Museums in England will be able to host tour groups of up to 30 people but must still abide by the Rule of Six, according to the latest update from the UK Government.
This means that each group on the tour must consist of no more than six people, unless it is a family group or supportive bubble. Social distancing must be respected at all times between groups, so that if a person is in a group of six, they must stay within that group at all times and cannot join another group or mingle with other individuals or groups.
Within groups of six, social distancing rules must be respected if the people in the group are not from the same household or support bubble. Because tour guides are working, they do not need to be counted towards the numerical limit.
The latest advice will come as a relief to the sector after new restrictions on large gatherings – as well as more stringent Test and Trace regulations – introduced on 14 September brought fresh uncertainty for museums as they try to restart tours and group activities.
The latest government advice states: “Guided tours of up to 30 people may take place indoors or outdoors provided businesses undertake risk assessments in line with this guidance document and put any necessary mitigations in place.”
Elsewhere, the guidance provides further detail on eligibility, saying that "this is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies".
The new social distancing rules were introduced after a surge in Covid-19 cases in several parts of the UK. As of this week, indoor and outdoor gatherings of people from different households are limited to six people in England. The so-called “rule of six” has also been introduced in Scotland and Wales, although children under 12 are exempt in those nations.
The rules around gathering data for NHS Test and Trace programme, which have so far been voluntary, have also been tightened. It is now compulsory to collect visitors’ details for Test and Trace in England; venues that fail to comply will face an initial fine of £100, rising to a maximum of £3,200 for repeat offences.
The National Museum Directors’ Council (NMDC) has updated its reopening guidelines to take into account the new restrictions. The guidance now states: “Whether indoors or outdoors, people from different households must not meet in groups of larger than six. This limit does not apply to meetings of a single household group or support bubble which is more than six people.”
Test and trace
NMDC has also updated its guidance on complying with the Test and Trace programme. It now states: “In order to ensure that businesses are able to remain open, we are now mandating that businesses must ask one member of every party who accesses their services to provide their contact details through NHS Test and Trace. You must have a system to ensure that you can collect contact information for your customers in place.
“Many businesses have bookings systems that can be used to effectively collect contact details for their customers, and if you do not already do so, you should do so in order to ensure that you are compliant with the new regulations on NHS Test and Trace.
“Any business that is found not to be compliant with these regulations will be subject to financial penalties. It is vital that you comply with these regulations to help keep people safe, and to keep businesses open.
“Businesses must also keep records of staff working patterns for a period of 21 days to assist NHS Test and Trace to contain clusters or outbreaks.”
This article was edited following the publication of further government advice on mitigation measures for tour groups.