The Government has outlined the next steps for how the economy can reopen. For the full details, please check their website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do
As of 19 July, England enters Step 4 on the Roadmap to Recovery.
What does this mean for your museum?
Whist COVID-secure measures (including social distancing, ventilation and mask wearing) is no longer legally required in museums after 19 July 2021, the government is still encouraging some measures to be followed. You may feel that this is still appropriate for your organisation. This is likely if you have a small indoor space and feel that the risk of spreading infection is still a possibility.
You may feel that maintaining a policy of mask wearing and ventilation is still something that you and your workforce would like to continue – especially if your workforce has expressed concerns.
Be sure to consult with your own workforce whilst deciding how your museum will navigate reopening post 19 July 2021.
The key to navigating Step 4 is to make it easy for everyone to understand your museum’s own policy by putting up clear signage and communicating this through your marketing channels (e.g., website, social media, booking confirmation emails, etc).
Ensure your staff and volunteers fully understand your museum’s reopening procedures and are comfortable explaining them to visitors.
What guidance is available to help museums determine their reopening procedures?
Read COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021 for more information on how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in England from 19 July 2021. You can also read the law that underpins these changes and the ongoing restrictions. The government will continue to monitor the data and the move to Step 4 will be confirmed one week in advance.
There is further government guidance on reopening businesses and venues: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reopening-businesses-and-venues-in-england
The National Museum Directors’ Council has issued this statement:
‘From 19th July, subject to progression to step 4, the government intends to lift the remaining mandatory Covid-19 restrictions in England. After this date museums may wish to retain some measures voluntarily depending on their local context, audience/staff response and operational requirements. If doing so, museums should ensure that this is clearly communicated to visitors and staff. When further Government guidance is issued, NMDC Good Practice Guidelines will be updated to reflect this.’ (https://www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/coronavirus-update/nmdc-good-practice-guidelines-opening-museums/)
The Arts Council for England has also issued a statement:
‘Creative and Cultural spaces will need to consider and choose which other measures they continue to ask their visitors and audiences to take, in order to reduce the possible spread of Covid-19.’ Read the full statement here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/re-opening-everyone
The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) have produced some guidance on reopening based on results from recent ‘visitor sentiment’ which suggested that visitors would be more comfortable with some Covid-safety measures remaining in place until the end of summer. See ALVA’s Guidance for Reopening https://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=403&codeid=851.
Step 4 (19th July 2021 onwards)
Cases are high and rising, everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. If there is an outbreak of a variant of concern, you may need to follow different local procedures. There may be additional advice for your area. Find out what you should do.
The emphasis is on personal responsibility in Step 4, and you will be required to:
- Test when you have symptoms, as well as targeting asymptomatic tests in educational settings;
- Workplaces should help people manage their personal risk;
- Isolate when you test positive or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace;
- There is also cautious guidance for individuals, businesses and the vulnerable whilst the prevalence is high including:
- Working from home if you can (even though government is no longer instructing people to);
- The government expects and recommends a gradual return to office-based working over the summer;
- The government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport;
- Try to be outside or let fresh air in;
- Minimise the number, proximity and duration of social contacts;
- The government encourages and supports businesses and large events to use the NHS Covid Pass in high risk settings. The government will work with organisations where people are likely to be in close proximity to others outside their household to encourage the use of this. If sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection, the Government will consider mandating certification in certain venues at a later date.
- Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised, as a minimum, to follow the same guidance as everyone else. Organisations can read further guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
The measures at Step 4 include the following:
- All remaining limits on social contact (currently 6 people or 2 households indoors, or 30 people outdoors) will be removed and there will be no more restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting, indoors or outdoors;
- Social distancing rules will be lifted. You should continue to consider the risks of close contact with others, particularly if you are clinically extremely vulnerable or not yet fully vaccinated. People will not need to stay 2 metres apart from people they do not live with. There will also be no limits on the number of people that can meet in groups;
- However, to minimise risk at a time of high prevalence, people should limit the close contact they have with those they do not usually live with and increase close contact gradually. This includes minimising the number, proximity, and duration of social contacts;
- People should meet outdoors where possible and let fresh air into homes or other enclosed spaces;
- The Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can. However, the Government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer. It is recommended that there is a gradual return to on-site volunteering rather than an immediate return of all roles;
- The requirement to wear face coverings in law will be lifted. However, the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport;
- All settings will be able to open. Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements. All businesses can re-open but should continue to follow the principles set out in the working safely guidanceto exercise their legal duties to manage risk;
- COVID-19 has not gone away, so it’s important to remember the actions people can take to keep themselves and others safe. Everybody needs to continue to act carefully and remain cautious.
