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
Restrictions on capacity

Restrictions on capacity

Those responsible for places of worship should ensure that they only open to their communities for individual or congregational acts of worship and ceremonies to mark life events if it is safe to do so and in compliance with this guidance. It is their responsibility to put in place measures that will allow them to safely open.

Restrictions must be set by those responsible for the place of worship to limit the number of people permitted to enter at any one time, so that a safe distance of at least 2 metres can be maintained between individuals from different household groups.  This is known as the “physical distance based capacity”.  The assessment should take into account total floor space and likely ‘pinch points’ and busy areas, and the building design and layout.  The availability of staff/volunteers to help manage attendance should also be considered.  Further guidance on calculating physical distance based capacity is available.

Where balconies are used, the floor area of the balcony should be included as part of the total floor space of the building. Attention should be paid to ventilation in areas with reduced height. Where seating is sloped, it may be necessary to increase the distance between rows, to avoid the risk of people breathing over one another.

Separate limits on attendees are set out for  marriage ceremonies and funeral services, and the relevant guidance should be followed for these.

Children under 5 need not be counted in the number of people admitted to the venue. However, where seating is provided for children this should be included for the assessment of physical distance based capacity, even where the children using the seating are expected to be under 5.

In all cases, a risk assessment should be carried out to identify points of high risk in the building and any mitigating action.

If a place of worship has more than one room or hall in which worship or other activities may take place, worshippers should be suitably divided between them to ensure that appropriate physical distancing can be maintained.  It may be helpful to calculate the physical distance based capacity for each space, as well as the total for the premises, and to calculate the capacity for different activities (such as exercise classes) when these are permitted.  Those responsible for the place of worship should also take into account the need for attendees to use common circulation areas and facilities such as toilets.

It may be helpful to have marshals in place to remind people to maintain social distance at all times, particularly when entering and exiting buildings.


Displaying physical distance based capacity

The guidance on calculating physical distance based capacity asks that all non-domestic premises display a notice of their physical distancing capacity at entrances.  The sign displaying the capacity should be large enough and clear enough for people to read easily (A4 sized).  Where there are different halls that may be used separately, the capacity should be displayed for each space.  If different capacities are calculated for different activities, this should also be displayed.

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 11 Jun 2021 -