Returning to Ringing

GUIDANCE FROM 17TH MAY – ENGLAND    PUBLISHED ON THE CCCBR WEBSITE

BY SIMON LINFORD ON APR 21, 2021 03:51 PM

Today we have published draft guidance for the period from 17 May to 21 June to enable ringers in England at least to plan for the next phase of lockdown release. This guidance has been agreed with the House of Bishops Recovery Group, but it remains in draft form until the Government finally confirms that its four tests have been met immediately prior to 17 May. The guidance is a major step change from previous guidance.

There are two new documents on the Covid guidance pages of the Council website. The first is one specifically covering this five-week guidance period which can be found here, and then an update of the guidance note about individual risks

The key points of the guidance are that:

 [a]  Rule of Six applies indoors – ringing sessions should be arranged for six people

 [b]  Hands – Space – Face rules apply – face coverings, hand sanitising between ringing,

                        1m plus mitigations when ringing

 [c]  Lateral Flow Tests – twice weekly, preferably timed for days of any sustained ringing

 [d]  Consider your own personal risk

 [e]  Restrict ringing time to 45 minutes whilst maintaining good tower ventilation

 Please read all of the two guidance documents as there is much more detail in them,

As the above is just a summary.

Guidance 17 May to 21 June

These guidelines are a major step change from previous guidelines. They are possible because:

  • There are currently very low (300 per 100,000) levels of circulating virus in the community
  • Vaccination appears to have significant effectiveness against variants of Coronavirus currently circulating in the UK
  • Twice weekly lateral flow testing has been made available for the whole population by the government.

These factors combine to mean that it is highly unlikely that people who are at risk of serious disease will have significant contact with an infectious person in a tower, if these guidelines are followed.

It is hoped that these will be a step on the way to even greater relaxation of restrictions on 21 June. However, it is probable, at some time in the future, that CCCBR guidelines will have to become more restrictive. This will be if and when virus transmission rises in the community, or new variants, not protected against by current vaccines, circulate in the community – because poorly ventilated ringing chambers can easily become pressure cookers for virus transmission.

We are moving swiftly with these relaxations, taking advantage of the current situation, to permit:

  • Meaningful Sunday Service ringing
  • A return of enjoyable recreational ringing
  • Re-establishment of ringing communities
  • Restoration of the physical fitness needed for ringing
  • Opportunity to research the effectiveness of ventilation in different towers (to guide where adjustments need to be made for the long term sustainability of ringing)

The Rule of Six applies indoors. This means that only six people from different families can meet at one time. (However, if only two families are meeting together, the total can exceed 6 persons). In practice this means that ringing sessions should be pre-arranged for 6 people, rather than drop-in. 

Hands – Face – Space rules apply.  Hand sanitisation should take place before ringing and before changing ropes. Face coverings should be worn at all times inside. Social distancing in the tower should be 2 metres at all non ringing times. But whilst ringing, “1 metre plus mitigations” will be acceptable.

Ringers should perform Lateral Flow Tests twice weekly – preferably timing them for the days of any sustained ringing. Lateral flow tests work differently and have a different role to the more accurate PCR tests (which continue to be necessary for anyone with symptoms). However they have been shown to be good at picking up highly infectious individuals. Anyone testing positive with a lateral flow test needs to isolate immediately, inform Test and Trace, and have a PCR test to confirm the infection.

Recheck before every session: “is it safe for me to ring?”

Consider your own personal risk.

Ask oneself the following questions each time, before ringing:

  1. Do I (or anyone in my household) have a temperature or fever? 
  2. Have I (or anyone in my household) lost the sense of taste or smell? 
  3. Do I (or anyone in my household) have a new continuous cough? 
  4. Have I (or anyone in my household) been in contact with anyone that is confirmed Covid-19 positive in the last 7 days.
  5. Have I had a positive Lateral Flow Test in the past 7 days?

If the response to any of these is YES, then we should NOT ring until the possibility of Covid-19 infection has been excluded and any quarantine period has been completed. 

Restrict ringing time to 45 minutes, whilst maintaining good tower ventilation. During these weeks,longer periods of ringing should be restricted to planned episodes undertaken by low risk individuals, whilst researching the effectiveness of ventilation in a particular tower, using high­-quality CO2 monitoring equipment (some guidance is being developed for this, including example monitors to use and what to do with them).

Is it appropriate for an individual to Ring?

Returning to ringing is not risk-free, even after receiving two doses of vaccine. So it is important for each individual to carefully consider, and personally decide, whether it is appropriate for them to do so – with respect to their own health, that of their fellow ringers, and of the community as a whole.

One of the stronger objective facts that emerged in the first year of the Coronavirus pandemic is the difference of risk (of severe illness and death) between individuals. The risk of hospitalisation and death increases very significantly with age, particularly over the age of 50. In addition, men tend to have more severe illness than women, as do people with BAME heritage, whilst pre-existing conditions strongly affect the outcome of infection.

By April 2021, vaccination in the UK has been very successful (up to 90%) in reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death due to Coronavirus infection, by variants currently circulating in the community. However, if new variants establish a foothold, then risk levels are likely to rise again.

AGE

The risk of death, and the likelihood of a severe infection, as a result of contracting Coronavirus, increases very significantly with age.

Older band members should consider seriously whether it is appropriate for them to ring, particularly if for any reason they have not been vaccinated. 

RISKS FROM MEDICAL CONDITIONS

The NHS classifies two levels of increased risk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid­19/people-at-higher-risk/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/

1. People at HIGH risk (clinically extremely vulnerable)

These people would have been contacted by the NHS in March / April 2020 and told to shield. 

Although the advice to shield has been relaxed, these people should not ring and put themselves at risk unless, for example, they have received both doses of vaccine. 

2. People at MODERATE risk from coronavirus include people who:

  • are 70 or older 
  • have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis) 
  • have heart disease (such as heart failure) 
  • have diabetes 
  • have chronic kidney disease 
  • have liver disease (such as hepatitis) 
  • have a condition affecting the brain or nerves 
    (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy) 
  • have a condition that means they have a high risk of getting infections 
  • are taking medicine that can affect the immune system (such as low doses of steroids) 
  • are very obese (a BMI of 40 or above) 
  • are pregnant  

Note how this list starts by including anyone with no illness other than that of being aged over 70!  

For anyone with one of these conditions, the likelihood of a bad outcome from catching an infection is considerably greater, and so please bear this in mind in your decision making particularly if for any reason (such as being pregnant) they have not been vaccinated . 

BEING A RISK TO OTHERS

Some people, although possibly at low personal risk if they were to contract the infection, may be at greater risk of catching it, and then passing it on to the rest of the band – either in the infectious day or two before starting symptoms, or because they happen to be an asymptomatic carrier. 

Examples of such people are: 

  • People who have not yet been vaccinated
  • University and School Students
  • Staff in hospital and care environments
  • Teachers and University staff
  • Essential workers with client contact e.g. supermarket staff Security Guards
  • Factory and processing plant workers

In caring for one another, you may feel that it is better for you not to bring an increased risk into the tower. You should certainly inform fellow ringers that you are in a higher risk occupation, or unvaccinated, and check that they feel at ease ringing with you.

Now that Lateral Flow Testing is universally available, it may help the band to feel that it is reasonable for such people to ring, so long as they have tested negative in the previous 0-48 hours.

BEING ANXIOUS ABOUT IT

If, despite the very much improved situation we find ourselves in, the thought of returning to ringing makes you anxious, then you should not do it. You do not have to explain yourself. No one will criticise you. No one will pressurise you.

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