Tips for Physical Distancing When You're Shopping

Last updated on 22/09/2020 at 15:44

During the lockdown, the way we shop for food and other essential items had to change to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As restrictions start to ease over the coming months, it's important that we keep being mindful of the ways we can keep ourselves and others safe. Shops will continue to adjust their own rules, 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, if you been asked to self-isolate by a contact tracer or if you are in the shielding group.

What might be different as shops start to reopen?

From 8th July, it is mandatory to wear a face covering in shops, libraries, museums, places of worship and on public transport. 

When businesses reopen in Phases Two, Three and Four in Scotland's Route Map out of lockdown, they will need to make sure that customers stay two metres apart. In some shops this will be allowed to be relaxed to one metre, however it should be clearly signposted if this is the case so if you're in doubt stick to two metres.

You may notice some other changes to the way you shop. 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. 

Shops will likely restrict the number of people allowed inside at one time like supermarkets do now. 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.

In Phase Three, some shops will be able to reduce physical distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre, if they're putting in place a range of measures to reduce risk. Therefore, make sure you follow signage in the shop you're visiting as rules and restrictions are likely to change from business to business.  

You can find details on which shops might be allowed to open in each phase on the Scottish Government's Route Map.

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: From 10th July it will be mandatory to wear a face covering in any shop. 
  • 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 practicing 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?

Absolutely! 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 will other businesses reopen?

Places such as cinemas, museums, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers are open again although many have strict hygiene and physical distancing rules. Certain places will ask you to book in advance and will ask for contact details in case contact tracers need to get in touch. 

From Friday 25th September, pubs, bars and restaurants in Scotland will be under curfew in Scotland meaning that you will need to be off the premises by 10pm so they can close their doors. They will also have to provide table service, which means you won't need to visit a bar to order drinks or food, for example. 

When you're in a pub, bar or restaurant you should keep good hygiene, stay physically distant from other households and wear a face covering when you're moving around a venue (for example, when arriving, going to the toilets or leaving). 

The Scottish Government is continually reviewing the current guidelines, keep an eye on our 'What Phase Are We in and What Does It Mean?' article. It highlights all the key stages and we will keep you updated with any new announcements.

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