Churches in Scotland can remain open without capacity limits under the latest covid regulations, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament on Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that for three weeks from 26 December indoor seated events would be limited to 200 people. However, it was not clear whether churches were included in the new restrictions.
But yesterday National Clinical Director Prof. Jason Leitch told faith groups that churches were exempt and this has now been confirmed with an update to the Scottish Government’s website.
The new published guidance expresses the Scottish Government’s gratitude for “the efforts and collaboration of Scotland’s faith and belief communities in continuing to follow best practice guidance in places of worship”.
It then makes the crucial clarification: “Places of worship remain open with appropriate mitigations and capacity limits do not apply in places of worship for religious services and ceremonies”.
Mitigations include mandatory face coverings – including for singing – and carrying out risk assessments. Separate guidance also makes plain that physical distancing is not required in places of worship.
The Institute’s Scotland Officer Nigel Kenny welcomed the update, saying: “The uncertainty has been worrying for Scottish Christians. Restrictions were unlawfully placed on churches at the start of the year, so this clarification is great news”.
Nicola Sturgeon announced the latest round of restrictions on 21 December.
“From 26 December – inclusive of that date – for a period of three weeks, we intend to place limits on the size of live public events that can take place. This does not apply, let me stress, to private life events such as weddings.
“For indoor standing events the limit will be 100; for indoor seated events it will be 200; and for outdoor events 500 seated or standing. Physical distancing of 1 metre will be required at events that go ahead within these limits.”