Covid-19: Can my group get back to in-person activities?

Guidelines covering how music groups can get back to rehearsing and performing are being published in the different nations of the UK: 

Whether you're a choir, band, orchestra or other kind of music group the tool below will help you identify which bit of guidance is relevant to you, and help you establish what your group can and cannot do.

The situation is ever changing, so please always check the latest official guidance, including local variations, before making and implementing any plans.

First published 13 July 2020

Latest update:

  • England: rehearsals 19 July, performances 19 July 
  • Northern Ireland: rehearsals 23 September, and performances 29 July 
  • Scotland: rehearsals 10 August, and performances 23 September   
  • Wales: rehearsals 23 September and performances 23 September

What country is your group based in?

Do you want:  

England moved to step 4 of the roadmap on 19 July and most restrictions have been lifted.

What can my group do?

DCMS have confirmed with us that as per previous announcements: 

  • There will be no limits on the number of people that can gather to rehearse indoors or outdoors. This includes choirs. 
  • The need to socially distance has been removed.

However, the move to step 4 and easing of restrictions does not mean risk of Covid has disappeared, and groups will still need measures in place to ensure they are providing a safe environment. (See Covid Secure Rehearsals).


Covid Secure Rehearsals

DCMS have not updated their arts sector specific guidance for step 4. Instead the government has published Events and Attractions guidance that covers how to operate at step 4 and from 19 July.

Although it does not reference amateur music making, venues and groups organising activities in those venues should refer to the Events and Attractions guidance. It contains guidance on mitigations to help reduce the spread of the virus, with six priority actions:

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes risks from COVID-19. 
  2. Turn people with COVID-19 symptoms away. 
  3. Provide adequate ventilation. 
  4. Clean more often. 
  5. Enable people to check in at your venue to track any infections. 
  6. Communicate and train.

Risk assessment

Covid risks remain, so a risk assessment will still be central to what you do. However, as the vaccination programme rolls out and the guidance changes, how you mitigate those risks might change.

You can use the Making Music risk assessment guidance and template (designed in line with the new Events and Attractions guidance) to help with this. 

Speak to your members: This is a really important step for groups. Understanding how your members feel will inform what measures you keep and what measures you can remove:

  • Are they happy to a have a full rehearsal with all of your group in one room?
  • What measures would they still like in place?
  • How do they feel about face coverings indoors?

Some things that might change:

  • The requirement to socially distance has been removed, so the number of people allowed at a rehearsal will not have to be based the 2m or 1m+ rule

Some things that might not change:

  • Preventing Covid from even reaching your rehearsal will remain the best way to keep a safe environment. Send clear messaging to your members asking them not to attend if they feel unwell and encourage them to take lateral flow tests.
  • Airborne transmission remains the biggest risk, so good ventilation will still be important.
  • Regular hand washing is a low impact but effective measure.
  • Social distancing rules will no longer dictate the number of people allowed at a rehearsal – but some measure to control the flow of people might be required, and you might want to keep some measures (like a one-way system) to avoid crowding.

Face coverings: face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement from 19 July, but government advice will still be to wear them indoors in crowded public places. Groups will need to think about how to approach face coverings. The size and ventilation of your venue along with your members’ views will be key factors in that decision.

Vaccinations: knowing how many people are vaccinated will help you decide on what measures to keep. You don’t need to know exactly who is vaccinated, just how many, and it is better to collect this data anonymously. Knowing that 90% of members are vaccinated will still be useful as you assess risk and plan your mitigations.

 

England moved to step 4 of the roadmap on 19 July and most restrictions have been lifted.

What can my group do?

  • Public performances can go ahead without any limit on audience numbers
  • Social distancing measures are not required
  • Face coverings are also no longer be a legal requirement, but government advice will still be to wear them indoors in crowded public places.

The move to step 4 and easing of restrictions does not mean risk has disappeared, and groups will still need some measures in place to ensure they are providing a safe environment (see Covid Secure Events).


Covid Secure Events

DCMS are not be updating their arts sector specific guidance for step 4.. Instead the government has published Events and Attractions guidance that covers how to operate at step 4 and from 19 July.

