COVID-19 (Coronavirus) guidance for parishes
UPDATE 08 January 2021
Mass and other Liturgies (apart from those specified below) should take place without the physical presence of the faithful. However, those who would normally exercise ministries / functions necessary for the celebration – for example, Readers, Cantor, Organist, sacristan may be present. Social distancing should be maintained at all times, an appropriate cleaning regime should be in place (especially for items which are touched), and masks should be worn except when carrying out a function renders this impossible (such as proclaiming a Reading).
Baptisms are limited to attendance by the immediate family. By ‘immediate family’ we mean the parents, godparents and siblings of a minor who is being baptised. If an adult is being baptised or received into the church, this may be attended by a spouse, their children and godparents. Where it is unavoidable that there are multiple Baptisms at the one time, the total of people present in the church, including clergy etc, should not exceed 25, the family groups should not mix inside or outside the church and should be four metres apart from each other.
Marriages are limited to 25 people. This number includes children under 12 and the celebrant. A risk assessment for over 15 people is required. Face masks must be worn by all other than those party to the marriage. Receptions or post ceremony gatherings are not permitted. These requirements arise from the Northern Ireland Executive.
Funerals are limited to 25 people. Pre- and post-funeral gatherings are not permitted. Wakes are not to be held and Funeral Services in private homes are not to take place. Existing restrictions on households apply. A person responsible for organising or operating a funeral or associated event elsewhere must comply with guidance on managing funerals and associated gatherings issued by the Department of Health. Any mourner displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend a funeral, as they pose a risk to others.
Drive-in Services may take place, where appropriate, in accordance with current government regulations and guidance.
Churches are open for private prayer, in accordance with government regulations and guidance. In particular, a cleaning schedule should be maintained and face masks are required.
Covid-19 and Physical (Social) Distancing
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Hand Washing and Sanitiser
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Physical (Social) Distancing
The demands of physical (social) distancing will also need to be considered in relation to people entering the church and leaving it.
In calculating the number of people who can be accommodated in your church while maintaining the physical (social) distance of 2 metres, please remember that the 2 metre distance does not apply to a household, which can sit together.
Indicating Physical Distance
Supervision and guidance by stewards outside and within the church building to maintain physical distancing would be helpful.
Sunday and Holy Day obligation
Priests/Ministers of Holy Communion should visibly sanitise their hands both before and after the distribution of Communion.
Priests/Ministers of Holy Communion should wear a face-covering while distributing Communion.
Holy Communion should be received in the hand. The reason for this is not simply an issue of the risk of touch, but exposure to breathed moisture where a person receives on the tongue.
Unfortunately, the reception of Holy Communion on the tongue would expose the priest/Minister of Holy Communion’s hand to moisture every time, with the risk of passing virus contained in the moisture on to others.
Where a priest/Minister of Holy Communion inadvertently touches a communicant’s hand, hands should be sanitised again.
Ministers of Holy Communion
The anointing with the Holy Oils will be administered by the use of cotton buds.
Readers at Mass
After each Mass, the ambo and lectern should be wiped clean.
Singers and Choirs
A cantor, well distanced from other people, is the most appropriate singer currently as, unlike a choir, greater distance from others can be maintained.
Allocation of seats - GDPR considerations
GDPR states that personal data is 'collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes;' It should be stated why personal information is being collected and when it is going to be deleted.
Consider including the following on the form asking for personal data:
[PARISH NAME] GDPR: I understand and consent to having my data included in the Parish database for the purpose of allocating seats at each Mass due the current physical distancing restrictions. I understand the parish will delete my details once the allocation system is no longer required.
Include a tick box on the form that the person can tick to confirm they give consent and they understand how you are using their data. 'Consent means offering individuals real choice and control. Genuine consent should put individuals in charge, build trust and engagement, and enhance your reputation'. Source: ICO
Using a Face-covering
Wash your hands or use hand sanitiser before putting it on and after taking it off. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth at all times.
Do not touch the front of the face-covering, or the part of the face covering that has been in contact with your mouth and nose. Once removed, make sure you clean any surfaces the face-covering has touched.
If you are using a reusable face-covering you should wash it regularly, at a minimum temperature of 60C. It can go in with other laundry, using your normal detergent. Where a reusable face-covering is used, it should be used by the original wearer only. Sources: HSE and gov.uk
Video | How to safely fit and wear a face-covering
Wear disposable or washing-up gloves and aprons for cleaning. These should be double-bagged, then stored securely for 72 hours then thrown away in the regular rubbish after cleaning is finished. Source: Gov.uk COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings
Using a disposable cloth, first clean hard surfaces with warm soapy water. Then disinfect these surfaces with the cleaning products you normally use. Pay particular attention to frequently touched areas and surfaces, such as toilets, pews, grab-rails in corridors and stairwells, door handles, statues and candelabras.
Wash hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, and after removing gloves, aprons and other protection used while cleaning.
Bleach need only be used in toilets. The dilution of bleach should be in accordance with public health guidelines.
It is not necessary to clean floors after each gathering.
Cloth hand towels should be replaced with disposable paper towels in toilet areas.