Coronavirus Advice for Rural Communities in Berkshire

This article contains information compiled by our counterparts in Action in Rural Sussex – thank you on behalf of communities in Berkshire for sharing this important and useful information

This article contains information on general guidance, stay at home guidance, advice for village halls, advice for community groups, protecting the isolated & vulnerable, advice for community transport and coronavirus and mental health & wellbeing. Our main references points is official advice from the UK Government and NHS England

Current information surrounding Coronavirus is constantly changing and therefore Connecting Communities in Berkshire recommend that everyone should follow all guidance issued by Public Health England and the NHS and keep abreast of the ever-changing situation.

As of the evening of the 23rd March 2020, the Government has said that everybody in the UK must stop non-essential contact and stay at home.

Most shops and other premises must now close until further notice.  This includes ‘community centres, youth centres and similar’, with the exception that ‘Facilities may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks or homeless services.’

Heed the Governments advice.

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)
  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home

Anyone can spread the virus.

For full guidance on staying at home and away from others – Click here

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.


A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to a severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China.

The NHS website has more information about how coronavirus is spread and answers common questions about the virus.

The following symptoms may develop in the 14 days after exposure to someone who has COVID-19 infection:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Fever

General Guidance

Common sense is key in a situation like this and are things you can do to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading:

  • The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of a new continuous cough and/or high temperature. If you have these symptoms, however mild, stay at home and do not leave your house for 7 days from when your symptoms started. You do not need to call NHS 111 to go into self-isolation. If your symptoms worsen during home isolation or are no better after 7 days, contact NHS 111 online. If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111. For a medical emergency dial 999.
  • Wash your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds using soap and hot water, particularly after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose, or after being in public areas where other people are doing so. Use hand sanitiser if that’s all you have access to.
  • To reduce the spread of germs when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or your sleeve (not your hands) if you don’t have a tissue, and throw the tissue away immediately. Then wash your hands or use a hand sanitising gel.
  • Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces using your regular cleaning products to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to other people.

The following sites will give you further information:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice

NHS advice on reducing risk

What to do if you’re asked to self-isolate

Advice for Village Halls & Community Buildings

The advice from Government is clear: People should stay at home except for one of the four reasons permitted.

  • Shopping for basic necessities
  • One form of exercise a day
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work when absolutely necessary

Therefore, village halls and community buildings MUST close unless there is an essential service operating from the hall e.g pre-school that is open for children of key workers, food bank, medicine delivery – in which case precautions need to be taken – see below.

Village Hall Management Committees running charitable halls have a duty of care in providing a safe facility for the community to use. Therefore, if you are running an essential service and need to remain open, your committee must bear in mind that extra precautions need to be made as your hall may provide services for those groups who are most at risk from the virus.

Precautions include:

  • Take notice of the Government and Public Health England websites and keep up to date with the ongoing situation
  • Visitors to the hall must keep at least 2m distance (6ft) away from each other – If need be mark this distance out so its clear to everyone, especially if you have a queuing system in place
  • Ensure the hall has a one in, one out policy
  • Keep the Hall very clean and ensure that soap and/or hand sanitiser is available, paper towels are available and hand driers are working efficiently – one person to use the toilet at a time
  • Avoid the use of hand towels for the time being
  • Put up a notice about hand washing, particularly in toilets and kitchen areas. Poster available here: Catch it bin it kill it
  • Advise visitors that they are expected to act responsibly and take notice of Government and Public Health England advice which includes who is and isn’t allowed to be in public spaces

Regarding cancellation of any bookings follow the steps in their hiring agreement and activities in the event of the hall having to close, we suggest that you contact your insurance company to discuss what may be covered under your insurance policy regarding cancellation of events

The Government has indicated there may be help regarding loss of income for certain businesses. As yet we do not know if village halls and community buildings will be eligible. Further information will be supplied to halls once we have confirmation.