It does not reference amateur music but is the relevant guidance for venues and groups organising activities in those venues. It contains guidance on mitigations to help reduce the spread of the virus. It has 6 priority actions:

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes risks from COVID-19. 
  2. Turn people with COVID-19 symptoms away. 
  3. Provide adequate ventilation. 
  4. Clean more often. 
  5. Enable people to check in at your venue. 
  6. Communicate and train.

You can use the Making Music risk assessment guidance and template (designed in line with the new Events and Attractions guidance) to help with this. 

As of 9 August, Scotland has moved out of the levels system.

All groups are now permitted to organise indoor and outdoor rehearsals and other activity with reference to Scottish Government guidance.

Guidance that applies to non-professional arts (Making Music members)

Scottish Government states that all businesses and workplaces should follow the guidance on working safely during coronavirus. This is designed to set out generic guidance to replace the large amount of sector specific guidance in place under earlier stages of the response to the pandemic. Scottish Government have now archived Performing Arts and Venues sector guidance including guidance for non-professional arts. (N.B. Stadia and Live Events guidance published on 6 August applies to large events – organisers wishing to stage live events above capacity limits)

General guidance states that:

  • all businesses can open with protective measures
  • there is no longer a requirement to physically distance from other people
  • there are no limits on the number of people you can meet
  • events can take place – but organisers will need to apply for permission to hold outdoor events with more than 5000 people and indoor events with more than 2000 people.

Some mandatory precautionary measures remain:

  • By law, face coverings must continue to be worn in most indoor public places (including indoor communal spaces, workplaces and public transport) unless you are exempt (more detail on face coverings below)
  • Everyone must continue to follow Test and Protect rules and guidance. Organisers must continue to collect contact details of those attending events and activities. People with symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19 must stay at home, even if they have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • An exemption to the self-isolation rules has been introduced for close contacts who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, or are under 18 provided they meet further criteria. However, people who are not fully vaccinated and who are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive will still need to self-isolate for ten days.

Advisory precautionary measures are:

  • Good hand hygiene and surface cleaning including: include, for example:
    • providing access to sanitiser and hand-washing facilities
    • regular cleaning of equipment, chairs, work stations and break out areas
  • Good ventilation 

Sector specific measures for cultural venues, stadia and live events are:

  • Outdoor events must be limited to 5,000 attendees and indoor events will be limited to 2,000 attendees.
  • Exemptions may be sought through the existing local authority exemption process Find out more. 

Scottish Government also refer organisations to this published guidance: ‘Supporting safer capacity in public settings and events’.

Events covered by this guidance are “activities that take place whether indoors or outdoors, that are an organised gathering or activity, limited in duration, that bring people together in significant numbers for culture, sport, recreation, entertainment, art or business.”  i.e. Making Music member activity and events.

Guidance states that:

“Events with attendance up to the attendance limits identified (2000 indoors and 5000 outdoors) can proceed on the basis of self-assessment subject to meeting any normal or existing requirements of the local authority such as licenses, providing the event takes forward a self-assessment process and:

  • utilises outside space wherever possible. Face coverings will still be required in indoor public settings, subject to exemptions.
  • organisers carry out a risk assessment, including assessing the indoor and outdoor space to allow for distancing, if possible
  • organisers can assure that risk of crowding at the venue (including entry and exit points; toilet facilities; and food and drink facilities) will be mitigated
  • organisers and attendees use face coverings in indoor areas where required noting face covering exemptions.
  • is ticketed, where possible, to monitor capacity
  • has all permits/licenses required and reasonable action has been taken by the event organiser to mitigate risk to public health"

Risk assessments

Face coverings

In Scotland, it remains mandatory to wear a face covering in most indoor public spaces. Read the Scottish Government guidance on face coverings. You must, by law, wear a face covering in entertainment venues, leisure facilities, community centres and places of worship – all the environments that rehearsals are likely to take place.

There are some exemptions which include: 

  • when the person is performing, presenting, addressing a public gathering, making a speech or being a panel member, where: 

    (i)there is a partition between the person and other persons, or

    ii)a distance of at least one metre is maintained between the person and other persons"

  • "babies, toddlers and all other children and young people under 12 years old"

Scottish Government have clarified (9 August) to Making Music that “Performers are exempt so long as there is either a partition, or 1 metre, between them and other people. It is reasonable to interpret rehearsing as a form of performing. Legally for wind players or singers to not use face masks when performing indoors, then they will need to be 1m distant from other people, or have a partition.  (Unless of course they have a medical exemption). “

We would therefore advise that:

Face coverings must be worn indoors (mandatory, legal requirement) by everyone (unless they are exempt) at all times when not in place.

