Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Guidance for the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Parishes, Clergy and Employees

At the end of January 2020, the World Health Organisation, [WHO], declared a global emergency in response to the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan and throughout China.  Since that time, the virus has spread to a number of countries and has been declared a global pandemic. In the last few days, we have seen a spike in the number of cases worldwide and significant action taken across the globe. 

The declaration of a pandemic triggers a number of government activation’s [see attached Fact Sheet] and has caused restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, the introduction of social distancing measures and travel restrictions.  The Fact Sheet contains details as to the current Federal Government response.

The State Government has declared a state of emergency [as at 12.00 pm on 16 March 2020] as a means of giving effect to the Federal travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.  This also empowers the State Medical Officer to issue local directives and fines for non-compliance.   

The National Cabinet [Federal Government and State / Territory Leaders] advised that from midday 23rd March 2020 a range of ‘non-essential’ businesses and organisations are to be closed.  This included a category for places of worship.  

The Archbishop in Council had already moved to suspend all regular public services of worship and all parish organised group activities whether on church premises or not as of 23 March 2020.  Thus, the Diocese of Melbourne had already complied with the directive now in force.  

It is important to say that this is not the closure of ministry.  The need for Christian ministry is only likely to be heightened over the coming weeks and months.   Many parishes are moving to provide online services of worship and small group practice using the platforms available to them.  The Diocese is looking to provide assistance and training in the use of digital technology for those that need assistance.     

Parishes should continue to follow any Federal, State or Local requirements and regular communication from the Episcopate will be sent.     

LATEST NEWS [as at 25/3/2020] 

The following statement comes from Archbishop Philip, Bishops Brad, Genieve, John, Kate and Paul and was issued 25/3/2020:

Following the Archbishop-in-Council advice on Saturday March 21st which led to the Ad Clerum from the Archbishop that day, and following further announcements by the Prime Minister and Victorian Premier, numerous questions have been asked of the bishops and Archbishop. Not every detail is yet clear from the government, and we recognise the situation remains fluid and pressured. As you will have noticed, much of the information about restrictions has been announced at a high level by the Prime Minister or the Premier. It has taken time for the detail of these announcements to be released by government authorities. The FAQs listed below are written on the basis of the best information we have been able to access

As you read the FAQs below, you will notice some differences between what the government regards as “essential services” and what our Church believes. For instance, the government regards weddings and funerals to be essential services, but not Easter services. We acknowledge much grief felt around this, but are obliged to comply with current government regulations.

Good Stories
We are so encouraged at the creativity already being seen in providing services, children’s and youth activities and caring for vulnerable people in parishes.  We’d love you to share your good stories with your bishop so we can encourage everyone. Please do not be shy and we can keep confidentiality in not naming people or parishes if you prefer. We need good news at this time.

We are also interested in thoughts on how as a diocese we can celebrate the ending of the virus. A BIG celebration?

Be assured of our regular prayers for you in these trying and stressful times.

Archbishop Philip, Bishops Genieve, Brad, Kate and Paul.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS [UPDATED AS AT 25/3/2020]:

In answer to questions received, we offer the following. Please recognise the situations might change, or further clarification will be given, and we will do our best to convey that as accurately and quickly as we can.

CHURCH SERVICES

Church Services Indoors
All indoor church services are suspended, effective Monday, March 23, of any nature, though see below on weddings and funerals.

Churches Open for Prayer
Churches cannot be open to the public or parishioners for general prayer. Unless you hear otherwise this will include for Good Friday and Easter.

Church Services Outdoors
No outdoor services are permitted on church property or at any other venue. This is the decision of the Diocese and consistent with the urging of the government not to gather.

This includes Easter Day, Anzac Day or any other occasion, whether at a beach or in a park. For weddings and funerals, see further below.

Creating Live-streaming

We expect significant further restrictions on gathering and workplaces soon to the point where people may not be able to gather with anyone else at all. So we urge you even now to plan for that eventuality. You may be able to produce something yourself by email or social media. We encourage collaboration with other clergy and parishes and sharing resources.

