Northern Ireland Covid Regulations Update
Outdoor space has been so important for all of us during the pandemic and is going to continue to be even more important as we try to resume ‘normal life’ and sustain our personal, family and community’s health and social well-being. If Community Growing projects establish best pandemic practice they will play an important role in our Green Recovery.
Fortunately most Allotments and some Community Growing projects have been able to stay open throughout the pandemic, this has been a real boost to people’s well being over a challenging year. As restrictions start to ease Community Growing projects need to be ready to gradually open to more participants and ensure all the best practice that was put in place at the end of other lockdowns is followed, see the attached resources.
Deciding whether your community garden or allotment activity is within the current guidelines can be tricky, as the activities involved can fall between a few categories in the Coronavirus regulations (exercise, voluntary work, social activity, procuring goods). Additionally the guidelines are mostly in reference to commercial or private life, and include fewer clarifications on community life. In all situations if anyone is experiencing symptoms or has received advice to isolate they should stay at home.
The current advice is to only leave your home for essential reasons, so think about whether your activity is necessary, and if distancing measures can be observed. Our interpretation is that some categories of activity are allowed within the current regulations:
- Essential maintenance
- Organising emergency food aid for your community (permitted under essential voluntary work)
- Cultivating and harvesting vegetables (obtaining goods and exercise)
- Caring for bees, hens or other livestock.
These are not reasons to gather, just reasons to leave your house. When carrying out these activities, try to stay in your household group and minimise contact with others by adhering to social distancing when necessary. Attending an allotment is permissible, though allotment managers should be carrying out risk assessments, and putting measures in place to minimise contact between people. You currently cannot take part in any one-to-one training sessions.
In our interpretation, community gardens do not count as private gardens, as there will be a health and safety policy, and measures put in place to ensure distancing and respiratory hygiene can be adhered to. Therefore currently up to 10 people (including children of all ages) from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors, and up to six people from a maximum of two households can meet in non-domestic indoor settings, for a permitted reason (see above). Community halls are allowed to remain open, but must adhere to current guidelines.
From 1st of April, some more categories of activity will be permitted. Meeting up for social reasons will become permissible, for up to six people (including children) from no more than two households can meet up outdoors, maintaining social distancing. This is allowed in private gardens, so we interpret that this is permissible in community gardens as well, as there are more measures in place to ensure distancing. From 12th April, up to 10 people from 2 households can meet. In reality this will often mean just 2-4 people can meet, but it means that you can meet for purely social reasons, and don’t have to be doing work or exercise.
We are so fortunate that most of our work takes place outside but we must be vigilant on our use of any indoor spaces polytunnels, greenhouses, sheds etc and establish good practice on social distancing, cleaning of high contact areas – taps, handles, locks, tools etc. and adherence to the current guidelines on mixing with other households. These practices will keep everyone safe and ensure our projects stay open. There have been some light hearted fun ways to remind people to wash their hands – see our other resources, and here for a demonstration of a tippy tap; these ideas help us in our projects to follow restrictions.
Take care everyone, we hope this has been useful, and stay in touch with us in the coming months, we want to hear how you are doing.