Children under 12 years old are exempt. Young people aged 12 to 18 are not exempt and must follow the same requirement as for adults

When in place, people are permitted to remove face coverings to play an instrument or to sing but ONLY if they remain at least 1m physically distanced from all other people or there is a partition.

If people are able to play while wearing a face covering (e.g. string instruments) the face covering should still be worn.

When face covering are not worn, physical distancing of at least 1m should be applied and other mitigations such as screens used to reduce risk.  Mitigations such as good ventilation and enhanced hygiene should always be used to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission.

As a precautionary mitigation, it is still advisable to wear a face covering while singing and use adapted face coverings and shields for wind instruments. See our resource on face coverings and singing.

As of 9 August, Scotland has moved out of the levels system.

All groups are now permitted to organise indoor and outdoor performances and other activity with reference to Scottish Government guidance.

Guidance that applies to non-professional arts (Making Music members)

Scottish Government states that all businesses and workplaces should follow the guidance on working safely during coronavirus. This is designed to set out generic guidance to replace the large amount of sector specific guidance in place under earlier stages of the response to the pandemic. Scottish Government have now archived Performing Arts and Venues sector guidance including guidance for non-professional arts. (N.B. Stadia and Live Events guidance published on 6 August applies to large events – organisers wishing to stage live events above capacity limits)

General guidance states that:

  • all businesses can open with protective measures
  • there is no longer a requirement to physically distance from other people
  • there are no limits on the number of people you can meet
  • events can take place – but organisers will need to apply for permission to hold outdoor events with more than 5000 people and indoor events with more than 2000 people.

Some mandatory precautionary measures remain:

  • By law, face coverings must continue to be worn in most indoor public places (including indoor communal spaces, workplaces and public transport) unless you are exempt (more detail on face coverings below)
  • Everyone must continue to follow Test and Protect rules and guidance. Organisers must continue to collect contact details of those attending events and activities. People with symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19 must stay at home, even if they have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • An exemption to the self-isolation rules has been introduced for close contacts who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccination, or are under 18 provided they meet further criteria. However, people who are not fully vaccinated and who are identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive will still need to self-isolate for ten days.

Advisory precautionary measures are:

  • Good hand hygiene and surface cleaning including: include, for example:
    • providing access to sanitiser and hand-washing facilities
    • regular cleaning of equipment, chairs, work stations and break out areas
  • Good ventilation 

The Vaccine certification scheme will come into effect at 05:00 on 1 October: 

  • People 18+ will need to show - if asked - that they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to:
    • unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, even if some are seated
    • unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people
    • any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance
    • (plus nightclubs and "analogous venues" sexual entertainment venues)
  • People will be able to access an NHS Scotland Covid Status App from 30 September, which will show a QR code for each vaccination.
  • Those who cannot use the app will be able to request a secure, un-editable paper record.
  • A QR code verifier app will be made available to venues from 13 September.
  • Detailed guidance to be published before the regulations come into force, setting out what venues are expected to do.

Sector specific measures for cultural venues, stadia and live events are:

  • Outdoor events must be limited to 5,000 attendees and indoor events will be limited to 2,000 attendees.
  • Exemptions may be sought through the existing local authority exemption process Find out more. 

Scottish Government also refer organisations to this published guidance: ‘Supporting safer capacity in public settings and events’.

Events covered by this guidance are “activities that take place whether indoors or outdoors, that are an organised gathering or activity, limited in duration, that bring people together in significant numbers for culture, sport, recreation, entertainment, art or business.”  i.e. Making Music member activity and events.