For the time being, we set a limit of 5 at any one time in one place, appropriately socially distant, to produce a live-stream or video for church services, including for youth and/or children. Only those directly involved in this can be in attendance. This is by invitation only, for people who are in effect voluntary church workers for the purpose of making the product.

Please note that a normal CCLI licence does not include live-streaming so you will need to investigate purchasing that from CCLI.

Please also send links for live-streaming or videos to your bishop.

Advice about spiritual communion will come soon.

Weddings and Funerals

For weddings in any location, only 5 people can be in attendance: the celebrant, the couple and two witnesses. Social distancing rules must be complied with.

For funerals in any location, the maximum attendance is 10 people, including the minister or celebrant. Social distancing rules must be complied with.

Clergy who decline weddings or funerals for personal safety reasons are urged to speak with their Area Dean to see if another minister can conduct the service.

Commissioning Services

Some parishes have new Vicars due for being commissioned in the weeks ahead. These services cannot now happen. The Bishop will receive the oath and declarations of the incoming Vicar privately and pray a commissioning prayer. The new Vicar will still start work on the day already advertised.

CHURCH MINISTRY ACTIVITIES

Small Groups, Meetings, Gatherings

All church meetings, groups and gatherings for any purpose are suspended whether on church property or off church property. This includes Bible study groups, prayer meetings, Parish Council meetings, women’s or men’s groups, concerts, youth or children’s events. The Ad Clerum of March 21, 2020 was not as clear as it could have been on this, for which we apologise.

We encourage the use of social media platforms for meetings or small groups. There are various introductions to these being run online by Christian groups. We plan to offer tutorials for using zoom and will advertise this. We intend to consolidate some resource links on the diocesan website before long.

PASTORAL CARE MATTERS

Pastoral Care by the Clergy

Personal pastoral ministry will be challenging in a lockdown and restricted access situation. It is certain that this ministry will be requested and clergy need to work through the hygiene and personal spatial separation issues that a pastoral visit or a home communion raise. Social isolation will increase the risk to mental health and general wellbeing. If there is a large increase in rates of infection we need to expect that we will be confronted by circumstances that we have not encountered before in our pastoral ministries.

We expect clergy will maintain regular contact with parishioners by phone, skype or other digital means at the least.

Clergy in Risk Categories

Some clergy are in at risk categories because of health, family members’ health or age. Please advise your Bishop and Area Dean if you consider yourself to be in this category.

Baptism, Confirmation or Other Pastoral Services

If a baptism or one of the pastoral services is deemed necessary, which may include ministry to the near dying, please provide that ministry to take place privately with minimal attendance and complying with any regulations of a hospital or aged care institution and of course be very aware of hygiene, social distancing and so on.

If a confirmation or reaffirmation of faith is urgent because a person is near dying, please discuss with your bishop.

Confirmations, Receptions for Purposes of a Ministry Position

If a confirmation or reception is urgent for the purpose of a ministry position, then please discuss with your bishop and a private reception or confirmation can be arranged with the candidate.

Home Communion and visitation

Clergy may still need to visit people, including offering home communion, in one kind. In such cases, the recipient cannot be in compulsory isolation and the recipient must be agreeable to the visit. This should only be for the people living in that home and not for a gathered group. The utmost hygiene of clean hands and distance must be maintained, not only for the safety of the person at home but for the clergy also. We advise not sharing food or drink.

FINANCES

Financial Matters

We are concerned for the financial well-being of clergy and church staff. We have no doubt this pandemic will significantly affect most of our parishes financially. These are serious matters. We are working on this with senior management and Archbishop in Council and will communicate more when possible.

If parishes are facing a real threat of not being able to pay clergy, please communicate this to your Bishop.

Some clergy are considering cutting their work days. Please speak with your bishop if you are considering this.

