Government guidelines

Note that in all four nations, sector specific guidance has been replaced with more generic guidance. You may therefore find that previous links have either disappeared or been replaced with a link to the more general guidance.

Our risk management guidance pages are designed to help and encourage people plan their choir's return. Every choir will have its own views on when and how it wants to return and our guidance is intended to help everyone make the right decision for them.

For more general COVID-19 resources, see our COVID-19 portal, or use the links in the side menu.

England from 19 July

The previous performing arts guidance has been replaced with more general guidance for people who work in settings related to events & visitor attractions or organise events in a workplace, including non-professionals.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19/events-and-attractions

There are currently no limits on the number of people, including choirs or any other amateur performance groups, who can gather indoors or outdoors.

8 December: Government announces Winter Plan B

On 8 December the Prime Minister announced that England would move to Plan B of its Covid-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021 in response to the spread of the Omicron variant. This is in addition to the extra measures already announced from 30 November. Measures include:

  • mandatory use of face coverings in most public indoors venues, including concert halls, theatres and cinemas, on public transport, and in shops
  • use of face coverings in secondary schools
  • office workers who can work from home should do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go to the workplace.
  • certain businesses and some events are required by law to check the COVID status of workers and customers, using the NHS COVID Pass. This includes unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.

Singing and face coverings under Plan B

Both the Prime Minister's statement and the Health Secretary's statement to Parliament included reference to singing, along with exercising and eating and drinking, being being exempt from wearing a face covering, and we're pleased to see that for the first time singing is now specifically mentioned under the guidance on face coverings:

'There is a reasonable excuse for someone to remove a face covering when it is reasonably necessary for them to sing, for example, if they are singing as part of a choir, or during a service, rehearsal or for a performance.

This does not extend to circumstances where it is not reasonably necessary to sing. For example, it may not be reasonably necessary for someone to sing whilst shopping, on public transport, or whilst in an in-scope setting such as a cinema, theatre or library.

This change allows those who are taking part in activities where singing is reasonably necessary to choose to remove their face covering if they prefer whilst singing. When singing, you should consider keeping the face covering on.'

The Government's Events and Attractions guidance has been updated to note the points above and includes further detail about face coverings during rehearsals and performances by non-professional performing groups of all kinds, which you can see here.

Guidance for Devolved Nations

Restrictions in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been announced from Boxing Day onwards.

Northern Ireland. UPDATED. There is no legal requirement for social distancing in indoor seated venues and indoor visitor attractions, but is strongly advised. The wearing of a face covering remains a legal requirement. A risk assessment should be undertaken for rehearsals. The latest Arts Council NI advice can be found here.

From 29 November, Covid certification is required for hospitality settings (legally enforced from 13 December).

Find out more detailed advice for your activity in Northern Ireland here.

Scotland. UPDATED. From 26 December, there are new restrictions in place in Scotland.

Guidance for non-professional performing arts activity has been replaced by the more general guidance for businesses and workplaces.

Face coverings remain mandatory in most indoor public settings. Face coverings are required for performers (including musicians and choir members) when inside, but can be removed if a distance of at least two metres is maintained from others (previously one metre), or there is a partition between performers. Find further information here, under 'events and performances'. There is an exemption if the distance or partition is not possible, which you can read more about here, however it is clear that this exemption is not intended for 'static' activity.

Events can take place, but there are capacity limits in force, with a maximum of 100 people at indoor standing events, 200 people at indoor seated events and 500 people at outdoor events (whether seated or standing). Further detail on performances and events can be found here.

From 1 October, COVID Vaccination Certificates are required for certain events. These include late night premises with music, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people. From 1 December access can be gained to venues or events covered by the COVID certification scheme by showing proof of vaccination or a recent negative lateral flow test result.

Wales. UPDATED. Wales moved back to a revised Alert Level 2 from 22 December.

Guidance for employers, businesses and organisations can be found here.

From 26 December organised events and gatherings must not take place for more than 30 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. 2 metre social distancing is required indoors between individual households or groups of up to six people from no more than six households (not including children under 11 from any of those households or carers of anyone present).

The NHS COVID Pass is required to attend concert halls, theatres and cinemas. There is a maximum capacity limit of 200 in theatres and concert halls.

Organisers continue to have a legal duty to undertake a COVID-19 specific risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to and spread of coronavirus. Face coverings remain a legal requirement in public indoor settings.

The Welsh Government has published a series of FAQs (updated 17 December 2021), which includes guidance for choirs and addresses the issue of mask wearing as part of risk assessment.

Worship

England. Click here for guidance for places of worship. There is no limit on the number of people who can take part in singing and congregational singing continues to be permitted. See above for the general guidance on the wearing of face coverings when singing.

The Church of England has revised its guidance to reflect the new restrictions as part of the Winter Plan B and can be found here, whilst the RSCM's latest FAQs are here.

Northern Ireland. The latest guidance for singing as part of worship in Northern Ireland can be found here. Face coverings are strongly advised during singing.

Scotland. The latest government guidance for singing as part of worship in Scotland, updated 3 January, can be found here. Singing, including congregational singing is permitted indoors and outdoors as part of worship in small groups (there is no further definition of 'small'). Congregations should wear face coverings when singing. Face coverings are not required for the purposes of performing where there is a partition between the person and other persons, or a distance of at least 2 metres (previously 1 metre) is maintained between the person and other persons.

Wales. The latest guidance from the Church of Wales, including updates, can be found here.

The Welsh Government has published a series of FAQs (updated 17 December 2021), which includes guidance for choirs and addresses the issue of face coverings as part of risk assessment.

.

Education

Guidance for teachers

England. Guidance for schools (updated 5 January) can be found here. The guidance includes the requirement to wear face coverings in class, however there is no specific guidance on the wearing of face coverings whilst singing. See the general government guidance for more information about the wearing of face coverings when singing. For more specific advice on music in schools, we recommend you read Music Mark's Covid guidance resource, which is openly available. There is also a New Year update here.

Northern Ireland. Indoor singing in groups together with one-to-one singing lessons can resume for all pupils, with mitigations in place. Read the latest guidance here.

Scotland. Guidance for schools can be found here. All music activities are permitted but with a recommendation to maintain appropriate mitigations, including good hygiene, effective ventilation and physical distancing of at least one metre, in line with general school guidelines.

Wales. Guidance for the return of schools from September can be found here. There is nothing specific about singing or music. Face coverings are currently required to be worn by staff in all schools and by students in secondary schools, where physical distance cannot be maintained.

Guidance for out-of-school settings for children

England. Guidance updated January 2022 to include the use of face coverings.

The guidance confirms that anyone who cannot work from home, such as those involved in the face-to-face provision of education should continue to go to their place of work, therefore private individual and group music lessons can continue in-person, with appropriate mitigations in place.

Those planning performances in front of a live audience should follow the government's events and attractions guidance.

Music lessons in private homes. Providers continue to have a legal duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of those visiting or attending. The ISM has useful information on this here.

Youth activities

Providers of youth services and activities should also refer to the National Youth Agency's guidance for managing youth sector spaces and activities during COVID-19.

Registered early years providers

England. Registered early years providers caring for children under the age of 5 should refer to the guidance for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

We recommend reading the websites of our music education colleagues for more detail on education guidelines:

Music Mark

ISM

General information from other organisations

Find out more information from our fellow music organisations, including detailed information for the Devolved Nations:

ISM

Making Music

Musicians' Union

Click here to go back to our main COVID-19 resource page and to find our risk assessment guidance.