Update from Conference Admin, May 28, 2020

Having received queries regarding the new relaxing restrictions and our churches, listed below is the latest information from the government about the easing of restrictions for places of worship from May 31.

In essence the numbers of people who can attend religious gathers are up to 20. Multiple gatherings are allowed with an hour in between and sufficient cleaning (an antibacterial cleaner is recommended). Social distancing rules still apply to these gatherings including noting attendees for contact tracing purposes.

To reiterate what has been sent out before though, “we’re entrusting local churches to respond appropriately as rules are relaxed.  Remember, some things are permissible but not everything is helpful.” So just because those numbers can gather doesn’t mean they should. Please don’t feel you have to rush back to full services. Better to be a little cautious now and prevent any harm especially to vulnerable groups. Many churches plan on incorporating zoom or livestreaming permanently into future services in some way, this could be a safe way forward.

The below information is taken from here. https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/religion-and-ceremony-restrictions-covid-19

When will these restrictions be eased?

The intention is to ease these restrictions from 11:59pm 31 May, subject to the continued rate of testing showing minimal community spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Changes to this date will be subject to the advice of the Chief Health Officer. This advice is based on an assessment of compliance with restrictions, the rate of testing and the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in our community, including the number of cases, outbreaks and community transmission.

Why are you announcing this now?

We know people need time to plan and prepare for a ceremony or religious event. It is important the right public health measures are in place for weddings, funerals, and other religious events.

What measures are being put in place to keep people safe?

Limits will be placed on entry to ensure compliance with total gathering numbers and separate space density requirements – one person per four square metres.

Venue operators or the celebrant are required to keep records of each person attending the wedding, funeral, or ceremony, for contact tracing purposes.

Attendees should keep 1.5 metres between themselves and others not from their household, practice good hand hygiene, and stay home if they feel unwell.

Can a recreational facility be used for wedding or funeral services?

Yes, however from 11:59pm on 31 May there can be no more than 20 people in attendance at a wedding in addition to the couple and the celebrant, and subject to the four square metre rule.

A recreational facility can also be used for a funeral service, but no more than 50 mourners may attend a funeral in person, subject to the four square metre rule, as well as the people required for the funeral, such as the officiant or staff from a funeral company.

Are places of worship open?

From 11:59pm on 31 May, all places of worship, of all denominations can now open for private worship or small religious ceremonies of up to 20 people, subject to the four square metre rule as well as the minimum number of people reasonably required for the service. This includes baptisms.

What kind of services or ceremonies can be held at a place of worship?

Multiple services or ceremonies can be held on the same day, but cleaning should occur between services or ceremonies. At least one hour should be allowed between services or ceremonies to reduce the risk of crowds at entrances and exits. The four-square metre rule applies, which limits the number of people who can be in each separate space.

Places of worship can continue to be opened for the purposes of hosting essential public support services such as food banks, help for the homeless or other essential activities, ensuring appropriate physical distancing is maintained by keeping at least 1.5 metres between those from other households at all times.

Ceremonies and services can still be recorded or broadcasted live from the place of worship for viewing online. You are allowed to have people on site to record and live stream services, however, you must ensure those people maintain physical distancing by keeping at least 1.5 metres between those from other households at all times.

Can I attend a wedding?

From 11:59pm on 31 May, 20 people can attend a wedding in person in addition to the couple, and the celebrant. Children are counted in the person limit.

If a wedding is held in a home, a maximum of 20 people is allowed, including the celebrant and the couple.

Can I attend a funeral?

From 11:59pm on 31 May, 50 mourners can attend a funeral in person as well as the people required for the funeral, such as the officiant or funeral company. If a funeral is held in a home, a maximum of 20 people can be present (including the officiant and funeral staff).

How many people can attend a wake after a funeral?

Wakes are a separate event to funerals. The gathering limits apply based on the venue in which the wake is held.

From 11:59pm on 31 May, this means if a wake is held at a restaurant or community hall, up to 20 people may attend. If a wake is held in a home, up to 20 people – including the members of the residence – may attend.

Can I attend a prayer group?

From 11:59pm on 31 May, if the prayer group held at a place of worship or another public place, up to 20 people can attend. A prayer group held in someone’s home can meet as long as there are no more than 20 people, including the normal residence of a household.

Physical distancing measures must be adhered to.

Can I visit a cemetery outside of attending a funeral?

You can visit a cemetery but please ensure that from 11:59pm on 31 May no more than 20 people (including you) are gathered. Physical distance should be maintained by keeping at least 1.5 metres between people not in your household.

How will you enforce this?

Directions will continue to be enforced through spot checks by Victoria Police and use of emergency powers by DHHS and Local Government Authorised Officers to ensure compliance with the directions of the Chief Health Officer.

As restrictions are eased, industry bodies, Victoria Police, Worksafe, DHHS and Local Government Authorised Officers will work together under both under the Directions and existing legislative and regulatory frameworks to boost education and remediation, in addition to driving enforcement and compliance with the Directions.

Members of the public can raise concerns about venues through the Police Assistance Line (PAL) on 131 444.  Workers can raise concerns via Worksafe on 03 9641 1555. And employers can talk to their industry regulator or Peak body for specific industry related support.

A Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak Joint Intelligence Unit has been established to support comprehensive preparedness and responses to outbreaks and identify and manage outbreak risks.

The Department of Health and Human Services and WorkSafe will co-ordinate intelligence and information on businesses that are non-compliant.