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COVID-19 FAQs for Regional and Rural NSW

There are new Public Health Orders for the Greater Sydney Region that are in effect.

Frequently Asked Questions – 2021

We feel that it is important to remind everyone that the framework we use to make decisions and the posture we take towards those around us significantly informs the decisions we make and the way that we make them.  As followers of Jesus and witnesses to the Lordship of Jesus, our posture and framework need to be influenced by kingdom principles which focus on the least and lost, on the care for the vulnerable, and on our own selflessness and sacrifice.

As we continue to engage with the community, the posture from our State Government, and particularly NSW Health, is one of persuasion rather than direction, with a clear commitment to caring for the vulnerable within our community and significantly reducing the risks associated with COVID-19. The Government and NSW Health are committed to avoiding harsh rules and lockdowns and they ask us to join with them in this endeavor.  Church and community leaders are cooperating to advise and support the community about important safety issues and, as Baptists, we want to be part of that others-centered cooperative approach. We believe that it is not only our civic duty to do so but our kingdom responsibility as well.

Regional and Rural NSW FAQs

Restriction Changes from 12:01am Friday 26th February 2021

What are the current restrictions on church gatherings and use of church premises?

Gathering restrictions (Regional and Rural NSW)

  • Any gathering, whether indoor or outdoor and regardless of the purpose (place of worship, funeral, wedding etc), can have up to one person per 2sqm.
  • There is no longer any ‘hard cap’ on gathering size, only the 2sqm per person rule (not including staff or volunteer workers).
  • Where the event is outside in a public place there is a limit of 100 people (because it is difficult to define what area size is).
  • Physical distancing of 1.5m between individuals who are not part of the same household continues to be a recommendation from NSW Health. Any gathering should be organised to facilitate and encourage a 1.5m distance at all times.  This may mean some churches are unable to utilise the full capacity at the 2sqm limit, depending on the layout of the building and how many of the congregation are households that can sit next to each other without physical distancing.

 

Singing
Note regarding the specific logistics of the new rules: NSW Health are happy for congregations to move between 2sqm and 4sqm within a service of worship, and have no masks, only putting them on for the duration of singing/chanting. E.g. A church can start the service with all families in (2sqm) and then sing (with masks) for the second half of the service when the kids have left (and we are at 4sqm).

  • Indoor Settings
    • There can be up to 30 performers singing indoors. The performers must be at least 1.5m from each other, at least 5m from the congregation/audience and all be facing the same direction.
    • Congregations can sing in Places of Public Worship if:
      • Places of Public Worship abide by the one person per 4sqm rule. No congregational singing is allowed in Places of Public Worship with the one person per 2sqm rule. 
      • Everyone over 12 years old (without an exempt reason) wears a mask.
  • Outdoor Settings
    • There is no limit on the number of people that can sing together in an outdoor setting for a Place of Public Worship or Religious Gathering.
    • It is recommended that everyone over the age of 12 years wears a face mask.

To minimise the risk of infection when singing, outdoors, the COVID-19 Safety Plans requires that:

  • All singers face forwards and not towards each other;
  • Maintain physical distancing of 1.5m between each other and other performers; and
  • Performers keep at least 5m physical distancing from all other people, including the audience and conductor.

If a music performance is part of a religious service, wedding or funeral, masks do not need to be worn by the performers if impractical for the performance to occur, such as wind instruments or singing.

What does this mean for singers leading worship out the front at church services?
Singers can lead the congregation from the front (and do not need to wear a mask), so long as they maintain at least 5m of physical distancing from the audience/congregation (this is because they are likely to be facing towards the congregation).

 

Digital Contact Details
A digital record should be kept for each person attending a religious service, wedding or funeral.

The Service NSW app has recently launched a QR code system and from 1 January 2021, NSW Health are requiring all business and organisations to use the Service NSW app to assist contact tracers to be able to contact people quickly, should a suspected COVID-19 outbreak occur. NSW Health have recommended everyone use this tool as it is a much more accurate storage of data and enables the COVID-19 contact tracing team to access the data quickly and efficiently.

The Service NSW app has a QR code system which has sign in and out capabilities. Click Here to find out more.

 

 

Information last updated 2 March 11:46am

What are the restrictions on singing and mingling?

What are the restrictions on singing and mingling?

Singing
Note regarding the specific logistics of the new rules: NSW Health are happy for congregations to move between 2sqm and 4sqm within a service of worship, and have no masks, only putting them on for the duration of singing/chanting. E.g. A church can start the service with all families in (2sqm) and then sing (with masks) for the second half of the service when the kids have left (and we are at 4sqm). 

