First posted: 11 May 2020

COVID-19 Update

With the recent announcements from both the Australian and New Zealand governments about the easing of restrictions with regards to COVID-19 it is worthwhile noting what the current situation is with bellringing in both countries.

It is not possible to have one policy that works in both countries, let alone in the whole of Australia, as each state and territory in Australia will ease its restrictions at a different point in time.

New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2 on Thursday, 14 May, which does open up a lot more environments for the country. The benefit New Zealand has is what the New Zealand Prime Minister says takes effect for the whole country.

In Australia the situation is more difficult each state and territory will progress down the three-step roadmap at different times to other parts of the country - this means that ringing might be able to start in some parts of the country before others. Tower bell ringing is not possible under Step 1 or 2, and until further details are provided about Step 3 no firm decision can be made. Step 3 looks to be similar to New Zealand's Alert Level 2.

It is the view of the ANZAB Executive that it is too early to resume tower bell ringing right now. Each government will make its own steps into the "new normal", and it will not be possible for the Executive to make any blanket statements that cover all scenarios. Therefore we ask that ringers use their own common sense about when to return to ringing. Each tower should carry out its own risk assessment into whether they can return to ringing, being mindful of the government restrictions in place. If in doubt, err on the side of caution. If your tower wants any advice then please feel free to contact the Executive and we can try to help as best we can.

The Central Council will publish some views on this in the next issue of The Ringing World (15 May 2020). While a lot of the article will be UK, if not England, specific there are a lot of issues and situations raised that will affect us as well. You will find in that article that the UK are being told that ringing is not possible to resume there either, even though the UK government is also announcing gentle easing of their lockdown.

We are all going to have to accept that some of our ringing friends will be able to start ringing before others.

It is worth noting now that tower bell ringing cannot resume as of Monday, May 11, 2020. The plans to reopen each country do not allow ringing to commence now. The Australian 4m2 per person rule means that many towers cannot have all bells ringing at one time. On top of this the recommended 1m/1.5m (NZ/AU) between each person means that most, if not all, ringing circles are too small to allow ringing to recommence. This rule does include places of worship/church groups and we cannot ignore it.

The other issue we have to be mindful of is that bell towers, and the entrance into bell towers, are not as well ventilated as other parts of the wider community. We often have to climb up a narrow spiral staircase into the ringing room, so if someone sneezed or coughed then another ringer who was following behind would breathe in whatever was in the air. This could be a way of spreading any infection. The same applies for while we're ringing. It is very hard to strike a bell correctly and sneeze into one's arm at the same time. The minimum safe distance between ringers is an issue, as well as dealing with numbers of people in a restricted space for a relatively long period of time. We also have to be mindful of cleanliness of handling a rope that someone else has just used. The old practice of someone licking their hands before ringing (some do this to get more grip!) must stop.

While we look forward to some parts of our life returning to how it used to be, we must wait a bit longer before we resume ringing.

Peter Harrison
ANZAB President
11 May 2020

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