Queenstown Dharma Centre: COVID-19 Policy

Trustees of the Lake Street Trust

Version 1: approved 24-Nov-2021
Version 2: updated with changes and details from government
Version 3: (14-Feb-22) updated to strengthen rules due to case numbers rising rapidly in Queenstown
Version 4: (23-Apr-22) updated to remove requirement for vaccine passes

UPDATE (23-Apr-22)

The government has dropped vaccine certificates from the Protection Framework and the whole country has dropped to orange status. The trustees have therefore decided to drop the requirement for vaccine certificates inside the centre. For now, the other protocols remain in place and, in particular, masks are still required.

The Sunday social will be reinstated from 15-May and, of course, masks are not required for this.

UPDATE (14-Feb-22)

Case numbers are rising rapidly in our community and we have entered a critical and uncertain period. The trustees have therefore decided to strengthen these protocols until further notice. The main change is that masks are required at all times inside the centre. As a consequence, the Sunday Social has been cancelled. We are also improving ventilation at practice sessions by leaving doors and windows open and using a fan.

Posters to remind attendees of the protocols are displayed at the centre, and a copy of the current poster is available here.

Summary

The trustees have decided that vaccine certificates will be required at the centre for all events unless specifically stated otherwise. This requirement will commence on Friday, 3rd Dec, 2021, when the whole country moves to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (traffic light system).

The remainder of this document provides information about the reasoning behind the policy and its expected impact on events. The document will be updated as the situation changes.

Background

Under the alert level system, the centre has generally been closed except at level 1. The centre reopened on 3-Oct-21 during the prolonged period at level 2 following the August outbreak, with the requirement that attendees register in advance, and that contact details be recorded.

The government announced on 22-Nov-21 that the whole country will switch to the Protection Framework from 3-Dec-21. On 29-Nov-21, it was confirmed that Queenstown will initially be Orange. Activities at the centre are classed as “gatherings”, which includes places of worship. Restrictions depend on whether a venue uses vaccine certificates or not, as well as the current colour, as summarised in the following table.

1 Increased from 10 on 26-Nov-21, after our policy was decided.

Empty boxes indicate that there is no limit for that situation. In a small space such as our shrine room, the physical distancing constraint dictates the actual number of attendees allowed at orange and green levels.

Decision

The decision was driven by legal requirements, the layout of the centre, and the principles of Buddhadharma, as briefly explained below.

  1. Without certificates, we’d be limited to a capacity consistent with 1m distancing, even when green. The shrine room and library are small and this is a major limitation.
  2. The shrine room is poorly ventilated and masks are often not practical, e.g. when chanting.
  3. Our priority is the health and safety of everyone. We believe that choosing to be vaccinated ourselves, and excluding those who are not from what is potentially a place where significant spreading could occur, is the decision that is most consistent with Buddhadharma.

Regular programme

Our regular programme should be able to proceed largely as normal for those who are vaccinated. We may need to limit numbers at red. Those who are not vaccinated will not be able to attend in person, though some classes will be streamed.

Special events

Events such as classes and practices with visiting teachers could not generally take place without vaccine certificates. All attendees, as well as the teacher/s and attendant/s need to be vaccinated. Classes may be recorded and/or streamed, depending on the wishes of the teacher.