The Answers to Common Coronavirus (COVID-19) Questions

Last Updated: 20/08/2020 at 15:05

There's a lot of information out there about coronavirus (COVID-19). Because the situation is changing so fast, it can be very confusing trying to keep up with the latest quality-assured information, so we've collected some of your most frequently asked questions right here.

What is a coronavirus and how is COVID-19 different?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses named for their spiky surface (corona means 'crown') which were first identified in the 1960s. There are seven different coronaviruses which can infect humans. Four of these are very common around the world. Sometimes, coronaviruses that affect animals can evolve and spread to humans. There are three examples of this:

  • MERS-CoV
  • SARS-CoV
  • SARS-CoV-2

SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus which causes COVID-19. COVID-19 produces more serious symptoms including fever, tiredness, loss of or change in sense of smell and taste, and dry cough. It was unknown until the outbreak began in December 2019. Because it's new, there isn't a vaccine that will help our bodies fight it yet, so we should be very careful and try to delay its spread by self-isolating, quarantining, and distancing ourselves from others. If you want to know more, visit NHS Inform or the WHO (World Health Organisation).

How long are we in 'lockdown' for and what's next?

On 9th July, The First Minister introduced Phase Three of the plan to ease lockdown restrictions that started on 10th July. On 20thAugust it was confirmed that Phase Three would continue and will be reviewed on 10th September.

As we move through Phase Three, a range of changes are taking place and these are explained in more detail in our article about the different phases, what phase we are in and what they mean. Phase Four is the final stage of easing lockdown, but there is currently no date for this at the moment.

As restrictions do lift, physical distancing (staying two metres apart), wearing face coverings in shops, libraries, museums, places of worship and on public transport, avoiding crowded places, as well as good hygiene (washing your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow) will be very important and will play a vital role in helping to reduce the spread of the virus. Everyone in Scotland has an important part to play.

The Scottish Government have advised that if these changes happen and the evidence shows that the virus starts to spread more rapidly again, there could be a return to tougher lockdown measures. We have seen this in places like Aberdeen City where local lockdowns were put in place.

Can I go outside?

As we move through phases, more rules will be changed. Find out more about what's happening when in our article about the route map

Meeting others outdoors

You can now meet up outdoors with people from four other households in groups of no more than fifteen in a park or a garden. You should do the following while meeting members of other households:

  • Stay at least two meters apart from people who don't live in your household (unless you're aged 11 or under - see information below);
  • Avoid touching the same surfaces as people from another household (e.g sharing cutlery, plates, cups etc.);
  • Meet people from only four other households per day (unless you're aged 12 - 17);
  • Continue to practice good hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

You may enter the home of another one of these households to use the toilet, but you should avoid touching hard surfaces unnecessarily and the surfaces you do touch should be cleaned thoroughly afterwards.

If you are shielding, you may meet up with people from two other households outside, but no more than eight people at a time. You must also follow the rest of the guidelines above. In the next few weeks, your doctor/clinician will have a chat with your parents/carers to see whether you can be removed from the shielding list. You don't need to do anything, but should receive a letter and contact from your clinician soon.

If you are aged 11 or under

Unless you are shielding, you do not need to physically distance from children or adults outdoors. However, you must not meet more than four other households at the same time, and you can't meet more than fifteen people at the same time.

The adults you are with will have to stay physically distanced from other adults from different households. 

If you are aged 12-17 years old

You can still only meet four households with a maximum of fifteen people at the same time, but there is no limit as to how many people you see in a day, as long as everyone is following the rules. This means, for example, you can meet four friends from different households in the morning and then in the afternoon, meet four other friends from different households, you just have to make sure you don't meet more than four households at once.


A range of outdoor exercise can now happen, including non contact sports such as tennis. From 24th August, outdoor contact sports are allowed for all ages, but you will need to follow guidance.

From 31st August, over 12's will be able to participate in non-contact sport indoors. The plans for contact sport being allowed indoors for all ages are currently planned to go ahead from 14th September.

You can have a look at the guidance for playing each sport safely on the Sportscotland website.

If you or someone in your household has the virus, has been contacted by a contact tracer to advise you to self-isolate, you should follow advice to stay at home and you should not go out at all. 

For more information visit the Scottish Government website

Can I meet people indoors?

You can meet people indoors  but you must follow the rules:

  • You must stay physically distant from people you don't live with (2 meters apart)
  • You can't meet more than two other households indoors with a maximum of eight people in total
  • Meeting indoors can include overnight stays. 

