COVID-19

If you would like to receive COVID-19 update emails from CCVT please contact safeplaces@churchesofchrist.org.au.

Updates


VICTORIA UPDATE:

From 11.59PM on Thursday 18 November 2021, the COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria were considerably reduced as we are near the target of 90% of Victorians aged 12+ who are fully vaccinated.

Some of the many changes include:

  • No capacity limits for private gatherings in the home
  • No capacity limits for public gatherings 
  • No caps or density limits for cafés and restaurants where all patrons and workers are fully vaccinated
  • No caps or density limits for weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies at places of worship where everyone present is fully vaccinated
  • DQ4 capped at 50 people per facility for weddings, funerals, and religious ceremonies at places of worship where vaccination status is not being checked
  • On-site work can return for anyone fully vaccinated 
  • Masks remain in some high-risk settings including hospital and care facilities, places of worship where vaccination status is not being checked, workers serving the public at hospitality and retail venues, on public transport
  • Retail customers will no longer need to wear masks after 15 December 2021

PREPARING TO GATHER AGAIN IN PERSON

Many Affiliates will now commence in-person gatherings either in much bigger numbers or after a long period of time not meeting face to face. 

Some planning is required:

  1. Collect proof of vaccination or exemption for all workers (paid and volunteer) and record it securely (see online template register).
  2. If you are not checking the vaccination status of attendees, calculate the density quotient of each of the publicly accessible indoor and outdoor spaces on your property so you know what the maximum number of people is for each space. Don’t forget to update your signage.
  3. Decide the “who, what, when and where” of your services, events, and activities (in line with restrictions).  You don’t have to start everything all at once!
  4. Update your COVIDSafe Plan – it should now include the information about vaccinations so if that information isn’t there, then it isn’t up to date.
  5. Communicate clearly with your community about your events and activities, including on your calendar, using signage, and clearly indicating in your website and booking system if it is open to people with a positive vaccination status or unknown vaccination status.   
  6. Run the event or activity ensuring adequate COVID Check-in Marshals are available (the first run through may be a bit a shemozzle as people get used to meeting in person again!)
  7. After you have run your service or gathering, review your COVIDSafe plan to make sure it was realistic – make changes as necessary to provide a safe environment for all people.

SUMMARY OF HOW CURRENT RESTRICTIONS AFFECT AFFILIATES IN VICTORIA:

Please see below for how the relevant restrictions affect your church or agency. Please note that this advice remains subject to change.  

All advice from CCVT is based on advice received directly from Business Victoria and Department of Health, as well as the RoadmapsCOVID-19 Mandatory Vaccination (Workers) Directions (No 8)Open Premises Directions (No 5), and the Statement from the Premier’s Office.

If in doubt, please seek advice on your specific circumstances from the Hotline on 1800 675 398 or go to www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au. For more information go to www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covidsafe-settings. Please note that the website may not be fully updated yet.

 

 

CURRENT RESTRICTIONS FOR ALL OF VICTORIA FROM 11.59PM THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2021

 

 

 

 

Religious gatherings, weddings, and funerals

(e.g. worship services, religious ceremonies such as communion or baptism, life groups, prayer groups, private prayer, kids’ ministry, PlaygroupChristian Playgroup, youth group, members meetings, essential support groups e.g. AA or NA)

FULLY VACCINATED: 

If you are running a fully vaccinated event, then no density or capacity limits apply indoors or outdoors.

You must have a COVID Check-in Marshal.

All workers must be fully vaccinated unless exempt. You must record the vaccination status of workers (paid and volunteer) either in your existing database or by using a register.

Only fully vaccinated patrons, exempt people, and children under the age of 12 years and 2 months may attend.

You must check the evidence of vaccination status of patrons each time they attend. You do not need to record or keep evidence of patron’s vaccination status.

 

UNKNOWN STATUS: 

If you are not checking the vaccination status of a group, then numbers are capped at either 1 person per 4sqm (DQ4) or 50 patrons, whichever is lower.

You are not required to have a COVID Check-in Marshal.

