Below are some frequently asked questions about the Barn's Covid-secure winter arrangements
Why has the Barn still got rules for Covid in place when other places don’t?
The Barn is a community building and as trustees of a community charity, as well as under health and safety regulations, we have to make sure the building is safe for everyone to use. It's not just Covid - we have to get our electical system checked every year and get regular inspections by the Health and Safety Executive.
Why does the Barn appear to have more stringent Covid rules than some pubs, cafes and theatres?
We are a community centre, not a pub, cafe or theatre, and we have to make sure that everyone who comes to events or activities at the Barn, no matter how vulnerable they are, is kept as safe as possible. Hickling has a significant number of older people, and some may be particularly vulnerable to Covid and influenza. We have to take this into account when we assess the risks of activities in the Barn. We are not alone in this - the Parish Council is also cautious and only allows six people to attend its public meetings.
Why are numbers of people who can attend events at the Barn reduced?
We've assessed the risks of both Covid and 'flu transmission between people attending events at the Barn. Vaccination does not give 100% protection, infection levels remain high, some local people are vulnerable and some are not vaccinated. There is limited ventilation at the Barn, especially after 9pm when doors and windows have to be closed due to licensing requirements. So we have cut audience capacity by around 50% meaning our maximum seated audience is down to 60 and our maximum standing audience is now 100. By cutting the numbers it means social distancing becomes easier, allowing everyone to be and feel safer.
We have such low Covid infection rates in North Norfolk, why were you so concerned?
It is true that our local rates have often been lower than the national average. However we felt this could change in the winter, and we did not want to get into a situation where we would have to cancel or reduce events at short notice - meaning a lot of money, time and effort would have been wasted. We believe that would have been irresponsible and unfair on our users and hirers.
Why did you not do this risk assessment earlier in the summer and let people know then?
During the early summer, it looked to us (and many others) that the vaccination programme would mean a return to business as usual. It was only at the end of August that it began to become clear to everyone, including the Government, that we were facing another difficult winter. The trustees do not have access to any better information than anyone else so it was as much a surprise and disappointment to us as to everyone else. We took action as soon as we knew there was likely to be a problem.
Why does the bookings area of the website show normal capacity figures then?
We have to advertise our facility this way because we regularly take bookings two or even three years in advance. We fully expect that the limitations on attendance numbers caused by the pandemic will reduce in the future and that we can return to business as usual.
I want to have a party or put on an event for more people than advised. Is it possible to hire the Barn and exceed the advisory numbers?
Yes. We have been completely clear with prospective private hirers that they can exceed these numbers at their own risk and liability. For public/paid events they would also have to have their own insurance. So far, no one has chosen to take up this option.
When will things go back to normal?
We have no more idea than anyone else! We hope that the difficulties relating to Covid will ease in the coming months and we are constantly monitoring the situation. Rest assured we will continue to do what we can to keep users of the Barn as safe as possible.