Again, it's important to make sure to observe distancing rules and to keep up good hygiene by washing your hands regularly for at least twenty seconds and coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow.

From 28th August the police have powers to break up large indoor gatherings such as house parties. 

What if I'm shielding?

Shielding guidelines were paused on 1st August. You should now follow the general public health guidance.

Can I use public transport?

It is compulsory to wear a face mask when on public transport in Scotland. 

Public transport may be running on a reduced service in your area but in Phase Three it will continue to keep moving towards getting back up to full service with the introduction of one meter social distancing (rather than two), however it will continue to have reduced capacity.

If you are self-isolating due to symptoms, you should avoid using both taxis and public transport.

Should I wear a face mask or covering?

It is now compulsory to wear a face mask or covering in shops, libraries, places of worship, museums and on public transport in Scotland.

There are some exceptions, under 5's, those with medical certain medical conditions (for example, if you have trouble breathing) or if you need to communicate with someone who is lip reading, do not need to wear a face covering. You can get cards, lanyards and other things to show that you can't wear one for medical reasons.

Face coverings are something that covers the mouth and nose, is made of cloth or other textiles, and through which you can breathe, for example a scarf. It doesn't mean surgical or other medical grade masks.

When applying or removing a face covering, it is important that you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face. After each use, you must wash the face covering at 60 degrees centigrade or dispose of safely. Face coverings should not be used for children under the age of two years. 

Washing your hands and keeping your distance from other people are still the most important things you can do to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). 

If you have coronavirus or a member of your household does, it is still important that you follow self-isolation advice and stay at home.

Which things can Scotland do differently to the rest of the UK?

Scotland is what’s called a devolved nation. This means that, although it’s part of the United Kingdom, the Scottish Government controls how certain things are done in Scotland, and these might be different to how things are done in the rest of the UK (rUK). The areas of the law which the Scottish Parliament is responsible for are known as devolved powers.

Devolved powers include:

  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Health and social work
  • Housing
  • Justice, policing and courts
  • Local government
  • Fire service
  • Internal transport 

The main things that the UK Government at Westminster controls are:

  • The constitution 
  • Defence and national security
  • Foreign policy
  • Immigration and citizenship 

This means that most decisions about coronavirus are ultimately up to the Scottish Government. This includes when lockdown is eased and, eventually, lifted, as well as when schools will reopen and how this will work in practice. In England, on 10th May a different plan for easing lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, which has meant that some guidelines and rules are different between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

If you live in Scotland, you should follow the information provided by the Scottish Government 

When should someone start self-isolating?

It's recommended that if you start displaying certain symptoms that are related to COVID-19, you should begin to self-isolate. The symptoms to look out for according to the current Government and NHS advice are:

  • a high temperature/fever of above 37.8C – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.
  • a new, continuous cough – you've started coughing repeatedly.
  • a loss of or change in smell or taste 

NHS Scotland are now operating a system called 'Test and Protect' which will involve carrying out tests to identify positive cases of coronavirus. If you're tested for coronavirus and it comes back positive, you will be asked and supported to self-isolate for ten days. As part of this process, you will also be asked for the details of people who you have come into close contact with. Contact tracers will then get in touch with anyone who may have come into close contact with you and will ask them to self-isolate for fourteen days. 

If you need to book a test, go online to or call 0800 028 2816.

You could also be asked to self-isolate for fourteen days if you have come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. Currently, even if you've had coronavirus previously but have come into contact with someone with the virus, you will still be asked to self-isolate as not enough is known about the virus yet. It is important that you do self isolate if asked as it will make a difference in helping to control the virus. 

What happens when you get tested for coronavirus?

The test involves taking a cotton swab from your nose and the back of your throat. It's most effective if you get tested within the first three days of showing symptoms, but tests will still be considered up until five days after symptoms start.

Tests are being carried out at five drive-through sites across Scotland and mobile sites will visit towns for a short time. Home testing kits may also be available if you're unable to attend a drive-through test centre.

Drive-through sites are located at

  • Glasgow Airport
  • Edinburgh Airport
  • Aberdeen Airport
  • Inverness - University  of the Highlands and Islands campus
  • Perth - University of Highland and Islands campus

Priority is still being given to key workers so that they are able to return to work when it's safe to do so.

You should receive the results of your test by text to the mobile phone of the person who booked the test, these should be received within 48 hours. If you test positive, you should follow the guidance on the NHS Inform website about self-isolating.

If you would like to book a test, go online to or call 0800 028 2816.

What if I live with someone who has started showing symptoms?

