Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safe use of places of worship

Guidance to help places of worship operate safely during coronavirus.

18 Sep 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19): safe use of places of worship

This guidance for the safe use of places of worship should be regarded as supplementary to the general guidance on staying safe and protecting others.

We are hugely grateful to the efforts and collaboration of Scotland’s faith and belief communities in continuing to follow best practice guidance in places of worship. There are no limits on the numbers of people that can attend places of worship.

From 24 January 2022, given the improving situation regarding the status of the Omicron variant, the statutory measures introduced in response to Omicron were lifted. Current regulations can be found at The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2021.

On 22 February 2022, the Strategic Framework update was published, which sets out our future plans as we prepare for a calmer phase, and seek to sustain it.

The baseline mitigation measures that were in place before Omicron will be retained at this stage to help keep Covid contained as this wave recedes.

For the present, it is still within regulations that those responsible for a place of worship must take such measures as are reasonably practicable, to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus on the premises. This includes measures to reduce crowding and encourage distancing such as:

  • changing the layout of furniture
  • appropriate use of signage
  • controlling the use of entrances
  • smaller spaces and shared facilities

Those responsible for a place of worship ought to carry out a full risk assessment to help decide which actions to take to ensure the safe management of a place of worship. They must have regard to guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers about measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Face coverings remain mandatory in most indoor public places – including places of worship - subject to exemptions. They continue to be an important part of stopping the spread of coronavirus and should be worn correctly. The current guidance and exemptions are set out here: Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings and masks. Those responsible for places of worship should encourage worshippers and members of the public to wear face coverings in line with the requirements on individuals.   

Face coverings must be worn when involved in congregational singing. There is an exemption for performers and those leading an act of worship, subject to physical distancing of 1 metre or use of a partition or screen. Full details can be found in the guidance on the use of face coverings. A risk assessment should be carried out to consider any mitigating measures that may be put in place.

Physical distancing is recommended during worship wherever possible, unless it interferes with a fundamental aspect of faith specific practice.

We strongly encourage people to take a lateral flow test before attending services or gatherings. Places of worship may wish to continue to collect visitor details for the purposes of supporting NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system. Ensuring adequate ventilation in buildings also remains an important precautionary measure. 

Every person and every organisation in Scotland has a part to play in protecting the most vulnerable in society and staff working in public facing roles, easing the burden on the NHS and supporting our economic recovery. Following best practice guidance for places of worship helps to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, protects the NHS and saves lives.

Thank you for your continued support. 

Relevant regulations and guidance

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 2 Mar 2022 -