Tips for Physical Distancing When You're Shopping

Last updated on 29/10/2020 at 15:00

The way we shop for food and other items has had to change to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As restrictions change, it's important that we keep being mindful of the ways we can keep ourselves and others safe. Shops will continue to adjust the rules introduced by the Scottish Government, but customers have their part to play, too.

Remember: Don't go to the shops if you're self-isolating due to COVID-19 symptoms or if you been asked to self-isolate by a contact tracer or have received information through the Protect Scotland app asking you to self-isolate.

What might be different about shopping during the coronavirus pandemic?

It is mandatory to wear a face covering in shops, libraries, museums, places of worship and on public transport, unless you're exempt, no matter where in Scotland you live. 

When you visit a supermarket, local shop or retail stores, you must stay two metres apart from others (physically distance). Many shops now have hand sanitising stations and helpful floor markings to make this as easy as possible for you.

Some businesses may reopen only parts of their shops and you may be asked to follow a certain route around the shop to reduce contact with other customers. You might also need to check for a change in opening hours, and any restrictions about how many people are allowed inside at one time. This may mean you have to queue outside before you're allowed in and have to follow markers on the floor on the outside of shops to make sure customers are following the physical distancing rules.

Are my local shops open?

From Monday 2nd November 2020, different areas in Scotland will be subject to different rules as part of the 'levels framework' being introduced across the UK to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Depending on 'what level' of the framework your local authority (or local council area i.e; East Dunbartonshire or West Lothian) is in, the shops in your area may be subject to different rules. Here's what you can expect for shops at each level:

  • Level 0: Shops are open with physical distancing in place.
  • Level 1: Shops are open with physical distancing in place.
  • Level 2: Shops are open with physical distancing in place.
  • Level 3: Shops are open with physical distancing in place.
  • Level 4: Non-essential retail will be closed.

You can find out what level of Scotland's COVID-19 Levels Framework your area is in using our handy guide.

How can I stay safe when I'm at the shop?

When you do go shopping, there are a few ways you can keep yourself and others safe:

  • Shop on your own: Where possible, only one person from each household should go shopping to limit the number of people in each shop. However, this may not be possible due to caring responsibilities or disabilities. Remember that not all disabilities are visible.
  • Avoid the rush: Try and avoid going shopping at times when you know the shop will be busy, such as weekends. Not only will this limit your exposure to other people, but it will also make for a much smoother shopping trip!
  • Face coverings: It is mandatory to wear a face covering in any shop (unless you're exempt).
  • Physical distancing: Be sure to observe any distancing measures in place, such as keeping two metres apart from other people and following any one-way systems which are in place. Keep an eye out for signs in the shops that will provide instructions and guidance about what you should do. 
  • Proof of age for restricted sales: Be prepared to show ID for age-restricted products such as alcohol and nicotine products, and remove any face covering if necessary.
  • Continue practising good hygiene: continue to practice good hygiene including washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, catch your coughs and sneezes and avoid touching your face. 

Retail staff are working in very challenging circumstances. Remember to be polite and courteous when you go shopping, and follow their guidance.

How can I reduce my number of shopping trips?

The best way to reduce the spread of coronavirus is to leave your home as little as possible. That means, thinking about ways you can reduce the number of times you go shopping, this can help have an impact on controlling the virus. Here are some tips to optimise your shopping trips:

  • Write a shopping list: Writing a shopping list of what you need before you go will make sure you get everything you need to last until your next trip. Plan out your meals so you know which ingredients you need and stock up on the essentials. Remember that stocking up means buying what you need and no more.
  • Maximise your freezer space: Think about what can be frozen so that you can store it for longer. Love Food, Hate Waste has a great list of foods that can be frozen.
  • Use click and collect or online delivery: You might be able to cut out your weekly shopping trip altogether by using online delivery services or limit your contact by choosing click and collect.

Can you use Young Scot Discounts?


We’re checking in with all of our partners, to make sure nothing has changed with their offer to young Scots. If you do have any problems with an official Young Scot Discount you’d normally expect to receive online or in store, email our team on

When about restrictions at other businesses?

Lots of businesses across Scotland are open depending on the regulations in their area, including museums, cinemas, bars, restaurants and cafes. Different businesses and venues have different restrictions in place, take a look at our article on what the rules are right now for up to date information on what's happening in your area and how it impacts you. 

Check out more information on COVID-19 and physical distancing from Young Scot.