What are the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rules in Scotland Right Now?

Last Updated on 20/07/2021 at 13:00

Click on items in the list below to skip to the most up to date information on coronavirus (COVID-19) prevention, symptoms and restrictions in Scotland.

What's the current advice on...?

Preventing COVID-19

The Scottish Government is using the acronym FACTS.

FACTS stands for:

  • 😷 Face coverings
  • 🙅 Avoid crowded spaces
  • 🧼 Clean your hands regularly 
  • ↔️ Two metre distance
  • 🌡 Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

These are the steps recommended in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Find out more about FACTS in school.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The main symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

If you have any of these symptoms you should self isolate immediately and book a test. 

When to self-isolate

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19). This helps stop the virus from spreading to other people.

If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus you should begin to self-isolate immediately for 10 days.

Self-isolation guidance meant that you previously had to isolate for 14 days, but upon review, this has been reduced to 10 days from Monday 14th December 2020.

You should also self-isolate if:

  • you've tested positive for coronavirus – even if you're not experiencing symptoms
  • you live with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive, even if they're not experiencing symptoms
  • someone in your support bubble or extended household has symptoms or tested positive
  • you're told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
  • you get a notification through the Protect Scotland app
  • you arrive in the UK from a country abroad listed as Red or Amber on the traffic light system – you can find more information about travel to Scotland on the Scottish Government's website.

If you're experiencing symptoms, you should book a test to check if you have coronavirus as soon as possible.

In a statement on July 13th in parliament, made by the First Minister, it's indicated that from August 9th there will no longer be a requirement to self-isolate if you've been in contact with a positive case if you've had two COVID-19 vaccinations and receive a negative PCR test. This will be confirmed closer to the date.

Getting tested for COVID-19

If you begin to experience symptoms of coronavirus, you must self-isolate for 10 days, beginning immediately.

You must book a test within the first 5 days of experiencing symptoms to provide the most accurate results, ideally within the first 3 days.

  • If you've been experiencing symptoms for 1-4 days already, you can book a home test to be delivered to you or you can visit a test site. If you're booking a home test kit on the fourth day of having symptoms, you need to book your test by 3pm
  • If you've been experiencing symptoms for up to 5 days already, you can book a test for any of your local drive-in sites. 

You must post a home test just after you've taken it, making sure it's in before the mail is collected from your local post box that evening.

If you're on your fifth day of experiencing symptoms, you won't be able to get a test and you should self-isolate for 10 days from when you first got symptoms. 

You can find information on who can be tested when you must test and how to get a test at a drive-in site or sent to your home on the NHS UK website.

From 26th April, COVID-19 home testing kits, also know as Lateral Flow Devices (LFDs), are available to everyone living in Scotland who doesn't have coronavirus symptoms or who hasn't been told to self-isolate.

You should also not use this rapid LFD testing if:

  • you have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous 90 days
  • you can get tested through your workplace or education setting (ask them for rapid LFD tests)
  • you need to take a test for international travel.

You need to be 18 or over to collect or order the test kits. Anyone aged 12 to 17 should ask an adult to collect or order a test kit for them, they should then self-test and report their result under adult supervision. Regular testing is not recommended for children who go to primary school, or who are younger than primary school age.

You can collect LFD tests from your nearest test centre between 3.30pm and 8pm and do not need an appointment.

You can also order online on the UK Government website.

Read everything you need to know about the tests on the Scottish Government website.

Getting your vaccination

From Monday the 5th of July all health boards will be able to offer drop-in vaccinations for anyone aged 18 or over. The drop-in service will be available to anyone who hasn't received their first dose yet or if it's been over 8 weeks since your first dose. You can still use this service if you already have an appointment for a vaccine booked or if you've not received any appointment so far.

You will be able to go to the most convenient Drop-In clinic for you regardless of where you are registered.

Find out where your local vaccination drop-in service is by visiting NHS Inform.

Anyone aged over 18 years old can also self-register for a vaccination appointment.

Find all the information and contact details you need to register for your vaccine or rearrange an appointment at NHS Inform.

