This is a follow on from my writing last Thursday getting to the bottom of Yoga and Reopening after Coronavirus – Making Sense of 9th July 2020 Return Announcement.
There is much confusion on Yoga Teachers Social Media groups about how many people can be taught outside. When I wrote last Thursday I said:
“And finally what of teaching outdoors? It seems its still 5+1 as per “guidance for personal trainers and coaches on the phased return of sport and recreation”. Hopefully this anomaly will be addressed very shortly, as its absurd to be able to teach more people indoors than out!”
I suspect we will not see any specific guidance change from the Government for a long time – understandably, as Civil Servants have a lot to coordinate over many sectors. Certainly there will never be a Government document specifically for Yoga – we have to piece things together.
In the spirit of “piecing things together” I want to look in this post at whether 5+1 is still correct, or at least best practice, for outdoor classes.
I’m going to review three things:
- Sector Specific Government Guidance
- Covid Secure Guidance
Sector Specific Government Guidance
I’m going to look at Sector Specific Guidance broadly chronologically. Remember none of it is specific to Yoga.
Guidance for personal trainers and coaches on the phased return of sport and recreation in England – this is the original guidance which most in the Yoga world used to justify outdoor classes of 5+1 = 5 students, 1 teacher. Although it refers to being updated 10 July 2020, this is only for the local lockdown in Leicester. The substantive content of this dates back to week commencing 1 June 2020, following the PMs announcement on May 28th that we could meet outdoors in groups of 6. It needs to be contextualised that this was one of the first major releases of the lockdown that went in place on 23 March 2020 – put simply at the time it was all we had.
Guidance for the public on the phased return of outdoor sport and recreation in England – I don’t have the date of this, again it refers to a 10 July update seemingly for Leicester, but it was released earlier and has been around for a while. I won’t go into all of it, but I will highlight one pertinent part:
“You can now exercise alone, with members of your household, or with up to 5 other people from outside your household. Up to two households are permitted to gather in groups of more than 6 people indoors or outdoors, provided members of different households can follow social distancing guidelines. Otherwise, gatherings of more than 6 people indoors or outdoors continue not to be permitted, unless this is essential for work purposes.”
Its clear here that the restriction was still 5+1 “Otherwise, gatherings of more than 6 people indoors or outdoors continue not to be permitted”
Guidance for providers of outdoor facilities on the phased return of sport and recreation in England – again I don’t have the date of this, and again it refers to a 10 July update seemingly for Leicester, but it was released earlier and has been around for a while. Here are some relevant highlights:
“Each venue, including council-owned sports facilities, should make their own decisions about when their facilities are ready.”
“All activity should be consistent with the government guidance regarding health, social distancing and hygiene.”
“The limit on gatherings – no more than 6, unless, for example, members of the same household”
So far, so clear. Its 6. Or is it…
“People should continue to socially distance from those they do not live with wherever possible. Social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to 6 people from different households (if outdoors).
“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).
“Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Any other gathering in an outdoor space must not be any larger than 30 people.”
The pertinent information here is “Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups” – we’ll look at Covid Secure next.
Providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities – This is the 9th July guidance issued after the reopening date of 25 July for indoor activities was announced.
From its introduction:
Providers and operators of space enabling the following activities and facilities may reopen if they are allowed to do so by law, ready to do so and can do so safely, following public health guidance. The below activities and facilities are to be permitted (either in law or supporting guidance) from the dates listed.
From 11 July:
organised team sports outdoors – subject to the relevant sport’s guidance being published
outdoor waterparks and swimming pools
outdoor hot tubs
outdoor hydrotherapy pools
outdoor spa pools
outdoor sport and physical activity participation events
From 25 July:
fitness and dance studios
indoors sports venues and facilities
indoor swimming pools
indoor hot tubs
indoor hydrotherapy pools
indoor spa pools
So something is allowed from 11 July 2020. But its not clear what, nor has it been publicised in much detail, getting lost in the slipstream of the 25 July date. The nearest to a Yoga class is “outdoor sport and physical activity participation events” – you could argue thats not really the essence of yoga, but I suspect we will not get a closer match from Government guidance.
