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

Last Updated on 20/04/2020 at 14:00

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 any country abroad – 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.

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, information will be provided on the Scottish Government website about how you can access your own Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kit if you're not part of a testing program at school. These LFD tests are meant to be taken if you're asymptomatic (not showing any symptoms). If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 you should book a home test kit or attend a testing centre. Find information about this on NHS Inform's website.

Testing at schools

Upon returning to education after the Easter Break, young people (unless you are shielding, in which case the planned return date is 26th April) will be able to access testing kits for COVID-19 at school. Local authorities and schools should make lateral flow devices available for at-home testing twice a week as part of your return. This type of testing will be available to school staff and pupils returning to school in S1 to S6. Find out more about returning to school below.

Find out more about lateral flow device tests and the school testing programme.

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

Currently, up to four people from a maximum of two separate households can meet outdoors, for recreation and to socialise. This includes outdoor public spaces and private gardens. Young people aged 12-17 inclusive, can meet outdoors in a group of up to four people, from a maximum of four separate households. Outdoor non-contact sports and club activities can also resume, in groups of up to 15 people.

On April 13th, the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced that some changes would be made to Level 4 and Level 3 areas. From Friday 16th April, six people, from a maximum of up to six separate households can meet outdoors. Travel within Scotland will also be allowed from April 16th, for recreation, exercise and wellbeing purposes. From April 26th 

All mainland local authorities are in Level 4. All islands in Highland are in Level 3, except the Isle of Skye, which is in Level 4 and the following islands in Argyll and Bute are also in Level 3: 

  • the Isle of Coll
  • the Isle of Colonsay
  • the Isle of Erraid
  • the Isle of Gometra
  • the Isle of Iona
  • the Isle of Islay
  • the Isle of Jura
  • the Isle of Mull
  • the Isle of Oronsay
  • the Isle of Tiree
  • the Isle of Ulva

These levels will remain in place until at least April 26th. This is when the government hope to return to the levels framework system and reopen the economy if it is safe to do so. It is hoped that all local authorities currently in Level 4 will move to a modified Level 3 on this date and areas currently in Level 3 will remain at Level 3 and align itself with mainland Scotland.

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).

No matter if you are indoors or outdoors, if 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. 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.

Meeting people indoors

Your house or someone else's

You aren't currently allowed to meet other people indoors, unless it is for essential work, to join your extended household or to provide care and support for a vulnerable person. 

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

In a public indoor space

You currently cannot meet other people in public indoor spaces.

From April 26th, you will be able to meet in groups of a maximum of 6 people from 2 households indoors at public venues such as pubs, bars and restaurants, while maintaining social distancing. The sale of alcohol will not permitted and indoors spaces must close at 20:00.

Meeting people outdoors

Currently, six people, from a maximum of up to six separate households can meet outdoors throughout all local authorities in Scotland. Young people under the age of 12 don't count towards this limit. This includes outdoor public spaces and private gardens.

Travel within Scotland is also allowed for recreation, exercise and wellbeing purposes. It is not permitted to stay in another local council area overnight.

Outdoor non-contact sports and club activities can also resume, in groups of up to 15 people.

It is against the law to consume alcohol in any outdoors public place within any Level 4 area which is currently the whole of mainland Scotland.

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

Using public transport & travelling

Travel between Local Authorities in Scotland is allowed for recreation, exercise and wellbeing. The ban on travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK will remain in place for now.

The rules at each level for travelling are:

Enhanced Level 4 & Level 3

  • Travel within Scotland is allowed for recreation, exercise and wellbeing purposes.
  • Avoid car sharing with people outside of extended household if possible.
  • Do not use public transport except for essential purposes.
  • Wear a face covering on public transport unless exempt.
  • International quarantine rules apply.

Level 2, 1 & 0

  • No non-essential travel to or from areas of Scotland that are in Level 3 or higher.
  • Avoid car sharing with people outside of extended household if possible.
  • 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 should also wear a face covering, unless exempt, and practice physical distancing at train stations and bus stations.

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

If you're arriving in Scotland from abroad, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. You will also need to test negative for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before your arrival.

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

Going to school, college or university

As of 15th March 2021, all primary pupils in Scotland are back in school full-time; after-school clubs, breakfast clubs and other school clubs will begin to be re-opened also.

Secondary school pupils will return full-time after the Easter break. After the break, young people returning to education who are in S1 - S6 of secondary school will have access to coronavirus home-testing kits called lateral flow devices. Find out more about lateral flow devices

Pupils who are shielding will not return to school full-time until at least 26th April.

When attending school, you should wear a face covering, continue washing your hands regularly and follow safety advice in your school.

Find out more about FACTS at school and how you can prevent spreading COVID-19.