  • Indoor Settings
    • There can be up to 30 performers singing indoors. The performers must be at least 1.5m from each other, at least 5m from the congregation/audience and all be facing the same direction.
    • Congregations can sing in Places of Public Worship if:
      • Places of Public Worship abide by the one person per 4sqm rule. No congregational singing is allowed in Places of Public Worship with the one person per 2sqm rule. 
      • Everyone over 12 years old (without an exempt reason) wears a mask.
  • Outdoor Settings
    • There is no limit on the number of people that can sing together in an outdoor setting for a Place of Public Worship or Religious Gathering.
    • It is recommended that everyone over the age of 12 years wears a face mask.

To minimise the risk of infection when singing, outdoors, the COVID-19 Safety Plans requires that:

  • All singers face forwards and not towards each other;
  • Maintain physical distancing of 1.5m between each other and other performers; and
  • Performers keep at least 5m physical distancing from all other people, including the audience and conductor.

If a music performance is part of a religious service, wedding or funeral, masks do not need to be worn by the performers if impractical for the performance to occur, such as wind instruments or singing.

What does this mean for singers leading worship out the front at church services?
Singers can lead the congregation from the front (and do not need to wear a mask), so long as they maintain at least 5m of physical distancing from the audience/congregation (this is because they are likely to be facing towards the congregation).

 

Mingling
We are not aware of further details from the government on how to avoid mingling at gatherings, other than the ‘stay seated’ approach that has been specified for other events such as weddings, conferences etc.  Here are some practical approaches (and please let us know if you think of any other ideas which we could pass on!):

  • Give clear guidance from the front emphasising the importance of physical distancing and provide processes and space that enable this to occur before and after the services. The advice not to mingle comes from the fact that moving among people and engaging casually with others has been a time when people forget the 1.5m rule, and hence raises the possibility of infection.
  • Emphasise the importance of wearing masks, and that doing so makes it easier for the church to provide those opportunities of interaction – ie: it is another level protection when people are engaging with one another.
  • Ensure any background music/noise is soft, so people do not need to raise their voices to talk over it in conversation.
  • Pay particular attention to avoiding people lining up for things such as morning tea or to enter or leave the building – have processes in place to avoid this such as ushering or serving food (in a COVID safe way) to people.
  • Invite people to talk with those around them while seated afterwards rather than immediately getting up and walking around.
  • Have designated areas with seating for people to move to that will allow them to catch up with others. This could include outside spaces, which also then has the benefit of spreading people across the church premises as much as possible. An announcement explaining the function of these ‘breakout’ spaces will help too.

Information last updated 20 January 3:55pm

What are restrictions for Weddings and Funerals at a Public Place of Worship?

 

Weddings & Funerals
The upper limit for Weddings and Funerals has been removed, however, these  events  will still be  subject to the one person per 2sqm rule and physical distancing  should be  maintained as much as possible. 

If a Wedding or Funeral is held in a Place of Public Worship, a separate COVID-19 Safety Plan for a Wedding or Funeral is also required to be completed.

Dancing is now limited to 30 people at any one time (it does not have to be the same 30 people all event).

Information last updated 2 March 10:46am

Outdoor gatherings (other than in places of public worship)

 

According to the latest Public Health Order, outdoor gatherings can take place under the following circumstances:

  • A controlled outdoor public gathering may have up to 1 person per 2sqm (with a hard cap of 5000) if there is a COVID-19 Safety Plan, ticketed seating and the event takes place within enclosed fencing and lasts less than 5 hours.
  • Outdoor rehearsals or performances may have up to one person per 2sqm (with a hard cap of 3000) if an appropriate COVID-19 Safety Plan is in place.
  • Other outdoor gatherings in a public place (e.g. not on a church premises) are limited to 100 people, even for a religious gathering. Exemptions can be made to the NSW Government for events larger than 100 people.

Information last updated 20 January 3:46pm

Gatherings at Residential Premises

 

Gatherings in a residential home can have up to 50 visitors. However, NSW Health strongly recommends that the number of visitors be limited to 30 if the premises does not have outdoor space. 

Information last updated 20 January 3:46pm

Due to the ongoing situation on COVID-19, the Baptist Ministry Centre is closed to protect the health and safety of our staff team and support the overall effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. All staff are working from home and are contactable via phone/mobile/email and we are continuing to provide consistency of service to our churches.

If you are unable to find any information on this page, please contact our friendly staff at hello@nswactbaptists.org.au or on (02) 9868 9200 and we would be more than happy to assist you.