Within this guidance we have the same statement as we saw above:
“People should continue to socially distance from those they do not live with wherever possible. Social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to six people from different households (if outdoors) with social distancing in place at all times.
“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).
“Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Any other gathering in an outdoor space must not be any larger than 30 people.
So 2 households or 6 unless Covid Secure when it can be a “larger group”
Staying alert and safe (social distancing) – this is public facing guidance, and also has a FAQ page Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do
“The UK Government is continuing to ease restrictions in a manner that is safe, cautious and consistent with our plan.
This means that from 11 July:
- you can participate in team and other grassroots sports where the sports governing body has issued guidance on how to do so safely
- outdoor swimming pools and outdoor water parks can open
- outdoor performances in front of a live audience and indoor rehearsals can take place in COVID-19 secure venues. Indoor rehearsals and indoor performances for broadcast should only happen where no audience is present
- smaller-scale indoor performances can be piloted in COVID-19 Secure venues once approved by the government”
It goes on to say (NB I’ve trimmed this section for relevance):
“As was already the case, in terms of seeing friends and family, you can:
- continue to meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from different households, following social distancing guidelines
“It remains the case that you should not:
- socialise outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is from exclusively from two households or support bubbles
- interact socially with anyone outside the group you are attending a place with, even if you see other people you know, for example, in a restaurant, community centre or place of worship”
“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces). Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups provided they comply with the law. This can include weddings and funerals (which we advise should be limited to no more than 30 people), religious ceremonies and services, community activities and support groups. If attending a place or event that is following COVID-19 Secure guidelines, you should take care to limit your interactions with anyone outside of your group and you should continue to maintain social distancing from those that you do not live with. It is critical that you follow these guidelines to keep both yourself and others safe.”
Summary of the guidance – there has been a progression here from very restrictive rules to those being slowly released, and somewhere in the midst of this we had “Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups provided they comply with the law.“ which provides a opportunity for Yoga Teachers.
Note – I wouldn’t worry too much about the prohibitions of private gardens – when you use your garden for business it becomes temporarily a business space anyway – and besides the limit in gardens is 30, and that should cover most eventualities.
Covid Secure Guidance
So what exactly is Covid Secure? What do we have to do?
A search leads to: Working safely during coronavirus which is subtitled “Find out how to make your workplace COVID-secure”. So far so good – it then lists 14 sector guides including:
“Providers of grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities” – which we’ve seen already – its the 9th July guidelines for reopening indoors on 25 July. As I said when I wrote about them last week “The root of the confusion is that as far as I can tell businesses cannot reopen if they are not Covid Secure, and equally Covid Secure means following the relevant guidelines. It seems circular.”
The Health and Safety Executive have written about “Make your workplace COVID-secure” – this is more thinking about making employees than the public safe, but its contents will be familiar – risk assessments, sanitisation, social distancing.
So in summary as far as I can see you can’t open any business – at least not to staff and visitors – if you are not Covid Secure. The very act of assessing risks and making mitigation policies potentially makes you “Covid Secure”, and ipso facto aligned with “Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups provided they comply with the law.”
As far as I can tell there are two main pieces of legislation:
Coronavirus Act 2020 – this deals with a number of areas to do with managing the crisis, especially temporary changes to public services and suspension of other legislation, but not specifically gatherings.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020 – I think this is the latest / current version of these is dated 3 July 2020. Section 5 deals with “Restrictions on gatherings”:
5.—(1) During the emergency period, unless paragraph (3) applies, no person may participate in a gathering which—
(a)consists of more than thirty persons, and
(i)in a private dwelling, including a houseboat,
(ii)on a vessel, other than a houseboat or a vessel used for public transport, or
(iii)on land which satisfies the condition in paragraph (2).
(2) Land satisfies this condition if it is a public outdoor place, which is not—
(a)operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body as a visitor attraction, or
(b)part of premises used for the operation of a business, charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body.
