Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Guidance to help places of worship safely re-open for permitted purposes.

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


The physical distancing restrictions set out in this guidance has changed from 2 meters to 1 metre in line with changes coming into force on the 19th July 2021

We recognise the important role that places of worship play in providing spiritual leadership to many people, and acknowledge the outstanding contribution of Scotland’s faith communities during these unprecedented times.

The Scottish Government’s strategic intent is to suppress the virus to a level consistent with alleviating its harms while we recover and rebuild for a better future. We are working to a Strategic Framework based on five levels of protective measures, which can be applied either locally or nationally. The latest measures and the levels applied to each area can be found on the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus home page.

The legal restrictions and requirements that apply at each level of protection are set out in the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 – referred to in this guidance as “the Regulations”.  (The link above provides the latest text of the Regulations, including amendments that have been made over time.) The Regulations state that a person who is responsible for a place of worship, carrying on a business or providing a service must also have regard to guidance issued by the Scottish Ministers about measures which should be taken to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus on those premises. This guidance is issued for that purpose in relation to places of worship

At all protection levels, places of worship are able to open for individual prayer and communal worship, and individuals may travel to attend their usual place of worship located in another area – see Advice for those attending a place of worship.

Places of worship are able to open for the following purposes:

Any other activities that may normally take place in a place of worship (including associated meeting halls) are subject to the regulations and guidance applicable to that activity and the protection level for the area.  The Scottish Government website sets out what you can and cannot do

On 13th July 2021, the First Minister announced amendments to current restrictions, which will take effect from 19th July 2021. The changes involve a move to Level 0.

Physical distancing

Physical distancing measures will be slowly eased to enable us to operate in a less restricted way.

From 19th July, when areas move to Level 0, the following changes will apply:

  • physical distancing of 1 metre in outdoor settings
  • physical distancing of 1 metre in indoor settings

Beyond Level 0

We have set out the vaccine milestones we hope to reach over the summer, and the plan to take us out of COVID-19 restrictions. See our proposed timetable for these changes.

Our Strategic Framework update sets out what a move beyond Level 0 may look like. We will ensure that our information is clear and accessible as we enter a period where people need to make personal judgements, rather than rules set by government.

This means everyone playing their part by:

  • maintaining good hand hygiene
  • practising respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
  • wearing face coverings
  • ensuring there is good ventilation – open windows when indoors
  • continuing to engage with Test and Protect and self-isolate when symptomatic or have tested positive

A move beyond Level 0 will be conditional on all adults over 40 protected with two doses of the vaccination and a review of the epidemic being carried out ahead of the date for that move.

However, until 19 July when the regulations have been amended, those responsible for places of worship must ensure that people are able to maintain a distance of 2 metres at all times from others who are not part of their household, and they should limit the numbers attending services accordingly. More detail is provided under Restrictions on capacity

This guidance is not an instruction to open places of worship for any purpose. Each place of worship should make its own decision about when it is ready to do this and should only open if it is satisfied this can be done safely. Any place of worship that is reopening must take the contents of this guidance into consideration along with any other relevant coronavirus guidance.

This guidance is based on scientific and medical advice at the time of writing. It does not constitute legal advice. Please ensure that you are viewing the latest version of this guidance.

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 16 Jul 2021 -