Guidance states that:

“Events with attendance up to the attendance limits identified (2000 indoors and 5000 outdoors) can proceed on the basis of self-assessment subject to meeting any normal or existing requirements of the local authority such as licenses, providing the event takes forward a self-assessment process and:

  • utilises outside space wherever possible. Face coverings will still be required in indoor public settings, subject to exemptions.
  • organisers carry out a risk assessment, including assessing the indoor and outdoor space to allow for distancing, if possible
  • organisers can assure that risk of crowding at the venue (including entry and exit points; toilet facilities; and food and drink facilities) will be mitigated
  • organisers and attendees use face coverings in indoor areas where required noting face covering exemptions.
  • is ticketed, where possible, to monitor capacity
  • has all permits/licenses required and reasonable action has been taken by the event organiser to mitigate risk to public health"

Scottish Government published a guidance for cultural performances and events on 18 August. There are no additional precautionary measures laid out in this document, but the general guidance is presented to highlight areas particularly relevant to culture sector. It also suggests some additional measures:

  • requiring customers to pre-book tickets
  • retaining table service in hospitality offerings
  • keeping physical distancing for performances where tickets were sold on the basis of physical distancing
  • staggering start times where possible
  • putting in place processes to control the flow of people in and out of buildings, as well as within buildings (for example, one-way systems)
  • having physical distancing in certain seating sections or performances

Scottish Government makes it clear in this document that: “Each venue and business will need to decide what specific actions should be taken to operate safely, depending on its nature and size, as well as the particular activities that are being carried out.”

Risk assessments

Face coverings

In Scotland, it remains mandatory to wear a face covering in most indoor public spaces. Read the Scottish Government guidance on face coverings. You must, by law, wear a face covering in entertainment venues, leisure facilities, community centres and places of worship – all the environments that performances are likely to take place.

There are some exemptions which include:

  • "when the person is performing, presenting, addressing a public gathering, making a speech or being a panel member, where—

    (i)there is a partition between the person and other persons, or

    ii)a distance of at least one metre is maintained between the person and other persons"

  • "babies, toddlers and all other children and young people under 12 years old"

Scottish Government have clarified (9 August) to Making Music that “Performers are exempt so long as there is either a partition, or 1 metre, between them and other people. It is reasonable to interpret rehearsing as a form of performing. Legally for wind players or singers to not use face masks when performing indoors, then they will need to be 1m distant from other people, or have a partition.  (Unless of course they have a medical exemption). “

We would therefore advise that:

Face coverings must be worn indoors (mandatory, legal requirement) by everyone (unless they are exempt) at all times when not in place.

Children under 12 years old are exempt. Young people aged 12 to 18 are not exempt and must follow the same requirement as for adults.

When in place, people are permitted to remove face coverings to play an instrument or to sing but ONLY if they remain at least 1m physically distanced from all other people or there is a partition.

If people are able to play while wearing a face covering (e.g. string instruments) the face covering should still be worn.

When face covering are not worn, physical distancing of at least 1m should be applied and other mitigations such as screens used to reduce risk.  Mitigations such as good ventilation and enhanced hygiene should always be used to reduce the risk of aerosol transmission.

As a precautionary mitigation, it is still advisable to wear a face covering while singing and use adapted face coverings and shields for wind instruments. See our resource on face coverings and singing.

Wales is in alert level 0.

What can my group do?

Outdoors: 

  • Groups can organise a rehearsal with no limits on the numbers attending
  • Groups must carry out a risk assessment and have measures in place to mitigate risk (see COVID secure rehearsals below).

Indoors:

  • Groups can organise a rehearsal with no limits on the numbers attending
  • Groups must carry out a risk assessment and have measures in place to mitigate risk (see COVID secure rehearsals below).
  • Face masks remain a legal requirement

COVID secure rehearsals

Previously Wales issued guidance called ‘Keep Wales Safe: creating COVID-aware events’. This has now been withdrawn and groups should follow the more general Alert level 0: guidance for employers, businesses and organisations. It has three key steps:

  1. Carry out a specific coronavirus risk assessment

Although restrictions have been lifted groups still need to provide a safe environment for their rehearsals. Doing a risk assessment is vital to this. See the Making Music Risk Assessment guidance and template for more information.

  1. Providing information

Provide clear information to everyone involved on your activities so they understand what measures will be in place and what is expected of them. Our risk assessment guidance has more details.

  1. Taking reasonable measures

The point of the risk assessment is to understand the level of risk involved on your activities and then have measures in place to reduce those risks. The Alert level 0: guidance for employers, businesses and organisation lists what some of these might be. We have highlighted some below – and you can find more information on all of them in our Risk assessment guidance:

  • Stop people who: have symptoms, have tested positive or has been in close contact with some who has symptoms / tested, from coming to your rehearsal.Gather outdoors where possible
  • Good ventilation for indoor spaces
  • Good hygiene  - e.g. cleaning, shared surfaces and hand washing
  • Physical distancing (see below)
  • Controlling the flow of people

Physical distancing

The guidance sates:

“Following the change in the law, physical distancing is still a reasonable measure that may be taken, and in many circumstances is likely to be required to be taken, however it is no longer given particular prominence. This means that where other measures can be taken to minimise risk, such as moving outdoors, requiring people to be tested or vaccinated, using screens etc., physical distancing may not be required or could be required to a lesser extent.”