If clergy are facing financial hardship please speak with your bishop if you have not already done so.

Please do not simply assume that diocesan assessment will be waived.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

Op Shops

All Op Shops must close immediately if not already closed. This includes any outdoor trading.

Community Meals & Emergency Relief

Some churches provide meals for needy and homeless people, whether via an Op Shop or in the church facility. This ministry can only continue as a take-away or delivery facility. No gathering can continue. Proper hygiene and social distancing must be maintained by those providing the food and those collecting it. Please monitor collection of food so there is not a crowd gathered at any one time.

We are taking advice from Anglicare and the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Please indicate to your bishop if you have such a ministry so further advice can be directed to you.

If your parish has an emergency relief programme, there will need to be a demonstrated risk plan provided to the appropriate organisation (Diocese, Anglicare Victoria, Brotherhood of St Laurence).

We realise that your usual volunteers may well belong to at risk groups (e.g. over 70 or with chronic health conditions), yet this may also be an opportunity for others from your parish or surrounding parishes who are not normally in a position to volunteer but are now available to help.

Café

Occasionally a church may run what is more or less a commercial café. If licensed as such it can continue to provide take away and delivery but no sit down food or beverage and no congregating of people in the café.

Outdoor fetes and Markets

We have no clear governmental direction on this but consider that markets providing food and drink only can continue with appropriate hygiene, handling cash and social distancing. No sit down eating can be allowed; only take-away. The government has said that the provision of food and drink is regarded as essential. Markets selling books, clothes, gifts or other goods ought to be closed. If we hear further advice on this we will inform you.

Church Rental Groups

All rental groups using church property must comply with governmental gathering rules. That is their responsibility. This has probably already ruled out many groups such as dancing, martial arts or educational groups. You may want to check that the tenant is clear that they must maintain government rules.

Church rentals, especially housing, may be affected by National Cabinet decisions to give protections to tenants and leasees.

OTHER MATTERS

If your church does not have a video or live-stream capacity, we encourage you to tag on to another parish’s one or use the Anglican Media YouTube link for a weekly service uploaded there: https://www.youtube.com/AnglicanMediaMelb

If your church does provide live-streaming or video, please send the link to your bishop. We aim to send out a fuller list than before, maybe next week.

Prayer. Do encourage parishioners to pray. Several churches have provided Morning and Evening Prayer or prayerbooks to parishioners at home. Others have written prayers for their particular parish.

Some may want to ring church bells each day or at least on Sunday. If you do, we suggest 7pm, as many days as you can and we invite all our parishioners to pray the diocesan prayer for this pandemic at 7pm. You may also choose to light a candle for a period of time and display this in your home window (as has been encouraged by the church in the UK).

Keep in contact. Isolation is going to affect many people’s mental and social health. Please work hard at pastoral systems that keep people connected to each other by phone.

The bishops were booked for various parish visits in the months ahead. The bishops want to continue, where possible, the connection with the parish whether for live-streaming or a video. Do contact your bishop in advance to arrange this.

HOW MIGHT WE RESPOND AS INDIVIDUALS?

For those who put their trust in God, our spiritual response is to place our reliance in the Lord.  

While the impact of the virus dominates our news, we should rightly take note of the important information being circulated.  At the same time, we are assured that God is with us and so we need not be overly anxious at the situation.  Let us cast our cares on him knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7)

PRAYER IN A TIME OF EPIDEMIC DISEASE:

Please continue to pray for those areas / countries affected by COVID-19.  The prolonged isolation and confinement of millions at the significant epicentres of this outbreak will be a difficult experience.  Please also pray for those in hospital and other medical settings and for those working hard to identify a potential vaccine.  

Lord Jesus Christ, healer and friend,
come and care for all of us
through the danger and uncertainty
of the coronavirus epidemic.

To people who are sick, bring healing.
To people who are displaced, isolated,
or cut off from family, friends or work,
bring comfort and companionship.
Work with medical staff as they care for the sick,
and protect them from harm.

