With the ongoing relaxation of the lockdown regulations and some vagaries therein, we have received questions and pressure for a phased resumption of “normal/traditional” outdoor Scouting activities.
To be very clear, at this time we do not believe that a decision for full resumption (normal meetings with large group activities) would be advisable for the safety of our members, or in compliance with the published regulations. Until such a time, we can make the most of the relaxation to the regulations by permitting some limited activities to begin. We will continue to review the allowed activities and keep you updated as we progress.
Working together and understanding our different circumstances
Before we get into the specifics of the permitted activities, I would like to address what our approach to this phased reopening should be.
Not everyone is ready to start interacting in person. This could be because they have a family member who is at high risk of contracting COVID-19 or it may be because they have lost someone to the virus. It could also simply be that they prefer to be cautious. All of those reasons are okay and understandable. Any activity that falls under this reopening will be on an “option to participate” basis. No one will be forced or pressured to participate until they are ready and comfortable to do so. We all approach this situation from different contexts and we need to accommodate and accept that. One of the key factors we can play is helping to educate people and working with them to ease them back into this as safely and responsibly as we can.
I speak for myself when I say that I think we are all feeling a little battered by the events of, well, quite frankly 2020. A little gentleness and kindness for ourselves and our brother and sister Scouts will not go amiss.
What are the fundamental rules?
As we give the go-ahead to restart limited small group activities, we are working on the concept of prevention through the three D’s – Distance, Dosage and Dispersion.
- Distance – The further you are from someone, the less likely you are to be infected by them or to breathe in particles they have breathed out. Therefore, all activities should respect social distancing – at least 1.5m to 2m distancing at all times without any close physical contact. Added to this is the recording and tracking of all participants. In the event of an infection, we can then assist members to proactively seek medical attention.
- Dosage – To become infected you need to have contact with a minimum dose, which takes time and exposure to people with the virus. The longer you are exposed to an infectious person, the more people you are exposed to, and the fewer barriers (like cloth masks) between you, the more likely you are to be exposed to the virus. So, we are going to keep it short – limiting the time spent with other people so as to minimise the exposure to possible infection. We also require all participants to wear masks, and ensure the proper sanitising/washing of hands takes place before and after activities.
- Dispersal – Because smaller particles hang around in the air, the movement of air makes a really big difference. The particles disperse quickly if you are outside, particularly if there is a breeze or wind. We also know that sunlight breaks down the virus. As a result, small, enclosed spaces with closed windows are high risk, especially when they are crowded. We are going to handle this by staying out of confined spaces, ensuring good ventilation, and first prize, staying outdoors as much as possible.
So, working within these rules, we are now allowing the resumption of small group outdoor activities for our Scouts, Rovers and Adults.
What is allowed?
- Within the rules above we are allowing small groups of 8 people or less, to do the following outdoor based daytime activities, in any one location, preferably of no more than 2 hours contact time.
- Some examples are Patrol activities or programmes, training, advancement badge work, or small Rover activities.
- For those Troop Scouters who want to run something for all their Patrols, this can be done provided that each of the small groups/Patrols is at a separate venue.
- We can now also commence with limited outdoor hands-on Adult Leader training. Bear in mind they need to take place outdoors and social distancing is to be observed at all times. So, no long lectures in closed rooms. If you can come up with a combination of handling the theory components online and then only cover the practical elements face to face this would be a major step forward!
What is not allowed?
- Being mindful of the additional oversight required for Meerkats and Cubs, we are not going to permit face to face Meerkat or Cub programme activities at this time, but will review this in four weeks. Depending on the safe implementation of the Scouts and Rover activities, and the learnings from these, we will then reconsider opening up those branches.
- Simultaneously running multiple Patrol/Crew activities in the same venue- albeit in separate rooms – is currently not permitted. This will be reviewed in four weeks’ time.
- We are not permitting any overnight or extended full day activities now.
- We are not allowing any activity with over 8 participants.
- Crossing provincial boundaries for activities is not permitted.
Do I need a COVID permit?
For these short duration, small group activities, under the current regulations we have confirmed these are not required. However, if the activity falls outside of your normal meeting venue you will require a SSA permit as normal.
Do I have to keep records and screen participants?
Yes, for any activity you need to record the following:
- Location, date and time of activity.
- Name and contact number for each participant.
- Confirmation that you have checked that each participant:
- Has not been in contact with a confirmed COVID case.
- Has not travelled outside of the country in the last 14 days.
- Is not currently experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- fever (if you have the equipment to do a temperature measurement this is preferred but not required),
- shortness of breath.
- Find a template HERE that you can use to record this information.
What do I do if someone with symptoms wants to take part?
Regrettably at this time we will not be able to allow anyone with symptoms of a possible COVID infection to participate in SSA activities. Please refer them back to their parents or guardians and recommend they seek medical advice.
Do I need to sanitise the venue?
As the permitted activities are all outdoors, only the equipment used for the activity will require sanitisation before and after usage. Equipment should not be shared between, or handled by multiple participants during the activity. This will require some creativity regarding what activities we do and how we run them.
Who is responsible for making sure we comply with these rules?
Under the latest set of regulations each body requires a compliance officer who is responsible to make sure that the venue is properly sanitised and the appropriate records and rules are being applied. For the time being for each Scout Group that will be the SGL or if there is no SGL the senior Scouter. If the SGL or senior Scouter is not able to attend the activity in person, they may delegate this responsibility to the activity leader, but they remain responsible for ensuring that the activity leader is aware of, and is implementing these regulations. Please take these seriously, as a breach of these regulations could result in legal responsibility for the compliance officer.
We expect that all of our Leaders will be the examples of the safety behaviours required. That means masks over noses and mouths, and respecting the rules we have put in place.
As we move into a phased reopening, I know we can count on you all to keep yourselves and the young people under your care as safe as possible. We have provided you with the basis of our rationale to allow limited outdoor activities to commence. We did not attempt to lay out every scenario as to provide you with some flexibility within your Scouting context. We urge you to use your common sense, apply the 3-D’s and to keep safety a priority.
Yours in Scouting,
Brendon, Chief Scout.