It also mentions singing specifically:

“…having greater physical distancing when strenuous exercise or singing is involved, or improving ventilation in busier indoor areas.”

So, whilst there is no limit on the numbers that can be involved in your activities, there might still be a practical limit determined by the need for some physical distancing.

Face coverings:

The guidance sates:

“Adults and children over 12 must wear face-coverings in indoor public places, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes or nightclubs.”

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 also states:

"A person (“P”) must wear a face covering in indoor public areas of premises to which the public have or are permitted access, other than premises where food or drink is sold, or otherwise provided, for consumption on the premises”

The Face coverings: guidance for public defines a public place as: “"premises to which the public have or may be permitted access", whether by payment or otherwise. This will include many different types of premises listed in Schedule 1 to the regulations, but no definitive list is provided and there are no exceptions.”

This is a broad definition of public places, and our view is that most typical rehearsal spaces (e.g. community centres / halls, churches) would be classed as public premises.

As such face coverings do need to be worn at inside rehearsals.

Face coverings whilst singing: There is no definitive statement in the guidance about wearing face coverings whilst singing.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 states a covering is not required where there is “…a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering” and provides some examples:

“The circumstances in which P (a person) has a reasonable excuse to not wear a face covering include—

  • (a) where P is unable to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010);
  • (b) where P is undertaking an activity and wearing a face covering during that activity may be considered to be a risk to P’s health;
  • (c) where P has to remove the face covering to communicate with a person who has difficulty communicating (in relation to speech, language or otherwise);
  • (d) where P has to remove the face covering in order to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to P or others;
  • (e) where P is at the premises to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and does not have a face covering;
  • (f) where P has to remove the face covering to—
  • (i) take medication;
  • (ii) eat or drink, where reasonably necessary;
  • (g) where P is asked to remove the face covering by an enforcement officer;”

This is not a definitive list, but the emphasis is on a reasonable excuse being when wearing a face covering would cause harm or stop you taking part in an activity.

Whilst singing in a face covering is not ideal, it is possible – and based on the above it is hard to argue that singing in a face covering is a reasonable excuse, unless there is a medical condition which means someone is exempt (a risk to health).

As such based on all the guidance our view is that face coverings should be worn at rehearsals, including whilst singing. There are masks designed for singing available. 

Face coverings for Wind and Brass: there is more room for reasonable excuse to apply to wind and brass playing as a face covering would stop your from doing the activity outright. Our view is that face coverings don't have to be worn when actually playing but should be at all other times. You might consider bell covers for the instruments.

Wales is in alert level 0.

What can my group do? 

Outdoors:

  • Groups can organise a performance with no limits on the numbers attending.
  • Groups must carry out a risk assessment and have measures in place to mitigate risk (see COVID secure events below).

From Monday 11 October: people will be required to show the NHS COVID pass to prove they are either fully vaccinated or have a recent negative Lateral Flow Test to attend:

  • outdoor non-seated events where over 4,000 people are mixing closely for prolonged periods
  • any outdoor event of more than 10,000 people

Indoors:

  • Groups can organise a performance with no limits on the numbers attending.
  • Groups must carry out a risk assessment and have measures in place to mitigate risk (see COVID secure events below).
  • Face masks remain a legal requirement

From Monday 11 October: people will be required to show the NHS COVID pass to prove they are either fully vaccinated or have a recent negative Lateral Flow Test to attend:

  • nightclubs
  • indoor non-seated events where over 500 people are mixing closely for prolonged periods
  • any indoor event of more than 10,000 people

 


COVID secure events 

Previously Wales issued guidance called ‘Keep Wales Safe: creating COVID-aware events’. This has now been withdrawn and groups should follow the more general Alert level 0: guidance for employers, businesses and organisations. It has three key steps:

  1. Carry out a specific coronavirus risk assessment

Although restrictions have been lifted groups still need to provide a safe environment at their events. Doing a risk assessment is vital to this. See the Making Music Risk Assessment guidance and template for more information.