All workers must be fully vaccinated unless exempt. You must record the vaccination status of workers (paid and volunteer) either in your existing database or by using a register.

Caps do not include: 

At religious gatherings: Those workers necessary to conduct the gathering, and infants under 12 months.

At weddings: The marrying couple, the celebrant, the photographer, and infants under 12 months.

At funerals: Those workers necessary to conduct the funeral, and infants under 12 months.

 

 

 

What is a Patron? 

(Source p.17)

Patron means any person who attends a premises, except:

(i) a person under 1 year of age

(ii) a worker

(iii) a person who attends the premises in connection with an emergency

 

Work

Anyone can go to work if they are fully vaccinated.

 

Evidence of Vaccination

Evidence of vaccination can include:

In the period before a person’s immunisation history is updated, evidence of vaccination can include a recent booking confirmation email, or the card received at the time of vaccination.

You can call Services Australia on 1800 653 809 and ask them to send your Immunisation History Statement to you.

 

Mandatory Vaccination

All religious workers (paid or volunteer) must be fully vaccinated by 26 November 2021 if they intend to work on site. 

You must record the vaccination status of workers (paid and volunteer) either in your existing database or by using a register.

Mandatory vaccination does not apply to those who are continuing to only work from home. 

 

Who is a religious worker?

A ‘religious worker’ is someone who works in connection with a place of worship.  

This does NOT include “excluded workers” who:

  • conduct services of public worship and acknowledgments of faith
  • perform marriages, funerals, and special memorial services according to tradition and ecclesiastical and civil law
  • visit members of the community in their homes, hospitals and other institutions to provide advice and religious comfort for the purpose of end of life faith reasons

CCVT recommends that all religious workers be vaccinated. If you have concerns, please seek advice from your medical practitioner.

Vaccination is also mandatory for Authorised Workers in a range of other areas which may affect Affiliates, including retail (e.g. op shops and church cafes).  

The following are common examples of workers (paid or volunteer) who may be required to be vaccinated if not working from home or exempt. 

  • Ministers/Pastors* 
  • Admin/Office staff/Receptionists
  • Cleaners/Gardeners/Property Maintenance/Repairers
  • Worship band members/Audio Visual team
  • Broadcast Team*
  • Board Members/Elders
  • Children and Youth leaders
  • Seniors Ministry Leaders
  • Food bank/homeless support staff and volunteers*
  • Pastoral care/counselling staff*
  • Anyone on the list of Authorised Workers (even though worker permits are not needed at the moment)
  • Life group/small group/cell group/bible study group leaders*

*exceptions may apply in some circumstances (see relevant info in table)

If you are unsure if you meet the criteria of a religious worker because of your paid or volunteer role, please check with the Business Victoria website or call the Hotline on 1800 675 398.

 

Broadcast Teams

If your Broadcast Team (max 5 people) are onsite to record/livestream and they are the only people onsite, then the church/agency does nothave to adhere to the vaccination requirements for that event. The church/agency is not required to check vaccination status, a check-in marshal is not required, and Broadcast Team members are not required to be vaccinated in that context. (Source p.14).  Broadcast Teams at a service attended by members of the public are required to be vaccinated unless medically exempt. 

 

Life groups/bible study groups in private homes

Groups can now meet in private homes for the purpose of running a formal church or agency program or activity. There are no restrictions on private gatherings.

The group leader meets the definition of a Religious Worker, and therefore must be vaccinated unless the group is meeting in the leaders own house, thereby that person is “working from home”.

Business Victoria have confirmed that while mandatory vaccination does not apply to the group leader if they are working from their own home, it is still strongly recommended in this setting.

The same leader running this group outside of their own home (such as at church or another person’s house) would then be required to be vaccinated as the religious worker is no longer working from home. This advice may change so CCVT will track this topic and update Affiliates accordingly.

 

Vaccination for kids and youth

Under 1 year old: Babies under 12 months old are not eligible to be vaccinated and are not included in any density quotient, capacity limits, or group limits.

Under the age of 12 and 2 months: Regardless of their actual vaccination status, children aged under 12 years and 2 months old are considered fully vaccinated. They must be counted towards any relevant density quotient and cap on attendees.

