BCA have issued a new coronavirus update for cavers:
BCA notes that travel restrictions across England, Scotland and Wales will, by the 6th July be removed. It is also noted that the various governments have introduced different limits on the numbers of people who may congregate as a ‘gathering’. BCA now considers that the risk from the Coronavirus Covid 19 is sufficiently well understood that caving and mine exploration may be resumed subject to a number of considerations. They are:
a. Some landowners may have changed the conditions they impose on access to their caves and mines, so do consult your Regional Caving Council web sites (links below) for more information;
b. Plan for an alternative location if the location is already occupied, so as to minimise the risk of transmission of the coronavirus between groups;
c. Noting that whilst some rural communities are content to see cavers, others may still be reluctant to have visitors, so check local information before visiting and take care when approaching any location;
d. The ‘service’ provided by cave rescue organisations may be reduced and could take longer to arrive at the scene of an incident, so cavers and mine explorers should special care to reduce the risk of a call out;
e. Follow government guidance on contact with shared tackle, hand washing / use of hand sanitizer and maintain an appropriate social distance where reasonably possible both above and underground, so as to minimise the risk of transmission of the coronavirus; and
f. Keep a record for 21 days of whom you have associated with in case they subsequently realise that they are infected, so as to facilitate the government’s test and trace program.
It is noted that the
BCA considers that clubs with tackle should be able to set up a suitably safe and secure loan system involving a quarantine period to enable the tackle to be available. (For advice on cleaning tackle consult the web page at https://tinyurl.com/y8jxqxqh .) A similar quarantine based system could also be applied to other club possessions such as library books and keys to caves.
Whilst the government in England has reduced the legal restrictions which cover the use of club huts, some remain. The regulations do require both a risk assessment and also that all reasonable measures have been taken; reasonable measures being those specified in government guidance. One relaxation is that the hut may be occupied by more than 6 people up to the capacity limit identified in the assessment of risk and as considered compliant with government guidance. But the guidance notes that “any individual groups should not interact with anyone outside of the group they are attending the venue with – so in a group no larger than two households or six people if outdoors”. So social distancing is required between groups. The opening of huts is therefore a complex question and very dependent upon the layout of the hut. Some guidance is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/the-visitor-economy and https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/hotels-and-other-guest-accommodation . More advice can also be found at https://www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/coronavirus . Not only will a risk assessment be required but it is also considered prudent to have recorded information on how reasonable measures in government guidance have been considered. BCA has prepared a document entitled “Advice on Inspection of Huts prior to re-opening”, see https://tinyurl.com/hutinspec . Another useful source of information is the BMC, see https://www.thebmc.co.uk/covid19-reopening-huts .
The Scottish and Welsh governments have indicated relaxations in the law covering club huts might occur from the 15 and 13 July, see https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tourism-and-hospitality-sector-guidance/ and https://gov.wales/tourism-and-hospitality-businesses-guidance-phased-reopening-html .
For guidance on the situation in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, see the Speleological Union of Ireland web site.
BCA Acting Secretary
5 July 2020