People aged 16 and 17 can receive the vaccine if they:

  • are identified as clinically extremely vulnerable, or as having a specific underlying health condition
  • are an unpaid carer
  • are a frontline health or social care worker

Based on recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI), the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be offered in Scotland to:

  • Young people aged 12 to 17 who live with someone who is immunosuppressed
  • Young people within three months of their 18th birthday
  • Young people aged 12 to 15 with severe neurodisability, Down's syndrome, a severely weakened immune system, including some children with cancer and those with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

What are the levels and which is my local authority in?

There is a 5-level system in place in Scotland where a Local Protection Level is assigned to your area depending on the spread of coronavirus where you live.

As of Monday 19th July 2021, all of Scotland is in Level 0.

If it is possible to do so safely, many of the remaining major restrictions in place may be lifted on Monday 9th August however there would likely still be some restrictions and safety guidance in place.

Find out more about what this framework means, what happens at each level and what level your local authority is in.

Physical distancing

Physical or social distancing means taking steps to help reduce the spread of infection and to reduce the number of people becoming unwell with coronavirus (COVID-19).

If you are outdoors or in an indoor public place and you're over the age of 12 you should ensure you are two metres apart from anyone outside of your household and continue to practice good hygiene. If you are in an area at Level 3 or above, continue to maintain physical distancing from anyone not in your household or extended household in indoor private settings also.

In Level 0, physical distancing is no longer required in an indoor private setting such as your home or a private garden area, or in outdoor areas. You must however now maintain a 1m distance from people not in your household when visiting indoor public spaces.

See the information below about visiting hospitality venues.

Wearing face coverings

Wearing a face covering or mask can help prevent catching coronavirus, and passing it on to others.

Due to the current enhanced restrictions in place in mainland Scotland, the face-covering guidance would apply in places like public transport or supermarkets, however, there are extra-legal requirements for wearing face coverings that currently apply regardless of the Level in your area, these are listed below.

Places you must wear a face-covering:

  • On public transport such as buses, trains and trams and taxi services, and in airports, bus and train stations.
  • Supermarkets and retail shops, including beauty salons, pharmacies and take-aways.
  • Hospitality venues such as restaurants, cafés, bars and pubs when moving around (entering the venue, leaving, going to the bathroom).
  • Other indoor public places, like libraries or places of worship.
  • At school in communal spaces and in the classroom. Find out more about wearing a face covering at school.
  • At workplaces in communal areas such as in corridors or when walking around a workplace canteen.

See the full list of places you must wear a face mask or covering on the Scottish Government website.

People under five and those with certain medical conditions are exempt from wearing face coverings. Find out more on the Scottish Government website.

For those who are exempt, you don't need to provide any proof of this but if it would make you feel safer or more comfortable in public then you can request an exemption card by filling out an online form or calling 0800 121 6240.

If necessary, the police can issue fines of £60 (halving to £30 if paid within 28 days) if you don't comply with this law without a reasonable excuse; such as being exempt due to a health concern or communicating with someone hard of hearing, who lip-reads.

More regulations that extend the wearing of face coverings are being written up. These will focus on indoor communal settings including, for example, staff canteens and corridors in workplaces.

Check-In Scotland app

This is a digital service to help you log your details with businesses and venues that you visit in order to help the NHS Test and Protect team trace you if you have come into close contact with someone there who later tests positive for COVID-19.

The Check-In Scotland app can be downloaded through the Apple Play Store and the Google Play Store for anyone aged over 12.

Thousands of places have signed up to use the process already, including:

  • pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes
  • tourism and leisure businesses, such as theme parks, museums and cinemas
  • close contact services, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, sports and massage therapists
  • services run by local councils, such as libraries, leisure centres and registration offices
  • cremation authorities, burial authorities, places of worship or funeral director service rooms offering funeral services
  • places of worship

It works by scanning a QR inside participating venues using your mobile phone camera or a QR scanning app, this will then take you to an online form or the app if you have it downloaded where you can fill out your details and 'check in'. You then check out when you leave and the NHS will use that information to work out if you have been there at the same time as someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have been in close contact with a positive case, you will get alerted by text, email or letter providing you have provided these details when filling out the form. It will give you some advice about what you should do next.

The service is designed to take as few details from you as needed. These details will be kept securely for 21 days before being deleted, unless someone who's part of the NHS Test and Protect response team needs to keep them for longer for public health reasons.

