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
Purpose of guidance

Purpose of guidance

The Scottish Ministers are issuing this guidance under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 in order to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus.

This guidance has been developed by the Scottish Government following consultation with a broad range of faith and belief leaders and representatives, and is based on scientific and health advice. We would like to thank our faith and belief communities who have contributed to the development of this guidance.

Faith communities should use this guidance as an overarching framework and tailor it as appropriate for the venue and practices being carried out. Any faith-specific guidance should incorporate the principles and expectations in this guidance, expanding on them where appropriate. Where issued, faith-specific guidance should comply with the Equality Act 2010.

The guidance is not intended to provide a checklist approach. Places of worship should use their judgement to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their staff and communities, based on relevant legislation and guidance and individual circumstances.

This guidance is intended to assist places of worship to open for individual and congregational worship and prayer or contemplation, and for religious ‘life event’ ceremonies (e.g. baptisms, christenings and coming of age ceremonies but not funerals or marriages) conducted as part of a pre-scheduled act of worship. It does not extend to the use of places of worship for other purposes, such as community services. In these circumstances, places of worship should follow the relevant guidance for the particular use (see other permitted uses).

This guidance does not extend to funeral services or marriage ceremonies within places of worship.  For further information, please refer to the individual guidance on marriage ceremonies and funeral services


Place of worship

A ‘place of worship’ means all indoor and confined or enclosed outdoor spaces (for example, enclosed courtyards) used for religious ceremonies, collective prayer and worship or similar gatherings by faith organisations. It includes but is not limited to:

  • churches
  • mosques
  • gurdwaras
  • synagogues
  • temples
  • any other public space where the primary purpose is faith-based practices, such as prayer rooms within public buildings

A ‘place of worship’ also means any associated buildings run by a faith-based place of worship, such as meeting halls. Other guidance may be applicable to those venues depending on the function for which the venue is being used (see ‘other permitted uses’ below).

Person responsible for a place of worship

Those responsible for places of worship are those who oversee its management. This may be a faith leader, lay person or a management body or committee. 

They have discretion over when they consider it safe to open one or more places of worship for the permitted purposes, and these should remain closed if they are not yet able to safely adhere to the guidelines in this document. They are also the person responsible for taking measures to minimise risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Household and extended household

A household is a person or a group of people who live together in the same accommodation. An extended household is two households which have chosen to be treated as a single household.

First published: 18 Sep 2020 Last updated: 9 Apr 2021 -