Today – 22 September 2020 – has seen a number of new restrictions to tackle Coronavirus, stopping short, thankfully, of a second full lockdown.
In the PMs statement to the House of Commons lunchtime today, there was disquiet over the following phrase “We will also have to extend the rule of six to all adult indoor team sports“. Does that apply to Yoga classes? Well, we are not really sport, nor in teams, but how precise are the Government being? A lot of people have been worried, especially as it seems compliance is being stepped up and mention is being made of fines; confusion has been rife.
This evening we have expanded guidance.
This says “Indoor organised sport for over 18s will no longer be exempt from the rule of six. There is an exemption for indoor organised team sports for disabled people. (From 24 September)”
On the face of it, not good for classes, or at least not clear – is yoga organised sport? This may not be as clear cut as we would instinctively like it to be (for me it’s a psycho-spiritual practice, but hey ho I know that’s a minority view). However this is marked “news story”. Let’s find the more detailed guidance ever hopeful – of clarity.
The Grassroots Sport guidelines, which previously covered Yoga, albeit obliquely, haven’t been updated (or at least not when I wrote this).
However Government have updated their Rule of Six guidance. This says:
“There are exceptions where groups can be larger than 6 people. These include:
“- exercise classes, organised outdoor sport or licensed outdoor physical activity, and supervised sporting activity (indoors or outdoors) for under-18s”
To note, this is detailed guidance rather than a news story so should by its nature take precedence over a news story. Although it was first published ten days or so ago when a Rule of Six came in, it has clearly been updated for today’s announcements as (a) indoor sport has been removed (b) other bits of the guidance are refreshed, eg numbers at weddings and (c) the document is marked updated today (although, no change log).
There is no getting away from there being numerous ways to read all the above, and an absolute lack of clarity. However the logical reading is that this later detailed guidance takes precedence and allows indoor classes.
Some social media comment has focused on the “for under-18s” at the end of the sentence – by position of comma this appears to only apply to the last part, “and supervised sporting activity (indoors or outdoors) for under-18s” distinguished from the middle part of the sentence which allows outdoor sport. There is no qualifier to the first part, “exercise classes”, so the logical and grammatical reading is there are no indoor/outdoor or age restrictions here.
We also have a second piece of Government Guidance (3.15 of Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do) which says “From 24 September, organised indoor sport and indoor exercise classes can continue to take place with larger numbers present, provided groups of more than six do not mix. If groups of six are likely to mix, these indoor activities must not go ahead. There is an exemption or organised indoor team sports for disabled people.”. The six person restriction is, as before, around socialising within the class rather than the class size per se.
It’s unlikely there will be an express announcement from Government about indoor classes, and certainly not one that’s yoga specific, but this is as good as we are likely to see. In my view it gives yoga teachers and studios a basis to continue. Check with your insurers or professional bodies if you wish, they will be reading the same detail and having to follow the same logic.
Clearly we need to continue complying with Covid Secure and Social Distancing, including the Rule of Six viz students socialising as groups whilst in class, eg whilst arriving and leaving, and as of this week it seems mandatory to display a QR code for the to be launched Track and Trace app but otherwise it does seem classes can continue over six people, subject to venue size.
However ethics suggest we must, as a yoga industry, play our part in supporting the Governments message and the rule of law, and ensure than neither ourselves nor our students are complacent.