Update on COVID-19 rules for churches- weddings and services

Following my previous comments on COVID-19 rules applying to churches in NSW (see here for the most recent post), the NSW Minister for Health issued an “exemption” which eases some of the restrictions on Thursday 27 August. The exemption relates to weddings and “places of public worship” where there is more than one building on the premises.

The exemption order has been issued in accordance with cl 24 of the relevant Public Health Order (the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 4) 2020 [NSW], the latest version of which, updated on Aug 25, can be seen here.) Under cl 24:

The Minister may, in writing and subject to the conditions the Minister considers appropriate, grant an exemption to this Order or specified provisions of this Order.

Clause (1) of the exemption raises the number of persons that can be present at a wedding from 100 to 150 (so long as that number can be accommodated under the “one person per 4 square metres” rule (the “4m2” rule)):

Note that this exemption recognises, however, that there may be more than one building on “the premises”. So it seems that each of those buildings may have up to 150 persons (in compliance with the 4m2 rule), so long as clause 2 is complied with.

Clause (2) of the exemption makes it clear that where a church site includes more than one building, then the numerical limits apply to each building separately, so long as the other requirements are met:

Note that the numbers for ordinary services or events that are not weddings are still limited to 100. But so long as the people in each of the buildings are kept from mingling with each other (including the requirement under cl 2(e) that events are to have different start and finish times) then up to 100 may be included in each building.

It is worth noting that these provisions will be of some assistance to those churches operating in “places of public worship”, but seem to have no impact on churches meeting in other areas such as public schools or community centres. My previous post noted some uncertainty about whether the word “premises” in the main Public Health Order allowed different buildings on the one site to be regarded as different “premises”, or not. This uncertainty will no longer affect “places of public worship”, but will still remain for churches meeting in other places.

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