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
Other permitted uses

Other permitted uses

Where a place of worship is used by external groups, only those activities which are permitted to take place should be available, and relevant guidance should be followed for the particular activity that is taking place. 

Examples of such guidance are set out below, but this is not an exhaustive list and those responsible for places of worship should check the Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and the guidance on activities that you can and cannot do.

See the list of businesses which cannot open yet. Activity that is still restricted includes:

  • indoor soft play. Soft play centres would be allowed to re-open in levels 0 and 1, if they can comply with the requirements specified in the soft play sector guidance 
  • certain indoor performances in front of a live audience, including dramatic, musical or comedy performances (see performing arts guidance)
  • certain indoor contact sports

Consideration should be given to any local restrictions that are in place. Information on areas with local measures in place is available.

Place of worship as workplaces

Many places of worship are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers under health and safety law. Places of worship also have a duty of care to volunteers, to ensure that as far as reasonably practicable they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety. See guidance on returning to work.

Education, early years and childcare use

Places of worship that provide regulated, early years and childcare services should follow the relevant guidance that sets out the measures and approaches that should be put in place to keep people safe. See:

YouthLink Scotland, in conjunction with the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland, have developed a framework to support the resumption of youth work services.

Guidance for the community learning and development sectors, including youth work and adult learning is also available.

Unregulated indoor activity for under 18s, including activity organised by places of worship (such as out-of-school faith-based education that is separate to an act of worship), have been able to resume from 31 August and should follow guidance for unregulated organised activities for children.

Where a place of worship is providing activities for children they will need to determine which guidance is most relevant for the activity they are organising.

Indoor fitness/exercise groups

From 31 August, organised indoor sport and activity groups can resume, subject to following sport specific guidance agreed with sportscotlandThose leading exercise classes should refer to sportscotland guidance for coaches, leaders, personal trainers and instructors

In addition, guidance has been published for the opening of indoor and outdoor sport and leisure facilities.  Those providing organised sport and physical activity should make themselves aware of requirements around physical distancing, enhanced hygiene measures and test and protect.

Lifestyle, recreational and support groups

Lifestyle and recreational groups that are not specifically exempt from the rules on indoor gatherings can only take place in line with those rules.

Face-to-face advice services, including recovery community and mutual aid groups are permitted to resume in community venues, including places of worship. Sector specific guidance should be followed on this. 

Examples of such guidance includes:


Hospitality spaces within places of worship, such as cafes, are permitted to open within local authorities having protection levels between 0-3. Guidance for the hospitality sector should be followed. Informal hospitality, such as lunch clubs and coffee mornings are currently only permitted in line with restrictions on indoor gatherings.

Guidance on the opening of public toilets, including hygiene measures that should be taken, is available.

Tourism and retail

Buildings can now open for most tourism and retail purposes and places of worship should follow relevant guidance on managing this. People visiting places of worship for these purposes should also follow relevant guidance.

Live events

We know from evidence that there is less risk of transmission of COVID-19 outdoors than indoors.

Places of worship are now able to organise seated outdoor events, such as outdoor worship. This activity should be carried out in line with the guidance on live events, with reference to this document for guidance on carrying out faith-specific practices safely. Any outdoor performances should be carried out in line with the performing arts guidance.

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 7 Jan 2021 -