Above the age of 12 and 2 months: Anyone above the age of 12 years and 2 months old is required to show evidence of their vaccination status. They must be counted towards any relevant density quotient and cap on attendees.

 

Pastoral visitation in private homes

Permitted. Please note that Pastoral carers are religious workers. They are required to be vaccinated, except if they are there to “provide advice and religious comfort for the purpose of end of life faith reasons”.

 

Pastoral visitation in hospital

Visitors are only allowed at hospitals for very limited reasons. 

Please seek case by case advice directly from the facility before attending, as they may have their own additional requirements.

 

Pastoral visitation in care facilities

Visitors are only allowed at care facilities for very limited reasons. 

Up to 5 visitors per resident per day (dependants included), and it is strongly recommended that all residents and visitors are fully vaccinated.

Please seek case by case advice directly from the facility before attending, as they may have their own additional requirements.

 

Essential Public Support Service

e.g. food banks, help for people experiencing homelessness 

(does not include support groups e.g. AA or parenting. These are subject to the same restrictions as religious gatherings)

Fully vaccinated groups: (including workers and patrons)

No density or capacity limits indoors or outdoors

Unknown vaccination status groups: 

If you are not checking the vaccination status of a group, then numbers are capped at either 1 person per 4sqm (DQ4) or 50 patrons, whichever is lower.

Babies under 12 months of age and the minimum persons required to conduct and/or facilitate the service are not included in the maximum of 50 persons.

 

Food and drink facilities

e.g. commercial café

Some churches and agencies run a commercial café or other food and beverage facility.

Food and drink facilities such as cafés and restaurants are now open with no density or capacity limits.

All patrons over the age of 12 years and 2 months old must provide evidence of being fully vaccinated or medically exempt.

Restaurants and cafes are required to request that patrons check in using the Service Victoria app.

Patrons over the age of 12 years and 2 months who are not able to provide evidence of being fully vaccinated or medically exempt may onlyutilise takeaway service.

 

Retail / Op shops

Op shops are considered “non-essential retail”.

From 11:59pm on 18 November 2021, patrons who are at least 12 years and 2 months old must be fully vaccinated or have a valid medical exemption to attend a non-essential retail premises.

All retail workers onsite (paid or volunteer) are now required to be vaccinated (second dose required by 26 November 2021) unless medically exempt. 

Workers and customers at indoor retail are required to wear masks up until 15 December 2021.

If the shop is less than 80 sqm of publicly accessible space, you may have up to 20 people. If more than 80 square metres of publicly accessible space, a density quotient of DQ4 applies.

Op shops must have a COVIDSafe plan in place.

There are lots of resources for how to run retail shops safely here.

 

Face Masks

From 11:59 pm Thursday 18 November 2021, face mask requirements have been relaxed. There is no requirement to wear face masks in some indoor and most outdoor settings, but some settings still require a face mask, including:

  • Workers serving the public at hospitality venues.
  • Workers and customers at indoor retail.
  • Weddings, funerals, and worship settings if the vaccination status of people attending is unknown, or not being checked.

Face masks are strongly recommended if you can’t physically distance, have any symptoms, or if you are with people who may be vulnerable to COVID-19.

In those settings, exception still apply, for example:

  • You can remove your face mask if you are communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing and the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
  • Persons for whom the nature of their work or education means that clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth is essential. This includes teaching, lecturing, or broadcasting.
 

Contact Tracing

All Affiliates must be registered for the Victorian Government QR Code Service and ensure all attendees check in when on site.

A full step-by-step guide on how to use the free Victorian Government QR Code Check-in System is available here.

 

COVID Check-in Marshals

COVID Check-in marshal is required at all public entrances when the venue or facility is open to patrons.

A COVID Check-in Marshal’s job is to monitor entrances and ensure each patron who enters a venue uses the Service Victoria QR code to check in on arrival (or an alternative record keeping method, where relevant). If a patron refuses to show evidence of a successful check in on the QR code, the COVID Check-in Marshal can ask that person not to enter the venue.   

