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Reopening services safely during the Covid-19 pandemic

26 December 2020

As of 26 December 2020, Tier 4 Covid restrictions have been extended across the whole of East Sussex.

Where to get support and advice

Public Health East Sussex is available for you to enquire about your individual group or organisation’s circumstances and seek advice. We recommend speaking to them for a detailed and nuanced response which will cover what’s legal and safe. Please email Public Health East Sussex at Publichealthenquiries@eastsussex.gov.uk.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 3VA if you are struggling to find the right information you need to run your group. We may be able to provide support, make connections or offer training. We are here Monday to Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Get in touch via:

The six people socially meeting rule

Only six people are permitted to meet together socially now (appropriately socially distanced). This is now the law and you can be fined for breaching it. Exceptions to the 6 people rule include:

  • Work or provision of voluntary or charitable services (so more than six people can be in a building to organise food parcels, but they must do so in a Covid-19 secure way).
  • Organised outdoor exercise classes, organised sport or physical activity.
  • Childcare and various activities for children.
  • Supervised sporting activity indoors and outdoors for under 18s.
  • Indoor organised team sports for disabled people.
  • Support groups – up to 15 participants. This means organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy and support. Those who are working or volunteering as part of those groups are not counted as part of the 15 limit.
  • Covid-19 secure venues can host more than 6 people in total, but no-one should mix in a group greater than 6.

Please familiarise yourself with the full guidance:

  • Face covering rules: Passengers in private hire vehicles (from 23 September), customers in hospitality venues (except when seated at a table to eat or drink) and staff in hospitality and retail will now have to wear face coverings (from 24 September).
  • The wearing of face masks in close contact services is now law.

Working from home

Office workers who can work from home are now being encouraged to do so over the winter. Extra consideration should be given to those most vulnerable to the virus and who cannot work from home.

Business restrictions

  • Leisure and hospitality venues must close between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am.
  • Table service only permitted in places selling food and drink and customers.
  • Venues will need to display the official NHS QR code posters for customers to check in as an alternative to providing their contact details.
  • Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated.

21 September 2020: The new NHS app – urgent action needed by businesses and venues

From Thursday, 24 September, businesses and venues are required by law to print and display a scan-able QR code, issued by Government, to help trace and restrict the spread of coronavirus in our communities. This will allow anyone with the app to scan the poster on their mobile phone as they enter the premises to record their contact details.

This applies to services provided in community centres and village halls, hospitality venues (including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes), amusement arcades, attractions, libraries and museums and close physical contact services (such as hairdressers, barbers, nail bars).

Planning for reopening

Community groups offer a vital lifeline to so many people. Reopening in the time of a pandemic can seem daunting and the amount of information can be overwhelming. 

Many organisations and groups are wondering if they can safely reopen, particularly if they have among their service users people who fall into the vulnerable category for Covid-19 infection.

The answer to this question is to assess the risk and follow the guidance. There exist a huge number of guidance documents on the government website. We’ve also compiled a list of helpful reopening safely links where you can find out more.

This page attempts to draw attention to the most relevant resources for voluntary & community sector groups and organisations. If you cannot find the answer to your question here, please do get in touch with us at info@3va.org.uk.

Public Health East Sussex suggest you consider your reopening plans within the context of where we are on the alert level for coronavirus.

The implications of this are that your group or organisation may have a different plan for reopening, depending on the level of alert. For example, if you are planning an event in October, you might decide to go ahead if the alert level is at 2, but not if it is at 3.

Overall, Public Health East Sussex are advising caution about going ahead. The most important thing is to stay safe. Open when you are prepared and ready.

Care providers

The Social Care Institute for Excellence has provided some guidance on how to approach reopening day care services, giving thoughts about issues to consider, communication , risk assessments and some practice examples. King’s College London have also produced a guide to ‘unlock lockdown’.

Community spaces (including village halls)

From 4 July, managers of community facilities have had discretion over when they consider it safe to open for any activity permitted by legislation and may decide to remain closed if they are not able to safely follow the advice in the relevant guidance, to make the space Covid-19 secure.

While the community facility may be allowed to reopen, there are still some activities which are prohibited. These will change depending on the alert level, so check the government website.

The main issues you need to consider are:

  • Social distancing and capacity
  • Mask wearing  (Everyone must now wear a mask in public spaces, including community centres)
  • Cleaning
  • Hygiene and face coverings
  • Vulnerable people
  • Toilets
  • Noise
  • Track and Trace
  • Travel and parking – do you need more parking spaces, how can people travel to your venue safely?

Public Health advise that if you cannot control the activity, then don’t do it.

Premises with more than one organisation operating from them

Questions to consider include those around managing risk, agreeing safely measures, the responsibility of landlords, management committees and staff.

The Government has produced guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities. Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has also produced some specific guidance for village halls, including some useful checklists. Contact Action in rural Sussex for further information.

Employees and volunteers

Workplaces and those responsible for premises should also be aware of their responsibilities as employers and their duty of care towards volunteers to ensure as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. Volunteers should be afforded the same level of protection as employees and the self-employed. Government guidance is here.

Risk assessments

The Health and Safety Executive have extensive advice on producing a risk assessment, including a template and specific advice around coronavirus. You download guides and resources from their website.

3VA also has staff trained in doing risk assessments, so if you would like to talk through yours, please contact us.

Social distancing and capacity

Measures (mitigation) should be in place to ensure all users of community facilities follow the guidelines on social distancing, including strict adherence to social distancing of 2 metres or  at least 1 metre with additional measures such as masks or screens, where 2 metres is not possible.  You should set out the measures you will introduce in your risk assessment.

The size and circumstance of the premises will decide the maximum number of people that can be accommodated while also facilitating social distancing. You need to take account of, not just the total floorspace, but also likely pinch points and busy areas

Sport, fitness and dance

Indoor sport, fitness and dance can no longer take place except for under 18s and disabled people.

Therapy services

Close contact services, such as massage and reflexology, are now allowed with strict protective measures in place. However, professional bodies are advising that therapy services within the high risk transmission area of the face should not be undertaken. Anyone providing therapy services should be able to get advice on a safe return to delivering services from their professional body. Government guidance on this is here.


We have put together a short interactive course on reopening safely, ‘Don’t Pass it On’.  For details click here.

East Sussex County Council have kindly given us access to their set of slides around infection control:

Please note: these slides are aimed at care homes and therefore are extremely risk-averse. So, for example, in a school it would be ok to use a fan, but in a healthcare setting a fan could spread the virus more easily. So critically appraise the suggested measures.

Contact us if you are looking for training in a particular area and we will see if we can help you find something suitable.


The Community Transport Association have produced detailed guidance on restarting transport schemes and keeping passengers, staff and volunteers as safe as possible.

Further advice and support

East Sussex County Council

Includes national and local support for businesses, self-employed and sole traders.


Support and advice for voluntary and community groups about all aspects of their organisation, including support around risk assessment and planning for reopening services.

UK government

Information about managing return to delivering services across all sectors.

We would like to thank Public Health East Sussex, and Ross Boseley, in particular, for providing much of the above information and for supporting the sector as it moves towards reopening services.

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