Give skill and fruitful research to scientists
as they search for treatments, prevention and a cure.
To public health authorities, give wisdom
to decide the best ways to manage
both this crisis and our anxieties.
When communities are fearful,
give a calm spirit,
and kindness to neighbours and strangers.

Through this testing time,
and through all the risks we face together,
teach us once again how we can love one another
as you have loved us.  

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

WHAT IS THE DIOCESE DOING?

We are continuing to monitor the situation and are scenario planning how this might be managed and the likely consequences and impact on the Diocese should the crisis worsen.  

Crisis Management Team [CMT]: 

Whilst the situation is not yet and will hopefully never fully reach crisis proportions, we are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

Members of the Senior Leadership Team and some experts are coming together to form a Crisis Management Team [CMT].  This group will have a focus on the Anglican Centre and the Diocese and on what measures we should have in place immediately and into the future and will include temporary policy and practices designed to maintain the health and wellbeing of staff in the event that the COVID-19 epidemic begins to impact more directly on our operations. 

We are reasonably well placed already, however the CMT will scenario plan a number of possibilities and build on that readiness as a result. 

Regular communications will be issued  to advise you of any measures recommended or adopted. 

The CEO of MADC [Ken Spackman] will chair the CMT and take responsibility alongside the Episcopate for the management of the Anglican Centre’s response.  

PLANNING FOR FURTHER RESTRICTIONS:  

An old adage in the risk management business is ‘to plan for the worst and hope for the best’.  On this basis, please take time to consider future plans for your parishes and activities on the basis of at least 6 months disruption and several months of imposed restrictions on operation. It is likely that these restrictions might be further tightened and therefore Parish Councils and Vicars [meeting electronically] should give some consideration to possible future scenarios, so as to develop contingency plans and milestones for go / no go decisions. 

Should you have any queries in regard to the approach advocated herein, please do not hesitate to contact your Episcopate Bishop of for advice on HR matters, the Human Resource team on hr@melbourneanglican.org.au 

COVID-19 FACT SHEET

The following information is provided for your consideration.  It is drawn from published expert material courtesy of the World Health Organisation [WHO] and from public statements from Government and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer. 

SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS [COVID-19]

The virus appears to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough, then after a week, shortness of breath and some patients have needed hospital treatment.  Notably, the infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose or sneezing.  But in more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. [Source WHO]

REDUCING THE RISK OF COVID-19 INFECTION

WHO advises that personal hygiene, especially washing hands with soap and water or alcohol rub, is very important.  In addition, WHO advises to avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections and to wash hands regularly, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.

Those with symptoms should practise “cough etiquette”, including maintaining distance, covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or the inside of an elbow, and washing hands.

 WHAT’S THE GOVERNMENT DOING?

Australia declared coronavirus a “disease of pandemic potential” on January 21, Health Minister Greg Hunt says.

That triggered:

  • The activation of a National Incident Response Centre, to coordinate Australia’s response;
  • The release of masks and other medical equipment from a national medical stockpile; and
  • AUSMAT — the Australian Medical Assistance Team — being called in. 

Last week, the Government published its Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for Novel Coronavirus.  It together with other announcements by Government outline the measures that have been imposed including:

  • Closure of non-essential business, including places of worship. 
  • Cancelling non-essential large gatherings of more than 100 people and now introduction of the 4 metre rule. 
  • Asking people to work from home and practice social distancing measures.
  • Boosting the capability of hospitals to deal with an increased demand for services, such as increasing intensive care beds
  • Banning Overseas Travel [regardless of destination] and strongly urging Australians and Permanent Residents to return to Australia

These measures are part of a coordinated and appropriate response but remain under constant review given the escalation of COVID infections. 