If your facility is running a fully vaccinated activity a COVID Check-in Marshal must also request that patrons entering the venue show evidence of their vaccination status or evidence of a medical exemption. If a patron refuses to show evidence of vaccination or medical exemption, they cannot enter.  

Employers are responsible for appointing workers or volunteers as COVID Check-in Marshals. As we meet in larger numbers, it is important to ensure you have enough people the role and that they are the right people!

Employers should support workers to carry out their COVID Check-in Marshal duties by making sure they have received some basic guidance by accessing the online resources.

 

Signs, Posters, and Templates

Signage and posters are available to inform customers and visitors that COVID-19 vaccination is required to enter your facility. It is important that you clearly display these at all entrances to your business so that customers are aware of their obligations. 

A collection of resources is also available to promote a COVIDSafe workplace. You are encouraged to download and print the following signs and posters to put up around your property. They cover hygiene and changes to business operations due to COVID-19.

 

Responding to a confirmed case

There is new advice related to confirmed cases of COVID-19 at your church/agency. If someone who tested positive worked while they were infectious, they are required to tell their workplace. The workplace must identify and inform other staff who are contacts (including sub-contractors, but not patrons).

You must respond quickly to limit further exposure and contain potential outbreaks. Don’t panic – help is available, just follow the process outlined on the confirmed case in the workplace webpage. 

 

COVIDSafe Plans

Please review your COVIDSafe plan in light of any changes to current restrictions. 

The church as a workplace also includes “ceremonies held in other locations e.g. homes, gardens and community venues”. Please ensure that you have included these locations in your COVIDSafe Plan if running ceremonies (e.g. communion or baptisms) offsite. (Source

 

Cross-border Communities

If your church or agency is on a Victorian border, please visit Information for cross border communities for more information about conditions on entering or re-entering Victoria.

 

Baptisms

The church as a workplace also includes “ceremonies held in other locations e.g. homes, gardens and community venues”. Please ensure that you have included these locations in your COVIDSafe Plan if running ceremonies (e.g. baptisms) offsite. (Source

CCVT recommends baptisms be conducted by a member of the same household as keeping 1.5m distance is not required for members of the same household. 

It is recommended that you do not baptise multiple people in same enclosed water e.g. baptismal bath. 

Masks are useless and dangerous when wet – do not baptise while face is covered – remove beforehand and replace with new mask immediately after.

 

Tithes and Offerings

Encourage online giving or direct bank transfer. 

Avoid passing the offering bowls/bags/buckets. Position bowls/buckets in convenient places, so people can leave their offerings without touching them.

Provide offering volunteers (counting and recording) with hand sanitizer and gloves. Make sure counters maintain a distance of 1.5m from each other.

 

Singing

Singing is allowed at places of worship in Victoria. Masks must be worn. If the singing is indoors, the indoor venue should be well ventilated. This can be achieved by making sure that windows are opened. Fans (ceiling or free-standing) are not recommended in enclosed indoor spaces. 

If you are participating in a music or singing rehearsal, it is recommended that you keep at least two metres from other people in the rehearsal. Performers are also recommended to keep five metres away from the audience. 

 

Food/Beverage 

There is no longer any limitation on food, drink, crockery, utensils, vessels, or other equipment being shared by participants. 

Good food safety measures are recommended, such as wearing masks when not eating or drinking, providing single use cutlery, having designated servers make tea/coffee.

 

Communion

Communion can be served as part of a religious gathering. 

Minimise contact by having only designated people serve and collect back communion cups (no handing them all to the end of the row) or provide bins for collection of used cups. 

Consider double cupping your communion, having covid safe servers or using prefilled communion cups

 

Hall Hire and tenants

Many Affiliates operate at venues that are used as a place of worship by churches and by community groups for non-religious purposes. 

It is the responsibility of the hall hirer/tenant to ensure that their workers and attendees are fully vaccinated (if required). 

Your COVIDSafe Plan should clarify who is responsible for cleaning and how often (e.g. after every event).

 

 

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE: 

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