For more information, check out this useful article on the mygov.scot site.

Meeting people indoors

The current rules for meeting people are listed below, depending on what level your Local Authority is in.

Your house or someone else's

Level 0

  • You can meet in groups of up to 8 people from up to 4 households, with no physical distancing required. Overnight stays are allowed.

Young people under the age of 12 don't count towards the limit of the number of people or households in your group.

In a public indoor space

Level 0

  • You can meet in groups of up to 10 people from up to 4 households, with 1m physical distancing maintained. The sale of alcohol is permitted until midnight.

Young people under the age of 12 don't count towards the limit of the number of people or households in your group.

You can read the rules on meeting people indoors in detail on the Scottish Government website. 

Meeting people outdoors

The current rules for meeting people are listed below, depending on what level your Local Authority is in.

Level 0

  • You can meet in groups of up to 15 people from up to 15 households. You no longer need to maintain physical distancing, however should distance from other groups of up to 15 people.

Young people under the age of 12 don't count towards the limit of the number of people or households in your group.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Using public transport & travelling

Current rules for travelling are:

Level 0

  • Travel is permitted within Level 2, 1, 0 areas
  • You can travel from Scotland to England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands
  • Travel to and from Blackburn with Darwen is only allowed for permitted reasons
  • Wear a face covering on public transport unless exempt
  • International quarantine rules apply

When using public transport including buses, trains and trams, as well as taxis and private hires, you should wear a face-covering unless exempt.

You must wear a face covering, unless exempt, and practice physical distancing at train stations and bus stations and on transport services where possible.

Find out more about Scotland's Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

International travel

From May 17th, Scotland will be operating under a traffic light system for international travel which determines what you have to do when you enter the country, such as self-isolation and testing.

You need to wear a face-covering on planes and at airports (unless exempt) with physical distancing.,

The First Minister has indicated that from August 9th, if you arrive in Scotland from an Amber country, you will not need to isolate if you've had two COVID-19 vaccinations and will require a PCR test on the 2nd day after your arrival.

Find out more about the international travel restrictions and traffic light system on the Scottish Government website.

Living in student accommodation

If you're living in student accommodation or are due to move in, in advance of starting your university or college course, some of the restrictions can be slightly confusing.

Your flatmates, if you have any, are part of your household and you should follow the same guidelines as above.

Currently, there are specific laws in place regarding your tenancy and notice period.

  • Students who have entered into a student residential tenancy before 27 May 2020 and have occupied the property, can give 7 days’ notice to their accommodation provider
  • Students who have already entered into a student residential tenancy before 27 May 2020 but have not yet occupied the property, can give 28 days’ notice to their accommodation provider
  • Students who enter into a student residential tenancy after 27 May 2020 can give 28 days’ notice to their accommodation provider.

This will be in place until 30th September 2021.

You can find out more about student accommodation in Scotland, including financial support, during COVID-19 on Student Information Scotland's website.

Going to work

The current advice is that all workers should continue to work at home where it is practical to do so.

The First Minister, during an update on July 13th and upon announcing the move to Level 0 for the whole of Scotland from July 19th, confirmed that workers would still be required to work from home if possible beyond moving to Level 0. This would be revised regularly and phased out over time, but will remain in place after August 9th if data indicates this.

More information about what to expect if you're not able to work from home is available in our article on how workplaces will be impacted.

The Levels Framework is in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there. 

The current rules for workplaces are:

Level 0

  • Workplaces are open but working from home is the default option where possible
  • Non-essential childcare and in-house work is permitted

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Visiting shops and supermarkets

When visiting local shops and supermarkets, you are required to wear a face-covering unless you are exempt for health reasons, such as anxiety, asthma or otherwise.

Many larger supermarkets have in-store priority slots for those at higher risk, the elderly, NHS workers and other essential/key workers.

Retail staff must wear a face-covering too.

The Levels Framework is in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

The current rules for visiting shops and supermarkets are:

Level 0

  • Shops and contact services such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians are open but may have additional measures in place. Mobile contact services are open.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Visiting restaurants, pubs and cafés and other hospitality venues

You should make sure you stay physically distant from people from other households at all times both indoors and outdoors, which means you will need to stay two metres apart from your friends.