(3) This paragraph applies where—
(a)in the case of a gathering described in paragraph (1)(b)(ii) or (iii)—
(i)the gathering has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body,
(ii)the person responsible for organising the gathering (“the gathering organiser”) has carried out a risk assessment which would satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, whether or not the gathering organiser is subject to those Regulations, and
(iii)the gathering organiser has taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, taking into account the risk assessment carried out under paragraph (ii),”
So this codifies a restriction of 30 people gathering unless run by a “covid secure” business.
Note – there is no legislative enactment anywhere of a limit of 6 – for businesses or individuals. It is purely guidance.
Reference is made to Regulation 3 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – this refers to risk assessments, which should not be new to anyone.
In summary within legislation
- a 6 person limit isn’t mentioned
- a 30 person limit applies unless the gathering is organised by a “Covid Secure” business
- “covid secure” is in essence a risk assessment, and is a requirement of reopening in accordance with Government guidelines
- subject to risk mitigation a “Covid Secure” business can run events of any size.
Its worth looking at Risk Assessments briefly as they are key in both being “Covid Secure” and in the legislative provisions.
Here is what the Health and Safety Executive have to say in “Risk -Controlling the risks in the workplace”
“As part of managing the health and safety of your business you must control the risks in your workplace. To do this you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This is known as risk assessment and it is something you are required by law to carry out. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down.
“A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork , but rather about identifying sensible measures to control the risks in your workplace. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have covered all you need to.
“Think about how accidents and ill health could happen and concentrate on real risks – those that are most likely and which will cause the most harm.
“For some risks, other regulations require particular control measures. Your assessment can help you identify where you need to look at certain risks and these particular control measures in more detail. These control measures do not have to be assessed separately but can be considered as part of, or an extension of, your overall risk assessment.”
Note for any business with fewer than five employees – most yoga businesses – the Risk Assessment does not need to be written, although it probably is good practice for it to be so.
Summary – Bringing It Together
By now your head may be spinning. If it isn’t you weren’t listening!
Most Yoga Teachers have been restricting their outdoor classes to 5+1 – 6 people – following the early June guidance for Personal Trainers and Coaches
Since then more relevant guidance has come out in the form of both sector specific guidance around outdoor leisure (which is the closest fit for yoga) and for gatherings organised by “Covid Secure” businesses.
There seems, other than risk management, no limit on the number of attendees at an event run by a “Covid Secure” business.
“Covid Secure” implies a risk assessment, which is de facto mandatory for all businesses anyway, and adherence to the general guidance issued by Government, notably around sanitisation and social distancing.
And thus the conclusion comes naturally – there is no regulatory limit on the numbers we can have in outdoor classes so long as they are properly risk managed.
And thus the conclusion comes naturally – there is no regulatory limit on the numbers we can have in outdoor classes so long as they are properly risk managed
However… …as always, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. The tone nationally is caution, and to that end I would argue its our responsibility as Yoga Teachers to meet that; that is of course Ahimsa and Satya in action.
Personally I am holding my classes at 10 – that suits me and my student load for now. If you decide on 8 or 12 or 15 or 20 then so long as its risk assessed then thats right for you.
My own Risk Assessment for outdoor classes is embedded within the Health and Safety section of my booking page for Outdoor classes:
“Health and Safety – Coronavirus
- Please observe 2m social distancing
- The class is limited to 10 people plus myself (11 in total)
- You can use your own props, or a mat and block will be available from my garden stock, which you will be asked to sanitise after use, If you are using my mat / block then you will need to bring your own soft props such as blankets
- One toilet will be open with sanitisation on contact areas
- Please do not attend if you have Coronavirus symptoms. If these develop, then you will be refunded in full”
This is backed up with signage in my studio facility around sanitising the toilet. It will need to be more nuanced when indoor classes start, but it does the job for now.
Whatever you do, do so with integrity and compassion – for me its a class of 10.