Village Hall Insurance

Norris & Fisher statement:

“Coronavirus Advice for Village Halls

We have received a number of enquiries as to whether Village Halls would be insured should they be forced to cancel activities or if hirers cancel their bookings owing to COVID-19.  The Business Interruption cover under the policy would not provide cover for this type of loss so there is no insurance for loss of earnings. If there were to be a pandemic it would be beyond the capability of insurers to pay for such losses.

​Some of our halls have asked their hirers to ensure that, if one of their members is ill, they should not attend the Hall. Should a visitor have been in contact with anyone suffering from the virus they should self-isolate. However, if an outbreak of COVID-19 were to be traced to the Hall it would not be possible for you to be held liable. In addition it may be best to ensure you have a good supply of soap, hand sanitisers and paper towels”.

Allied Westminster statement:

“Coronavirus and Village Halls:

  • Loss of revenue cover comes into force only after damage to property caused by an insured peril. It is designed to cover loss of income when the hall is closed for a period of time in order for repairs to be carried out. Unfortunately, if the hall has to be closed due to a breakout of the virus, no property damage has occurred so there is no business interruption cover in place.
  • Property insurers would not cover closure due to pandemic.

Protecting Your Village/Community Hall at this time:

  • Halls will become unoccupied or operate on a significantly reduced level.

Normally you would have to let us now, but this is the picture nationally. Allied Westminster (VillageGuard) will accept this as the norm for the moment for our clients, however you normally have to let your insurer know.

For Allied Westminster VillageGuard clients, please only notify us if the closure is previously planned due to works or the hall has been unoccupied more than 45 day. Other halls should refer to their insurers

  • There are some considerations that should be kept in mind to protect their assets and people:
    • Risk assessments must be carried out on the changing risk/lack of supervision in place
    • Heating left ‘ticking-over’ but other critical services powered down if not required, unless to support protection or detection systems
    • All external areas must be clear of waste and combustible materials
    • Consider waste build-up and the controls needed if waste collection services are affected
    • All fire protection, detection, and security systems to remain active and monitored remotely where possible
    • Maintenance on all protection and/or detection systems (where in place) must be a priority to protect the property
    • All physical security and locking devices are working and in place
    • There are no leaking fluids or spills
  • Sources and Useful Links

Q&A on Coronaviruses – World Health Organization

Managing Epidemics: Key facts about major deadly diseases – World Health Organization

Pandemic Flu – Workplace Guidance – Health & Safety Executive

Useful Resources

Public Health England have produced a range of sample posters and it would be wise to use one of these as the basis for putting on the front door a poster asking people who have possible Coronavirus symptoms not to come into the hall.

Resources can be found at: PHE Resources

Advice for Community Groups

Please see the recommendations below:

  • Group members must advise the rest of the group if they are self-isolating
  • The importance of hand hygiene – See general guidance above
  • Cancellation of events:
    • Government guidance is to limit the amount of social contact where possible. This is likely to impact large scale events and you should consider whether it is appropriate to continue with your events. If your events depend on volunteers, be aware that some may prefer to stay home
    • Check cancellation policies for venue bookings you’ve made or are about to make
  • Do NOT host face to face meetings, therefore consider:
    • Is the meeting is really essential or can it be cancelled or postponed?
    • Consider electronic alternatives such as Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime
    • If you are hosting a formal meeting, such as an AGM, NCVO has provided comprehensive advice 

Protecting the Isolated and Vulnerable (Social Distancing)

Neighbourhood Watch has produced comprehensive guidance on protecting the isolated and vulnerable. Please click here

For details on social distancing, please visit PHE

Guidance for Community Transport 

The Community Transport Association has produced a document called Coronavirus/COVID-19: Guidance for Community Transport for Community Transport Groups to use. This document includes useful information such as:

  • precautions you should take
  • cleaning your vehicle
  • cancelling services.

Please click here to view.

Coronavirus & Mental Health and Wellbeing 

As we find ourselves amidst the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is justifiable concern for people’s mental health and anxiety, especially those who find themselves in isolation. UK charity Mind, have produce advice on Coronavirus and your wellbeing.

If you or you know someone that is affected, please visit for the latest guidance.

Other useful sites & resources:

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