There may be additional measures in place to minimise transmission of COVID-19, for example, hand sanitiser stations and increased ventilation. 

You will also need to wear a face-covering (unless you're exempt) when moving around, for example when entering the venue, leaving, going to the bathroom. When going to the venue, you will be asked for your contact details as part of Test and Trace.

The Levels Framework is in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

The current rules for hospitality are:

Level 0

  • Restaurants, cafés, pubs and bars can open indoors and outdoors for the consumption of food and alcoholic drinks, establishments will need to close at midnight.
  • The maximum number of people you can meet indoors in a restaurant, café, pub or bar is 10 which can be from up to four separate households.
  • The maximum number of people you can meet outdoors in a restaurant, café, pub or bar is 15 which can be from up to 15 separate households.
  • Anyone in your group under the age of 12 do not count towards the limit of people who can meet, or the household limit.
  • Table service and the wearing of face-coverings (unless exempt) when not seated by all customers is mandatory in all hospitality venues.
  • You will be asked by the venue to provide your contact details (for each person) for Test and Protect purposes.
  • You should stay at least one metre apart from people from other households at all times indoors, but will not need to distance in outdoors public places. Groups of up to 15 people should maintain distancing between each other.
  • Takeaways can operate as normal.
  • Hotels and other accommodation providers can still serve food to guests staying in their premises. Room service, including alcohol, is allowed as normal.
While Track & Trace in hospitality settings will still be required, there is no longer a legal requirement for establishments to book maximum 2hr time slots.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Visiting places of worship & life events

People attending life events such as weddings or funerals will have to wear a face-covering throughout the ceremony. However, the couple getting married or having a civil partnership will not have to wear a face mask during the ceremony, nor will anyone accompanying the couple down the aisle.

The Levels Framework is in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

The current rules for visiting places of worship are:

Level 0

  • Places of worship are open with no limit on communal worship numbers as long as physical distancing is in place
  • Life events can take place in a place of worship, registration office or hospitality venue with a maximum number of 200 people (including the couple, the witnesses and guests) providing the venue’s capacity allows for appropriate physical distancing. From Monday 28th June, suppliers of wedding services, staff members and others employed by the couple getting married will not count towards this limit at weddings
  • Receptions and wakes can also take place with a maximum capacity of 200 people
  • Alcohol is permitted
  • Those accompanying the wedding couple down the aisle do not need to wear a face-covering
  • Live entertainment is allowed at receptions, however, guests still need to be seated
  • More than one household can help carry a coffin and take a cord when lowering it.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

Other indoor public places

The current rules at each level for leisure and entertainment venues are:

Level 0

  • All venues are open (with the exception of nightclubs and adult entertainment) with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place
  • Small seated indoor events are permitted with a maximum of 400 people and maintained distancing
  • Indoor organised adult non-professional performing arts activities are permitted
  • Outdoor events with either 2000 people seated or 1000 standing are permitted, and Local Authorities can apply for widening of these restrictions for specific events

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in our article.

What if you're high or extremely high-risk

If you're at more of a risk of being seriously ill with COVID-19, then you may be categorised as being at high risk or extremely high risk, and may be taking your own extra precautions, or have been asked by the Scottish Government to 'shield'.

The Chief Medical Officer has provided advice for different aspects of your daily life including your work and social life, that you should try to follow. This differs depending on the local protection level at the time.

The First Minister confirmed in her July 13th statement to parliament, that a letter from the Chief Medical Officer would be going out in the next week to those who are at risk with the advice of what to do in level 0 and beyond. The Scottish Government will share a survey soon which will be used to consult with you to better understand what support you need coming out of restrictions

You can find this advice on the Scottish Government website.

Find out what might make you high or extremely high risk in our Coronavirus Jargonbuster.

NHS Scotland Test & Protect App

NHS Scotland has developed an app that alerts you if you've come into close contact (within 2m distance for 15 minutes or longer) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You can also add your own positive test result to the app to alert others, but no one can see who they've come into contact with that has had COVID-19.

The app is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store and is available to anyone aged 12 years old and over, and living in Scotland. 

Find out more about the Protect Scotland app.

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