Now that the government is easing the restrictions on use of community centres and visits to people’s homes, it is becoming more likely that face-to-face U3A meetings will be possible before the end of the year. Much will depend of course on whether the Government has continuing success in controlling the spread of the virus. Judgments will also need to be made about the acceptability of the risks involved in holding non-essential meetings of people who are vulnerable to that virus because of their age and medical condition.
We also need to put several measures in place before face-to-face U3A meetings can resume. Among these is the essential requirement for Covid-19 Safety Plans to be developed by the organisations hosting our meetings, such as the Council. U3A Batemans Bay must also develop its own Covid-19 Safety Plan. The hygiene measures which will have to be included in that Safety Plan might need to be practised. New arrangements will need to be made for recording attendance (passing around a pen for all to use would be a risk, so everyone might need to bring their own). It might also be necessary for someone in each class to volunteer to arrange for such tasks as hand sanitising and disinfecting chairs and tables to be done at the beginning and end of classes.
In the absence of a vaccine and drugs which are proven to be effective in treating coronavirus patients, the legal and insurance issues involved in conducting our classes need to be clarified, and legal opinion on these matters is being sought. At the very least, members will be expected to take personal responsibility for assessing their own level of risk when deciding whether to attend U3A activities. They may be required to sign an undertaking on each occasion they go to a class that they are well and will comply with social distancing and other rules.
All this means that when we are able to resume face-to-face meetings, the arrangements will be considerably different than they were before. Almost certainly, we won’t be able to all go back on the same date, because there won’t be venues available in the Batemans Bay area for the larger classes. It is most likely that the smallest classes and book groups will be first to get off the ground.
At its meeting on 17 June, the Management Committee established a sub-committee to look at all these issues and draw up a U3A Batemans Bay Covid-19 Safety Plan. This will enable us to re-open promptly when we think it is safe to do so. We also are holding discussions with the Council, to learn about its intentions and to ensure our Safety Plan is congruent with the one which Council has to prepare.
Once we have a draft Safety Plan to consider, we will be inviting tutors to comment on it before we finalise it. Until then, and a formal announcement is made that we are re-opening, please remember that we cannot hold any face-to-face U3A activities and can only have virtual meetings using electronic technology.