The advice being given is that everyone that you stay with should self-isolate for 14 days from the day the first person starting showing symptoms. So if the person you live with started coughing a lot, lost their sense of smell or taste or had a fever on Thursday, you would all stay in self-isolation for 14 days after that point. 

What if I start to get symptoms when everyone I live with has already started self-isolating for 14 days?

You will need to self-isolate for ten days after you started experiencing symptoms, no matter how many days you've self-isolated already. 

What do you need to do to self-isolate?

Self-isolating means staying at home for ten days from the day you start to experience symptoms or 14 days from the day someone you live with shows symptoms. If someone you live with causes your household to self-isolate, and you later begin to show symptoms, start counting ten days from the day you yourself show symptoms.

According to the NHS, if you're self-isolating, you should not:

  • go to work, school or public areas
  • use public transport or taxis
  • have visitors, such as friends and family, in your home
  • go out to buy food or collect medicine – order them by phone or online, or ask someone else to drop them off at your home

You may use your garden if you have one. You can also exercise at home with these quick, 10-minute cardio workouts.

If you feel you need medical advice, do not go to your GP, as this could help the virus spread to other people. Do not phone your GP if you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). Instead, use NHS Inform's online service to help you find out more about your symptoms, when you can use self-care, and what to do if your condition worsens and you need medical help

What if I show symptoms and live with a vulnerable person?

The NHS describes 'vulnerable' people as those who:

  • are aged 70 years or older
  • has a long-term health condition (further information on what this means can be found on the Government website)
  • receive the flu jab for medical reasons
  • are pregnant

If you live with a vulnerable person, you should try and distance yourself from them. This might mean you, or they, live with a friend or relative for a while. If this isn't possible, stay at least two metres (three steps) away from them, open windows in shared areas, sleep in separate rooms if possible, and use different towels, including tea towels and hand towels.

What should I do if I'm not feeling well but not showing coronavirus symptoms?

It's important that you don't ignore the early signs of what could be a serious illness. A&E and GPs are still open to advise and assist those who aren't showing symptoms of coronavirus.

If you have new symptoms, get them checked out by your GP or, if the symptoms are urgent or life-threatening, A&E. If you're worried about leaving your house because of coronavirus, a phone or video consultation with your GP may be available. Phone your GP for more details.

If you're having difficulty breathing, showing signs of a stroke (face dropping on one side, speech slurred, unable to lift one or both arms) or are otherwise in immediate danger, phone 999.

How do I see my doctor? 

GP surgeries and A&E are open to see you. Don't ignore the early signs of what could be a serious illness

Many doctors surgeries have now set up telephone and video consultations. If you feel like you need to see a doctor, phone your GP and follow their advice.

You can also see your doctor digitally using the Near Me service. It is a secure and free way to have video consultations for health and social care appointments without having to leave home and is backed by NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government.

All you need is a device that allows you to make a video call, an internet connection, a Chrome or Safari web browser and a well-lit space to have the call in. Your health and social care provider will give you a web address to use for the video call as well as a date and time and all you have to do is visit that web address at that time to begin. 

Not all consultations will be suitable for the Near Me service though, for example if you need a physical examination.

A&E is open as usual and you should still visit if you experience:

  • loss of consciousness
  • sudden confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds
  • stroke
  • major trauma such as a road traffic accident.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) do not phone your GP. Instead, use NHS Inform's online service to help you find out more about your symptoms, when you can use self-care, and what to do if your condition worsens and you need medical help. NHS Inform has lots of excellent information available online.

If you are showing symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) it's important that you don't go to a hospital, GP surgery, or pharmacy, unless you have been told to do so.

If you're having difficulty breathing, showing signs of a stroke (face dropping on one side, speech slurred, unable to lift one or both arms) or are otherwise in immediate danger, phone 999.

I can't go to work because I'm self-isolating. How do I get a sick note?

If you're experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) or live with someone who does, you can get a note to let your employer know you aren't able to work because you need to self-isolate. If you have to stay at home but you feel well enough to work, you can ask your employer if you can work from home. If you can work from home, you will not need an isolation note. Get a self-isolation note from the NHS. 

You can also get an isolation note for someone else.

For more information about how you work might be impacted by coronavirus, take a look at our article.

What about my pets?

There is official Scottish Government guidance on how to look after dogs, cats and other pets whether you have no symptoms or if you are self-isolating because you have symptoms. If you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, you should keep your cat indoors wherever possible. More information is available from the British Veterinary Association.

All non-essential trips to vets should be avoided, but if your pet needs treatment you must call the vet before going to see them.

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19)