From 9 August 2021, most of the restrictions on what you can and cannot do were lifted by the Scottish Government, and all places and businesses can open. There are no limits on the numbers who can attend weddings, funerals and places of worship.
Scottish Government guidance specifically for places of worship has been removed.
With the removal of social distancing requirements, most, if not all, towers should be able to begin a process of returning to regular practices.
Some SACR towers have already begun practices, and are preparing for face-to-face teaching.
In April 2022 nearly all restrictions have been removed, but the notes below are retained since they offer helpful guidance and give pointers for continuing to be safe in ringing environments.
What is on this page:
- Face masks
- Exploring ventilation solutions
- Guidance, advice and help
- What can I do to get ringing going in my tower?
- Visiting towers
The wearing of face coverings is still a requirement in indoor public spaces, and recommended in crowded outdoor spaces.
How to classify a ringing room (public or private space) has been fluid throughout, so wearing face coverings should be discussed with your band and with the bell owners.
The following thoughts may help you to decide:
- Masks give some protection to the wearer but it's mostly for the protection for others – you should discuss and agree this as a band, rather than as an individual choice.
- Masks reduce the amount of aerosols emitted, so the better the ventilation the less need for masks and vice versa.
- Wearing masks for hands-on teaching is CCCBR guidance, and makes good sense.
- There’s a strong argument for wearing a mask while standing behind someone.
- If the same group goes to a pub after practice and sit together unmasked, does using masks still confer benefit? This is a decision you should make as a band.
- Entrances to the ringing room may have less ventilation than the ringing room itself, and masks may be advisable in that case.
- Does mask-wearing materially interfere with your ringers’ ability to hear spoken commands during ringing?
The lack of ventilation in many towers may still be a blocker to a band’s confidence in returning to ringing. Although not a requirement, the Scottish Government recommends maximising ventilation in all environments.
- A good talk about the importance of fresh air in controlling transmission – focusing on bring fresh air in. Check it out here: https://tdgr.org.uk/ventilation-biosafety-in-our-towers.
- The CCCBR also has an article about virus transmission in bell towers: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/vaccination-and-virus-transmission-in-towers
- Dr David Pouncey is collating information about CO2 monitoring in bell towers: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus/carbon-dioxide-monitoring-whilst-ringing
Good practice on hygiene remains important in controlling spread of the virus, and should continue to be practised in ringing environments.
Many hand sanitisers contain glycerine and, in time this can make ropes sticky and gradually turn the tail ends black. One cCovid suitable hand sanitiser that doesn’t contain glycerine or other sticky compounds is Deb InstantFOAM made by Deb Stoko. This comes in a variety of containers including wall mount dispensers, but a 400ml pump top bottle is probably the best bet. For one supplier of it, click here.
Vaccination is an issue that should be decided at a local level by your band. It may be one more layer of mitigation which will help bring confidence to bands when considering a return to ringing, especially where space or ventilation is lacking.
Please note that most published guidance from churches in Scotland is now out of date, and Scottish Government Places of Worship guidance has been removed from the Scottish Government site.
At this point, guidance from the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, although developed in England, is aligned with Scottish requirements, and offers the most constructive pathways forward: https://cccbr.org.uk/coronavirus.
The Association of Ringing Teachers also has many good resources for returning to ringing: https://ringingteachers.org/survival-and-recovery-toolbox.
Making a plan
Now is a good time to make a concrete plan for returning to regular ringing, in a way that is comfortable and safe for your band.
A phased return to regular ringing could include:
- Practice by invitation with limited numbers at first.
- Splitting practice night into two shorter sessions of smaller groups, with time between.
- Limiting the number of different bells each person rings in a session.
It is key that you take decisions as a band, and also include the bell owners in your plans.
Inspecting your bells
Doing a risk assessment
The SACR have provided a template risk assessment, and this has been distributed to towers. The template has been used by several towers to successfully make a case for safely resuming ringing to various stakeholders.
If you know you cannot start ringing yet, it is still good to do a risk assessment and share it with your stakeholders, as it will help to structure your return and initiate a conversation.
If you are planning to visit another tower, of course it's best to check in advance about arrangements for practices, Sunday ringing, etc. via the tower correspondent (whose email address can be found at https://www.sacr.org/index.php/association/towers).