From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing
When congregations begin to gather once again for in-person worship, one of the issues for consideration is Singing. Can the members of the Congregation sing? Should singing be discouraged? Can it be prohibited?
It is clear that including singing in any activity increases the risk of spreading infection, if there is an infected person present. (Presumably they would be asymptomatic—otherwise they would be isolating awaiting a test result). The basic issue is that forceful expulsion of air from the throat (which presumably is what engaged singers are doing) is an efficient way of dispersing aerosols. If those aerosols carry the virus, the likelihood of people in close vicinity becoming infected is raised. So not singing minimises the risk, at least from this component of the gathering. Gathering outdoors also contributes to a lower risk factor—the outdoor environment leads to a rapid dispersal of the aerosols, whereas indoors they remain “trapped”.
Church Councils might therefore wish to consider not having communal singing in the initial phase of gathering for in-person worship in the coming weeks.
What government advice is there on this matter (presumably informed by good medical and scientific knowledge)?
Under the heading “high risk activities”, the ACT Government currently lists Dancing and Singing. The guidance about singing is as follows:
Singing carries a high risk of transmission of COVID, due to increased droplet spread. While singing is currently permitted in the ACT, venues and event organisers should take steps to minimise the risks associated with this activity. When activities are permitted to go ahead, from 29 October 2021:
COVID safe behaviours - COVID-19 (act.gov.au)
Information relating to this matter on the NSW Government website is also instructive:
The virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread from person to person through contact with droplets, which are produced when a person sneezes or coughs, or through other small respiratory particles that are produced when people talk, sing or shout.
These small particles can remain in the air for some time. Aerosolised particles may build up if there is not enough ventilation, for example, if a group of people sing or speak loudly in an indoor space without the windows or doors open.
Open or well-ventilated spaces reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 because infectious particles are more quickly diffused in the open air than in spaces with less ventilation.
Transmission of COVID-19 is more common indoors, where there may be less space to physically distance, and where people may come into contact with droplets and aerosolised particles more easily.
To help reduce the risk, it is important to take steps to improve ventilation in indoor settings so that any infectious particles that may be present in the air are more quickly removed.
COVID-19 guidance on ventilation (nsw.gov.au)
If you really want to explore the hard scientific data, there is a technical paper from earlier this year that canvasses the issues: “COVID-19: Impact on the Musician and Returning to Singing; A Literature Review”, at COVID-19: Impact on the Musician and Returning to Singing; A Literature Review (nih.gov)
Church Councils need to consider this element in their planning for recommencing worship in-person in the coming weeks.