Questions to ask yourself
- Step 4 has big implications for all the museums in England. So, what does it mean for yours?
- You might want to consider how the workforce will feel about the easing of restrictions? Are they worried about it?
- Have you spoken to your staff/volunteers about it to see what they are comfortable with? Are your volunteers happy to serve visitors without face coverings? Some museums are recommending visitors wear masks and are making sure they have a box at the entrance for those who don’t have one.
- There are many different reasons people may not want to wear a mask – for example to communicate better with young children/those who are hard of hearing. Is this something you will need to speak to your staff/volunteers about?
- Have you considered how the public might want to interact with you now? Will they understand your museum’s policy and what will happen if visitors chose not to follow that policy? Some museums are providing staff/volunteer training to support them in dealing with visitors who refuse to follow the museum’s policies. Is this something you think you might need?
- How can you effectively communicate your museum’s policy on Covid-secure measures to your visitors?
- How will you reassure clinically vulnerable staff/volunteers as the situation changes? Will you need to consider a change of duties for those staff/volunteers who are not comfortable in front of house duties?
- Have you revised your risk assessment, taking into account the current infection rate in your area? How will you monitor changes to this? Will you need to keep an eye on local news reports or listen to radio bulletins to keep up to date?
- Do you need to put your own museum policy in place to continue with Covid-secure methods if the risks are still high on your site?
- Are you anticipating a change of visitor demographic? You may want to think about doing some audience scoping to get an idea of who to expect. Further information can be found the fact sheet entitled ‘Audiences’ within this document.
- How often do you need to clean/wipe down the premises? Does this need to change with the easing of restrictions? Hygiene is a big topic to get to grips with, and there is some great information in the following fact sheets that you can find in this document:
- ‘Hygiene for Cafés and Catering Stations’
- ‘Museum Toilets’
- ‘Museum Shops’
- Ventilation is important. How can you best ventilate your spaces without introducing undue risks to the collection? See the ‘Ventilation’ factsheet for more information.
- How will you manage group visits? Do you have spaces for large groups to congregate away from other visitors, to ensure everyone feels comfortable? If you are running talks and tours will you need to restrict numbers?
- Will your museum want to work with schools again? It is a good idea to open a dialogue with your local schools before considering the return of school groups to your site. Please also see the fact sheet within this document on working with schools entitled ‘Schools, Learning and SEND.’
- Many organisations are moving to a more flexible way of working, offering staff an opportunity to work from home for a proportion of the week. How would you respond to those requests?
- Some organisations are asking staff and volunteers to take regular lateral flow tests. Are you considering doing so?
- Some museums are struggling with staffing as large numbers have to self-isolate due to a ping from the track and trace app. Have you thought about your contingency plans if you don’t have enough people to open the museum? How will you get the message out to your visitors if that happens?
- Are you keeping up to date with the most relevant information coming from the government?
- Are all staff and volunteers clear on the measures you have removed and those that remain? Use signage to reinforce those messages for visitors and staff.
- Be prepared to adapt! Some museums are keeping their signs and barriers in case they need to put 2m social distancing in place again.
‘A good plan is like a road map: it shows the final destination and usually the best way to get there.’ H. Stanley Judd
Step 4 press release
Government guidance on school visits
Workplace coronavirus lateral flow testing
Virtual Museum Tours
National Paralympic Heritage Trust
Jane Austen’s House from home – virtual tours and other online content
Stakeholder and Influencer Toolkit
Advice for clinically vulnerable
COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Advice for reopening businesses
What you can and cannot do
(COVID-19) Coronavirus restrictions: what you can and cannot do – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Government’s recovery strategy
Everything you need to know about risk assessments
ALVA’s own recommendations on social distancing
MDUK Coronavirus bulletin 2021.07.19 (containing lots of useful links for reopening)
NMDC Good Practice Guidelines for reopening https://www.nationalmuseums.org.uk/coronavirus-update/nmdc-good-practice-guidelines-opening-museums/