow the suggested principles of safer singing and guidance for the Performing Arts.
Carol singing indoors may be performed at venues permitted to open, such as places of worship. In line with Public Health advice for indoor performances, the audience or congregation should not participate in singing, chanting or shouting.
Carol singing outdoors may be performed at venues or spaces permitted to open. Audiences or congregations may participate in singing but should follow the Performing Arts guidance.
Door-to-door carol singing can take place in a group(s) of no more than six participants and social distancing should be maintained.
Places of worship can open for funerals, which can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Anyone working is not counted in 30-person limit. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
Marriages, civil partnerships or alternative wedding ceremonies must have no more than 15 people. Anyone working is not included as part of the limit on those attending. Attendees should socially distance from anyone they do not live with (unless they are in their support bubble).
Out of school settings play an important part in providing enriching activities for our communities. Madrasahs and other similar settings may reopen, so long as they have put in place practical, risk assessed and appropriate steps to minimise the risk to children. These steps and arrangements will differ from one location to the next. For those responsible for the reopening of buildings such as Madrasahs, the Out of School Setting guidance must be followed.
Madrasahs and other faith schools should make sure that they have conducted a full risk assessment before reopening for all face to face activities likely to be carried out within the setting. This includes thinking about all the possible risks and putting in place the necessary control measures to remove or limit those risks.
Clear and consistent signage is an important feature of opening any building and is particularly important when it comes to the flow of people entering and exiting, and their behaviour when in attendance. What is expected of those attending Madrasahs should be made clear by using and siting appropriately suitable signage.
Social distancing is not an absolute requirement in the classroom environment; it is often not possible to adhere to the 2m social distancing recommendation, though where possible it would be wise to do so.
There are often also other arrangements in place in these environments that reduce the risk of transmission. For example, it is recommended that students face one direction, bring and use their own personal belongings and equipment and that rooms used are well ventilated with open windows.
The requirement for the use of a face covering varies depending on the type of activity taking place and the setting within which that activity is taking place.
Madrasahs should ensure staff and secondary age students wear face coverings in communal areas. All persons entering any places of worship (some Madrasahs are in Mosques) are required to wear a face covering.
Where Madrasah activity takes place within a Mosque, extra care should be taken to separate those attending for religious worship from those attending the Madrasah. This can be achieved by putting up suitable signage, setting up one-way systems and implementing staggered timings.
Face coverings are not required to be worn in the classroom environment provided mitigation has been put in place such as student bubbles, small class numbers and front facing teaching.
Measures should be taken to prevent the spread in Madrasahs, such as:
- Handwashing/hand sanitisers at entrances and exits
- Directional signage
- Floor markings
- Dedicated, restricted access and exit arrangements
- Regular monitoring of mitigating arrangements contained in the risk assessment
- Cleaning frequently touched surfaces more often than usual using standard products, such as detergents and bleach; see the guidance COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home
Like schools, Madrasahs should establish bubbles within their own settings so that when attending and where possible the same set of children are always together as a group and with taught by the same teacher/adults all the time.
Ideally all classes should have a seating plan and sit in same place every time so that it is easy to determine who are the close contacts if necessary and so it not be necessary for the whole class to self-isolate.
Where these arrangements are not possible then equivalent mitigating measures should be put in place.
All venue operators must keep a register of attendees for 21 days to support Test & Trace activities. If anyone attending the Madrasah becomes unwell shortly after visiting, those that they have come into direct contact with will have to act themselves and therefore will need to be contacted.
Current guidance advises to keep students in small groups of no more than 15 children with the same children each time wherever possible (do not mix groups unless absolutely necessary) and at least one staff member, depending on the type of provision or size of the group.
However, where the building can accommodate larger groups (because it is large in size), multiple groups of 15 students plus staff can use the same shared space, if that is necessary, but with distancing between the groups.
These groups must not mix and where this is the case the other protective measures will be even more important to minimise the risk of infection and transmission of the virus.
Of course, the number of students that you can safely accommodate in a Madrasah classroom will depend on factors such as the size of the classroom, ventilation and physical layout of the classroom. These and other features should be considered, and form part of the risk assessment required before reopening for face to face activities.
Praying loudly and group prayer
There may be an additional risk of infection in environments where you or others are chanting, shouting, conversing or singing loudly. Activities which can create aerosol are discouraged, such as chanting, shouting, conversing or singing loudly.
This applies even if others are at a distance. Steps should be taken to reduce the risk such as finding alternative methods to undertake this activity, by maintaining social distancing, and using protective screens where possible.
Like schools, start and finish times for Madrasahs should be staggered. This is a straightforward way of reducing the number of students coming into contact with each other within the building as they arrive/depart. Likewise, it also reduces the possibility of parents or other carers coming into contact with each other as they drop off and pick up students.
Where possible, students are encouraged to make their way to their Madrasah on foot, by bike, or scooter and by themselves if safe to do so. This is to help reduce congestion on the streets in and around Madrasahs, in the same way as schools. Doing so will reduce the level of contact between students and any parents/carers who might otherwise usually drop off/pick up.
If students have to travel with others outside of their household by car/bus, you can get advice on how to travel safely on the Liftshare website.