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
Advice for those attending

Advice for those attending a place of worship

NHS Inform provides general advice on COVID-19, including how to identify symptoms, what to do if someone has symptoms, and how to minimise the risk of catching the virus.

Anyone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or is self-isolating due to living with someone who is displaying symptoms o as a result of contact tracing should stay at home to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19, and should not attend any place of worship.

If anyone becomes unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 in a place of worship they should go home immediately and follow guidance on what to do if you develop symptoms at NHS Inform (or call 111 if they don't have internet access and need clinical advice). In an emergency, call 999  if they are seriously ill or injured or if their life is at risk.

If an individual who has attended a place of worship has a possible COVID-19 infection, the place of worship should temporarily close so that it can be cleaned. Guidance on environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection) after a possible case has left a place of worship can be found in the COVID-19: guidance for non-healthcare settings (Health Protection Scotland).

Everyone should continue to follow the rules on physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene (e.g. for coughs or sneezing) and Test and Protect.  Despite the progress of the vaccine programme, it is still necessary to use all the tools available to continue to suppress the virus and avoid new variants taking hold.

People at higher risk/shielding

Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. Guidance on individuals who fall into this higher risk group can be found on the NHS Inform website, and government advice  is available on how to keep themselves safe at each protection level.

People in this higher risk group are advised to avoid indoor public spaces, including places of worship, in any area with protection level 3 or 4.  If someone is part of a higher risk or extremely high risk group and wishes to attend a place of worship in person at this time, they should seriously consider whether to do so in line with the public health advice applicable to them and available on NHS Inform.

Places of worship should give special consideration to worshippers, staff members and volunteers who fall within this higher risk group, or who live with people in this group. Faith leaders may wish to set aside specific time for them to attend places of worship.

It is recommended that places of worship continue to stream worship or prayer services to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.

Travelling to/from a place of worship

Travel to lead an act of worship or attend your usual place of worship is allowed at all protection levels, including if you need to cross into another area to do so. This includes crossing the border into England, if necessary. Even where there are restrictions on travelling between areas, travel to lead an act or worship or attend your usual place of worship is considered a “reasonable excuse” for travel under the Regulations.

Under the protective levels system, there are restrictions on entering or leaving an area in level 4, and on moving between an area in level 3 and an area in any other level. These restrictions are in place for everyone’s safety. If travelling to attend your usual place of worship involves crossing between areas at these different protection levels, you should consider whether this travel is necessary.

Guidance on how and when to travel within Scotland is available. and should be followed when travelling to and from a place of worship. This guidance includes advice on car sharing. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport unless you are exempt, and should also be worn by individuals from different households sharing a car.

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 14 May 2021 -