Under the plan, state and territory governments are responsible for:

  • the operation of public health responses
  • undertaking “contact tracing” — that is, identifying people exposed to those who are infected, and following up with them
  • coordinating the distribution of antiviral drugs
  • bringing in “social distancing” measures [which are likely to include closing schools and potentially workplaces, quarantining people, cancelling events and even shutting down public transport]
  • implementing infection control guidelines and healthcare safety and quality standards

 INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL: 

The Government has today [25/3/2020] moved to ban international travel regardless of destination. 

CORONAVIRUS – COVID-19 AND TRAVEL INSURANCE

The following advice is issued for those who had previously arranged travel before 2/3/2020 and travel after that date.    Any international travel has now been curtailed until further notice.

The information is up to date as at 17/3/2020. 

Summary:  

  • COVID -19 is now a ‘known event’ on our Travel Policy, so no longer comes under the ‘unforeseen circumstances’ wording on the policy terms and conditions;
  • Travel and Insurance booked prior to 2/3/2020 will still attract full cover subject to the normal terms and conditions and subject to any escalation of DFAT warnings for the country of destination; 
  • Travel and Insurance booked after 2/3/2020 does not provide cover for COVID-19 regardless of destination.  Cover may however be provided in a limited range of circumstances;

The Diocesan Business Services Risk and Insurance Department have been seeking updates and information from our Group Travel Insurer Chubb regarding how the travel insurance policy may or may not respond during this unprecedented set of circumstances.  While we would like to be in a position to provide definitive answers to all scenarios and situations, the Insurer’s general position is that they do not provide definitive confirmation on hypothetical situations. The terms and conditions of the Policy will be applied in the event of a claim.  They have provided the following clarification:

Group Business Travel Insurance – an update from Chubb received 4 March 2020

“As of this date, COVID-19 is now considered a ‘known event’. In respect to our corporate travel policy wording, we do not speak to “known events”, rather the policy does speak to “unforeseen” events and circumstances, of which COVID-19 is no longer considered.  We have previously held this position for China and specific provinces, however this is now applicable to the rest of the world. For a general overview of our coverage position, please see below, noting the advice provided is generalised and individual circumstances will vary.  As always, each claim will be assessed on its individual merits and we encourage our Policyholders to submit any claim for assessment taking into account the dates of travel booking, the dates of travel, reason for travel and location of travel amongst others.

Travel Booked Prior to 02/03/2020

  • There is full coverage under the policy (subject to all T&Cs)
  • However, pre-trip cancellation (Loss of Deposits) and post-departure cancellation/amendment (Cancellation and Curtailment) are unlikely to be covered at this time as these claims would be considered disinclination to travel as the threat level has not risen to sufficient level to substantiate a claim – as for most countries there is no specific advisories against travel.  However, if there is a material escalation in the threat level (such as an increase to Do Not Travel) in a country after the Covered Person has booked/departed for the travel then there is likely cover for cancellation/amendment.
  • Post-departure additional expense/amendment would likely be covered in the event a Covered Person contracted the virus.

 Travel Booked After 02/03/2020:

  • Our policies cover unforeseen events outside of the Covered Person’s control, from 02/03 Chubb have determined that COVID-19 is no longer an unforeseen event for all countries outside China.
  • This means that there is no coverage for policy sections where ‘unforeseeable’ is a claims trigger – this primarily relates to pre-trip cancellation (Loss of Deposits) and post-departure cancellation and amendment (Cancellation and Curtailment). 
  • Cover will likely be provided under the Medical Section of the Policy
  • In the event of a valid medical claims for COVID-19 there is likely additional expense cover available”

We will update you with further information from other insurers as it is received and a copy of the full Travel Policy Schedule and Policy Wording is available on request.

CREDIBLE INFORMATION SOURCES:

The following are authoritative sites which you may find helpful in gaining further information as the situation is changing daily.

  • The World Health Organisation

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

  • The Australian Department of Health and Aging

https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/ohp-novel-coronavirus.htm

  • The US Center for Disease Control [CDC]

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

  • The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy [CIDRAP]

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/infectious-disease-topics/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov,  travel 

 

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