Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 19 Jun 2020

Guidance to help places of worship safely open for limited permitted activities, including individual prayer or contemplation.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the safe use of places of worship
Physical distancing

Physical distancing in places of worship

Physical distancing measures are actions taken to reduce interactions between individuals/households in order to maintain transmission of COVID-19.

Places of worship must put in place measures to ensure that all individuals, including worshippers, staff members and volunteers, can keep 2 metres apart from other individuals not in their household group whilst they remain on any part of the place of worship’s grounds or premises. This includes ensuring that the place of worship only admits people to the premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance.

Good hand and cough hygiene should also be practised.

To help do this places of worship should consider:

  • setting out floor markings in frequently used spaces and/or removing or cordoning off furniture or fittings, such as seating
  • setting out designated areas where worshippers from different households may stand or sit
  • putting in place a safe queue management system to ensure the flow of people in and out of the building can be carefully controlled, including the use of separate entrance and exit points where possible (fire exits should not be used for this purpose)
  • communicating clearly the rules on physical distancing, for example, by using signs
  • ensuring that hand washing or sanitisation facilities with soap and water (or alcohol based hand rub if there is no access to soap and water) is available for people to use before entering (see guidance for non-healthcare settings)
  • restricting the number of people using toilets/washrooms at one time
  • reviewing the availability of staff/volunteers to ensure there is enough capacity to prepare settings to reopen for permitted purposes and manage them appropriately once they are open

Whilst they should be avoided wherever possible, very brief interactions within 2 metres such as limited numbers of people passing each other in corridors, are considered to be low risk. Use of floor markings can help to minimise this.

Places of worship may also wish to consider:

  • removing unnecessary items to reduce the need for cleaning
  • using one-way systems to help minimise physical contact within corridors, doorways and stairs
  • limiting opening times 

It is important to note that the above suggestions are high-level descriptions of potential approaches, and not intended to be used as a checklist.

Face coverings

These may be worn by worshippers as a precautionary measure.

The wearing of face coverings must not be used as an alternative to other precautions including physical distancing, hand washing and respiratory hygiene.

Read guidance on the use of face coverings.


Parents or guardians should ensure children maintain physical distancing.

Any facilities for children (play corners, books, toys) should be removed, and any outdoor play equipment should remain closed.