  1. Providing information

Provide clear information to everyone involved on your activities so they understand what measures will be in place and what is expected of them. Our risk assessment guidance has more details.

  1. Taking reasonable measures

The point of the risk assessment is to understand the level of risk involved on your activities and then have measures in place to reduce those risks. The Alert level 0: guidance for employers, businesses and organisation lists what some of these might be. We have highlighted some below – and you can find more information on all of them in our Risk assessment guidance:

  • Stop people who: have symptoms, have tested positive or has been in close contact with some who has symptoms / tested, from coming to your event.
  • Gather outdoors where possible
  • Good ventilation for indoor spaces
  • Good hygiene  - e.g. cleaning, shared surfaces and hand washing
  • Physical distancing (see below)
  • Controlling the flow of people

Physical distancing: The guidance sates:

“Following the change in the law, physical distancing is still a reasonable measure that may be taken, and in many circumstances is likely to be required to be taken, however it is no longer given particular prominence. This means that where other measures can be taken to minimise risk, such as moving outdoors, requiring people to be tested or vaccinated, using screens etc., physical distancing may not be required or could be required to a lesser extent.”

So, whilst there is no limit on the numbers that can be involved in your activities, there might still be a practical limit determined by the need for some physical distancing.

Face coverings: The guidance sates:

“Adults and children over 12 must wear face-coverings in indoor public places, with the exception of hospitality settings such as restaurants, pubs, cafes or nightclubs.”

The exemption for hospitality seems to be about consuming food and drink - as such we think face coverings should be worn at indoor performances. Aee also our separate guidance on Face coverings and singing.

This guidance is based on the NI Executive general guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations and guidance: what they mean for you

As of 27 July indoor and outdoor in person music performances are allowed with measures in place. 

"Outdoor and indoor visitor attractions are permitted to open (including theatres, concert halls and other seated indoor venues) and are subject to the requirements on gatherings to determine the maximum numbers permitted access."

What can groups do? 

Indoor performances

Indoor theatres and concert venues can hold indoor performances (27 July), with some restrictions measures in place as detailed in Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions section of the guidance

  • Venues will require Test and Trace information
  • 1m social distancing inside venue (which will impact capacity)
  • Advance booking required
  • Seats allocated
  • Audience remain seated (unless using facilities)
  • Face covering must be worn (unless exempt).

The Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions section of the guidance does not specifically mention risk assessments but the Indoor gatherings section says:

"To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an indoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.

Indoor gatherings of 15 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment."

We strongly recommend groups carry out a risk assessment for all indoor activities. See 'Covid Secure events' below for more details. 

Outdoor performances

Outdoor performances can take place. The Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions section does not give much detial on measures for outdoor events, but the Outdoor Gatherings section has some detail: 

“To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an outdoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.”

So the number is dictated by the risk assessment what is safe.

It also sates: “Outdoor gatherings of 30 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment”, we strongly recommend groups carry out a risk assessment for all outdoor activities. 

The Social distancing section of the guidance states:

“For outdoor venues, social distancing requirements are strongly advised. Where two metres is not viable, a minimum of one metre is recommended with consideration given to other risk mitigations. Risk mitigations should be detailed in risk assessments.”

We think this is guidance rather than a legal requirement – so whilst groups don’t have to socially distance outside aiming for 2m where possible but at least 1m is recommended.

There is no specific mention of face coverings and outdoors. The Outdoor gatherings section does refer to 'respiratory hygiene practices', but we don’t think face coverings are required outdoors.

 


Covid Secure events 

Making Music’s guidance and risk assessment for performances can help you plan safe events.  

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: 'In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland' has not been updated to reflect the latest changes, and it seems the arts sector should be following general guidance (as detailed above). But the arts council document is still available to view.

 

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland (based on official guidance) says on page 3:

Non-professionals should not currently engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing. 

The official guidance is clear, and your group cannot organise any in person rehearsals. 

What can groups do? 

This guidance is based on the NI Executive general guidance; Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations and guidance: what they mean for you. 

What does the guidance say?

The numbers allowed to gather depend on the regulations in place at the time. Current regulations/guidance state the following:

Outdoor gatherings

The Outdoor gatherings section says: 

"To determine maximum number that can attend, the organiser must have carried out a risk assessment. Outdoor gatherings of 30 people or less do not require a risk assessment.