Universities and colleges are currently learning online wherever it is possible to do so, there may be rare exceptions to this where remote learning is not possible, for example, student nurses or doctors on practical placement.

FACTS should be followed as much as possible, and your school/university may have specific additional procedures in place.

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

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 31st March 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 must continue to work at home if it's possible for them to do so.

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.

Since 2nd November, the new Levels Framework has been in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there. There are also enhanced restrictions for Level 4 areas from 5th January.

The rules at each level for workplaces are:

Enhanced Level 4

  • Only essential indoor workplaces can open, you must work from home if it is possible to do so.

Level 3, 2, 1 & 0

  • Workplaces are open but working from home is the default option.

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.

Since 2nd November, the new Levels Framework has been in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

The rules at each level for visiting shops and supermarkets are:

Enhanced Level 4

  • Non-essential shops and contact services such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians must close. Mobile contact services aren't allowed. Only essential retail can offer click and collect services, which cannot take place indoors.
  • On April 5th non-essential shops can open for click and collect service, along with other retailers such as
    • garden centres (indoor and outdoor)
    • key cutting shops
    • mobility equipment shops
    • baby equipment shops
    • electrical repair shops
    • hairdressers and barbers (with shopfronts – not mobile services), by appointment only
    • homeware shops
    • vehicle showrooms (appointment only) and forecourts

Level 3

  • Shops and contact services such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians are open but may have additional measures in place. Mobile contact services aren't allowed.

Level 2

  • Shops and contact services such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians are open. Mobile contact services aren't allowed. 

Level 1 & 0

  • Shops and contact services such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians are open.

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

Visiting restaurants, pubs and cafés and other hospitality venues

Currently, most of mainland Scotland and some islands are in Level 4 with enhanced restrictions which means that hospitality venues are closed.

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.

Since 2nd November, the new Levels Framework has been in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

The rules at each level for hospitality are:

Enhanced Level 4

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes are closed. It is against the law to consume alcohol in an outdoor public place.
  • Takeaways can operate but must offer a delivery service or collection where the customer can collect without going indoors, for example, this might be through a hatch. 

Level 3

  • From April 26th all of Scotland will move to or remain at Level 3. Pubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to open and can sell alcohol outdoors. You can visit an outdoors hospitality in a group of six people from a maximum of six households.
  • Also from April 26th, you will be able to visit indoors venues, but they will not be permitted to sell alcohol indoors. The maximum number of people you can meet indoors is in groups of six people from up to 2 separate households.

Anyone in your group under the age of 12 do not count towards the limit of people who can meet.

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. Since 2nd November, the new Levels Framework has been in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

The rules at each level for visiting places of worship are:

Enhanced Level 4

  • Places of worship can hold communal worship for up to 50 people with physical distancing. 
  • Wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations can take place with a maximum capacity of 5 people (including the couple, the witnesses and guests) providing the venue’s capacity allows for 2 metre physical distancing.
  • Funerals can take place with a maximum capacity of 20 guests providing the venue’s capacity allows for appropriate physical distancing. 
  • Wakes cannot take place.
  • Wedding or civil partnership receptions cannot take place.

Level 3, 2 & 1

  • Places of worship are open but restricted to a maximum of 50 people.
  • Life events can take place in a place of worship, registration office or hospitality venue with a maximum number of 20 people (including the couple, the witnesses and guests) providing the venue’s capacity allows for appropriate physical distancing.
  • Receptions and wakes can also take place with a maximum capacity of 20 people.

Level 0

  • Places of worship are open but restricted to a maximum of 50 people.
  • Life events can take place in a place of worship, registration office or hospitality venue with a maximum number of 50 people (including the couple, the witnesses and guests) providing the venue’s capacity allows for appropriate physical distancing.

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

Other indoor public places

Indoor public places will be closed across all Level 4 areas in Scotland until further notice.

You currently cannot meet other households at other indoor public places, such as museums, libraries and other venues as all of Scotland is currently in Level 3 or 4.

Since 2nd November, the new Levels Framework has been in place in Scotland meaning your area will have to follow the rules according to the level that has been assigned there.

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

Enhanced Level 4 & Level 3

All venues must close.

Level 2

Cinemas and amusement arcades are open. The following venues must close:

  • Soft play
  • Funfairs
  • Indoor bowling
  • Theatres
  • Snooker and pool halls
  • Music venues
  • Casinos
  • Bingo halls
  • Nightclubs

Level 1 & 0

  • All venues are open with the exception of nightclubs.

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

The Chief Medical Officer of Scotland is currently writing to everyone who is in the 'shielding' category in mainland Scotland to advise them that they should not go to work. This letter will act as a 'fit note' meaning you should only work if you can do so from home.

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 maybe taking your own extra precautions, or may be asked by the Scottish Government to 'shield' in the future.

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)