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Community Buildings Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update 24th September 2020

24th September 2020

This article contains information for village halls and community buildings on preparing for re-opening. It includes links to the ACRE Information Sheet (Version 6) and appendices, following new regulations on NHS Test and Trace QR codes and further Government guidance. Please also read the previous 2nd, 11th, 16th June; 3rd, 8th, 21st July; 21st August; and 18th September ACT Updates.

Information surrounding Coronavirus and COVID-19 may change; ACTion with Communities in Cumbria (ACT) recommends that everyone should follow the guidance issued by Public Health England and the NHS and keep abreast of the ever-changing situation.

Re-opening village halls and community centres:

Version 6 of the ACRE Information Sheet for Re-opening Village Halls was re-issued on the 18th September, for full details of the changes made please read our 18th September Community Buildings Coronavrius (COVID-19) Update.

The ACRE Information Sheet is provided with the purpose of assisting village halls to interpret the Government guidance and find a way forward to re-opening. Please ensure you’re using the most up to date version 6 (dated 18 September) available below, with relevant appendices also available as Word documents for use.

A new Appendix M has been added with details of the requirements relating to NHS Test and Trace QR Codes. From 24th September the Regulations for the Collection of Contact Details require every hirer or organisation using a community hall to comply with the obligation to register for an NHS QR code, display the official NHS QR poster and keep records for Test and Trace, and every community hall to ensure hirers comply. For certain activities (such as an event organised by the community facility managers, a wedding reception or wake) the obligation appears to fall on the hall managers. Please read Appendix M for details and links to further guidance.

Please note, the ACRE information sheet and appendices have been updated in line with Government guidance. Visit the ACT Coronavirus page to access the latest Update.

Thank you for your continued questions and suggestions for the ACRE Information and Government guidance for multi-purpose community facilities. Your feedback helps us to work with ACRE and relevant Government departments to review, clarify and provide better information.

Further measures to avoid a ‘second wave’

The further measures announced on 22nd September as they affect village / community halls appear to be:

  • A reduction in the number of people allowed at weddings and seated wedding receptions from 30 to 15 from Mon 28th Sept. The limit for funerals remains at 30. Other life-cycle religious ceremonies must comply with the group limit of 6.
  • Indoor team sports are no longer exempt from the ‘rule of six’. The Government FAQs make clear that “organised indoor sport or exercise classes can take place in larger numbers, provided groups of more than 6 do not mix”.
  • The wearing of facial coverings has been extended to retail and hospitality and is to become compulsory (except where an exemption applies). Individuals can be fined for non-compliance. Hirers and users may need to be reminded of the need to wear them, e.g. via a poster.
  • Individuals can be fined for non-compliance with the group limit of 6.
  • Strictly speaking the restriction from 24th September on 10pm closure and table service only (for bars, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, concert halls) only applies to these types of activities held at Community halls. However, to avoid misunderstanding it would be wise for all activities to close at 10pm.
  • Providing performances begin before 10pm and food/drink is not served after 10pm, a hall is permitted to stay open until a film or performance finishes.

Choirs and the ‘Rule of Six’

The Government FAQs have been adjusted to make clear amateur choirs, drama groups, bands etc must be organised in groups of up to 6.

“In a COVID-19 Secure venue or public outdoor place, non-professional performing arts activity, including choirs, orchestras or drama groups can continue to rehearse or perform together where this is planned activity in line with the performing arts guidance and if they can do so in a way that ensures that there is no interaction between groups of more than 6 at any time.”

New regulations for Hospitality businesses affecting luncheon clubs, community cafes, coffee mornings etc.

New Health Protection Regulations on Obligations of Hospitality (laid on Sept 17th) apply to pubs, cafes and restaurants and also to any “other relevant business”. A ‘relevant business’ is defined as a business which provides food or drink for consumption on its premises so this appears to include non-profit ‘businesses’ supplying food and drink such as Community Cafes, Social Clubs with bars, and potentially Luncheon Clubs and coffee mornings.

The change is that social distancing within hospitality settings is now the law, with fixed penalty notices starting at £2000 and rising to £4000. The key provisions are:

“2. - (1) A person responsible for carrying on a business of a public house, café, restaurant or other relevant business must, during the emergency period, take all reasonable measures to ensure that —

  • a) no bookings for a table are accepted for a group of more than six persons unless one of the exemptions applies (e.g. a single household group more than 6);
  • b) no persons are admitted to the premises in a group of more than six, unless one of the exemptions applies;
  • c) no person in one group mingles with any person in another group.
  • d) an appropriate distance is maintained between tables occupied by different qualifying groups i.e. at least 2m (or 1m plus screens, back to back seating, other measures to limit virus spread between people sitting at different tables).”

Insurance cover and unoccupied halls

As mentioned in previous updates, we advise all halls which have yet to re-open to contact their insurer and discuss any changes in cover which this may bring.

Insurance for unoccupied buildings is a more risky area and will likely attract a higher premium and cause loss of cover such as theft, water damage etc. While some halls have yet to re-open it also appears some are considering re-closure, mainly because of misinterpretation of the group limits and social distancing requirements. You must inform your insurer if you do decide to close again.

When making this decision trustees should consider not only the higher premium, but the risk to the charity’s key asset associated with loss of cover when there is now no legal obligation to close. You should also have regard to your charitable objects and take into account the needs of people living alone, or with small children, or caring for others whose mental and physical health may be compromised by continued closure of their usual community activities. Holding a monthly committee meeting in the hall may constitute ‘use’ and avoid loss of cover, but it will not enable the charity to fulfil its objectives.

The legal expenses cover in a hall policy would provide free legal advice (via the helpline on the policy) in the, hopefully unlikely, event of a threat of prosecution for failure to observe COVID-19 regulations, but would be unlikely to cover legal defence expenses. In practice trustees, managers or hirers who have clearly done their best to comply with the 4 key obligations seem more likely to receive a warning coupled with guidance.

The 4 key obligations are:

  • a) the Covid-19 secure requirements;
  • b) the social distancing requirements between groups of up to 6 within activities;
  • c) Test and Trace record-keeping/QR requirements;
  • d) 10pm closure for certain activities.

Record-keeping (hire agreements, cleaning etc) will help address such risks.

Sign up to receive future updates

If you are involved in running a village hall or community building in Cumbria, and would like to receive information from ACT, please join our mailing list by becoming an ACT Supporter (it’s free!) and we’ll keep you updated.

Please visit the ACRE website (Action with Communities in Rural England) for further information and please contact us at ACT if you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss for your hall.

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