The organiser must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

A person responsible for organising a gathering must, if requested to do so by a relevant person, provide:

  • a copy of the risk assessment; and
  • an account of the reasonable measures taken

You should maintain social distancing, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices."

Social distancing

The Social distancing section of the guidance states: 

"For outdoor venues, social distancing requirements are strongly advised. Where two metres is not viable, a minimum of one metre is recommended with consideration given to other risk mitigations. Risk mitigations should be detailed in risk assessments."

We think this is guidance rather than a legal requirement – so whilst groups don’t have to socially distance outside aiming for at least 1m is recommended.

Face coverings

There is no specific mention of face coverings and outdoors. The Outdoor gatherings section does refer to 'respiratory hygiene practices', but we don’t think face coverings are required outdoors.

Indoor gatherings

The Indoor gatherings section says:  

“To determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an indoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.

Indoor gatherings of 15 people or less do not require a risk assessment.

The organiser must also take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

A person responsible for organising a gathering must, if requested to do so by a relevant person, provide:

  • a copy of the risk assessment; and
  • an account of the reasonable measures taken'

It is important that indoor spaces are well ventilated at all times, by leaving doors and windows open. Frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, should be cleaned regularly.

Good hand hygiene should be encouraged and social distancing between households maintained."

Social distancing

The Social distancing section of the guidance states: 

“Current regulations require a minimum of one metre social distancing in retail and shopping centres, indoor hospitality settings and indoor visitor attractions."

We think this would apply to rehearsals so 1m social distancing is required when rehearsing indoors.

Face coverings 

The Entertainment, leisure activities and cultural attractions section says:

"You must wear a face covering when you go to any indoor public space, unless exempt"

We think this would apply to rehearsals so face coverings should be worn when rehearsing indoors.

Face coverings whilst singing: There is no definitive statement in the guidance about wearing face coverings whilst singing.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance does say exemptions apply “If you have a reasonable excuse not to” and lists what reasonable excuses can include:

  • "if you need to seek medical assistance or to provide care to someone who needs assistance, such as a vulnerable person or in an emergency
  • if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering would cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • if you need to remove it to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury to yourself or others
  • if you need to eat, drink, or take medication
  • if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or someone who may need to check your identity, for example, when buying alcohol, when you are at the bank, or in an airport or when boarding an aircraft”

This is not a definitive list, but the emphasis is on a reasonable excuse being when wearing a face covering would cause harm or stop you taking part in an activity. 

Whilst singing in a face covering is not ideal, it is possible – and based on the above it is hard to argue that singing in a face covering is a reasonable excuse, unless there is a medical condition which means someone is exempt (a risk to health).

As such based on all the guidance our view is that face coverings should be worn at rehearsals, including whilst singing. There are masks designed for singing available. 

Face coverings for wind and brass: there is more room for reasonable excuse to apply to wind and brass playing as a face covering would stop your from doing the activity outright. Our view is that face coverings don't have to be worn when actually playing but should be at all other times. You might consider bell covers for the instruments.

What can groups do? 

Outdoors 

  • meet to rehearse outdoors in public. While the guidance states that 'outdoor gatherings of 30 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment', we strongly recommend groups carry out a risk assessment for all outdoor activities. 
  • If groups do rehearse outdoors in public they need to think about how to manage members of the public / passers-by. If people stop and watch, a rehearsal can become a performance, which may need to be risk assessed. 
  • Aim for at least 1m social distancing if possible (advice not requirement)
  • No need for face coverings

Indoors

  • meet to rehearse indoors. The maximum number of people that can attend indoor rehearsals will depend on a risk assessment of the venue. While the guidance states that 'indoor gatherings of 15 people or fewer do not need a risk assessment', we strongly recommend groups carry out a risk assessment for all indoor activities regardless.
  • Maintain 1m social distancing
  • Wear face coverings

 


Meeting to rehearse safely 

Groups meeting in person will need to carry out a risk assessment which meets the requirement of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 and take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

Making Music’s guidance and risk assessment for rehearsals can help with this. 

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: 'In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland' has not been updated to reflect the latest changes, and it seems the arts sector should be following general guidance (as detailed above). But the arts council document is still available to view.