Welsh government closes churches for two weeks as a “firebreak” against COVID-19

Bishops acquiesce in shutdown

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A statement from the Welsh bishops:

The Welsh Government has declared a Firebreak Lockdown. This means that a series of restrictions will be in place from 6pm Friday 23 October until 12:01am Monday 9 November 2020. Subject to very limited exceptions churches and church halls must close for this period.

The legislation bringing this into effect can be reviewed at:

Welsh Government has provided a set of FAQ’s at:

Guidance on the implications of this lockdown for church buildings including halls is now available. See: Coronavirus Firebreak Lockdown

In particular, please note the following important information:

Childcare and Food Banks

Following the announcement of the ‘firebreak’ lockdown on Monday 19th October , Welsh Government issued an FAQ document indicating that childcare facilities and food banks situated in churches, church halls and community centres may remain operational. However, when the Regulations (the binding legal text) was published at 10pm on Wednesday, it suggested that childcare provision and food banks were a ‘public service’ which could only operate during the firebreak at the request of the Welsh Ministers or a Local Authority.

Officers of the Representative Body have sought to clarify the seeming contradiction in the law and the guidance. Civil Servants have now confirmed in writing that a request from a Local Authority is required for these services to be offered during the firebreak, unless the provision is voluntary and deemed by the venue manager to be essential (as ‘essential voluntary services’ are a separate category of permitted activities). It has also been confirmed that voluntary includes provision run by a charity with paid staff. We have asked whether the Welsh Ministers could make a blanket request that all existing foodbanks and childcare provision currently in place be permitted to continue, but this has not been successful.

We now therefore urge all parishes with childcare or food bank provision to consider whether the services provided are (a) voluntary and (b) essential. If not, then you should contact your local authorities immediately and ask that they issue a request for the provision to continue during the firebreak. Welsh Government have advised that “an email from the LA confirming that they are happy for the provision to continue should be enough.” We suggest that a copy of this advice is sent to the Local Authority with your request, so that officials can understand the position and the urgency of the request.

Remembrance Sunday

Events, including services of worship, can be held to commemorate Remembrance Sunday provided such events are held outdoors on 7th or 8th November and have no more than 30 people attending. Social distancing measures should be in place at such events.

O God, you know us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright: grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

The Bench of Bishops