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

Last Updated on 13/01/2020 at 14:09

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 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 with a high coronavirus risk – you can find a list of countries exempt from this rule 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. 

If you are not experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, you can get tested in certain areas where mobile testing facilities have been set up. These may only run for a short period of time when there is higher infection rates locally.

These testing facilities will visit several Scottish towns throughout December and be available to people in areas including Alloa, Ayr, Bellsbank, Dalmarnock, Dalmellington, Girvan, Johnstone, Pollockshields and Stewarton. You can book an asymptomatic test if one these testing facilities is currently operating locally using gov.uk.

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.

Book a test on the NHS Inform website

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

On Monday 2nd November, Scotland moved to a new national framework for tackling the spread of coronavirus. Under this, different areas of the country have been assigned a level between 0-4 and will have to follow different rules depending on the infection rates locally.

From 5th January, all local authority areas in Scotland with the exception of Orkney, Shetland and Na h-Eileanan Siar and other island communities listed below will be in Level 4 with enhanced restrictions also in place, such as a legal requirement to stay at home unless for essential purposes.

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

To find out more about what this framework means, what happens at each level and what level your local authority is in, head to our page explaining it all. 

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 - this includes meeting a friend at a restaurant or pub if you are in an area where this is allowed. See 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, you should only be leaving home for essential purposes so 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 places where physical distancing might be difficult (for example, in corridors). If your school is in a Level 3 or Level 4 area in the new levels framework, S4-S6 pupils must wear a face covering in classrooms. Find out more about wearing a face covering at school
  • At work places 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 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.

Meeting people outdoors

Everyone living in a Level 4 area is subject to a legal requirement to stay at home from 5th January. 

If you're in Level 4, you can meet one person from a different household outdoors. This means a maximum of two people meeting in total. You should only meet someone if you have a reasonable excuse, this could include meeting one other person for sport, exercise or to provide care and support for a vulnerable person. For a full list of reasonable excuses, visit the Scottish Government website.
From Saturday 16th January, it is against the law to consume alcohol in any outdoors public place in any Level 4 area.

In Level 3, up to six people from two households can meet outdoors and in public places that can open, with physical distancing.

At all levels, in these places, anyone under the age of 12 from your or the other household that are part of your group, do not count towards the limits of people who can meet. Also, anyone under the age of 12, does not need to physically distance. 

If you're aged between 12 and 18 and in a Level 3 area, the same limits on numbers of people who can meet apply however there are no limits on the number of households this can be from.

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

Using public transport & travelling

There is currently a ban on travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK, this will remain in place until at least 1st February.

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. From 5th January enhanced restrictions are in place for all Level 4 areas.

The rules at each level for travelling are:

Enhanced Level 4

  • There is a legal requirement to stay at home, this means you should not travel anywhere unless it is for an essential purpose such as going to a shop to get essential food or medicine or for caring responsibilities.
  • 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 3

  • No non-essential travel into or out of the area.
  • Avoid car sharing with people outside of extended household if possible.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport.
  • Wear a face covering on public transport unless exempt.
  • International quarantine rules apply.

Level 0, 1 & 2

  • 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 to Scotland from abroad, you may need to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. You can find a list of countries exempt from this rule on the Scottish Government's website.

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

Going to school, college or university

Schools will remain closed until at least 1st February 2021, unless your parent or carer is a key worker. Remote learning will be in place which means your lessons will be online during this time.

Universities and colleges will also be doing mostly online learning until the end of February, there may be rare exceptions to this where remote learning is not possible, for example student nurses or doctors on a practical placement.

The First Minister has said the any students who remained at their campus over the festive period will be supported by their institution. Contact your place of study to find out what support may be available for you.

It is likely that testing, just like when you left university to go home, will be made available before you return. 

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

Wearing a face covering between classes, at break and lunch times, and continuing physical distancing and good hygiene is also encouraged.

You can find information about the plans currently in place for the closing and return of schools over the winter break in our article.

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

Living in student accommodation

As there have been some outbreaks at student accommodation, students have been reminded to stick with the current restrictions and follow these four points to help keep you and others safe:

  • If you experience symptoms, self isolate and book a test immediately. You can book a test by visiting the NHS Inform website.
  • Download the Protect Scotland app on your smartphone, from your app store. Find out more about the Protect Scotland app.
  • Follow the test and protect advice and advice from your university and if you're required self isolate for 10 days. This means you shouldn't be going out for anything including food and essentials. Speak to your university to get support, advice and help with getting your essentials. You should try to avoid close contact with other people you're living with, sleep alone, not share towels or toothbrushes and keep shared facilities (like bathrooms and kitchens) clean. 
  • Don't have house parties or gatherings in your student accommodation, instead socialise virtually or if you are in an area where hospitality venues are open you can meet there. Find out more about the restrictions that apply in these venues.

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 work places 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 0, 1, 2 & 3

  • 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 in our article.

Visiting shops and supermarkets

All of mainland Scotland is in Level 4 from January 5th, this means you should only visit shops to get essentials such as food or medicine if you live in this area.

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:

Level 0 & 1

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

Level 2

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

Level 3

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

Level 4

  • Non-essential shops and close contact services such as hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians must close. Mobile close contact services aren't allowed. Only essential retail can offer click and collect services which cannot take place indoors.

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

From 5th January, all of mainland Scotland is in Level 4 with enhanced restrictions which means that hospitality venues will be closed until at least February 1st in these areas.

You should make sure you stay physically distant from people from other another household at all times, 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:

Level 4

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close. From 16th January 2021 it is against the law to consume alcohol in an outdoors public place.
  • Takeaways can operate but must offer a delivery service or collection where the customer can collect without going in doors, for example, this might be through a hatch. 

Level 3

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open but cannot sell alcohol indoors or outdoors. Time restrictions may apply.
  • The maximum number of people you can meet indoors and outdoors is 6 from up to 2 separate households.

Level 2

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open. Alcohol can only be sold with a main meal indoors, time restrictions may apply. Alcohol can continue to be sold outdoors with time restrictions in place.
  • The maximum number of people you can meet indoors and outdoors is 6 from up to 2 separate households.

Level 1

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open with normal licensing rules and opening/closing times.
  • The maximum number of people you can meet indoors and outdoors is 6 from up to 2 separate households.  From 19 November 2020 this will increase to a maximum of 8 people from up to 3 households.

Level 0

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes are open with normal licensing rules and opening/closing times.
  • A total of up to 8 people from 3 households can meet indoors.
  • A total of up to 15 people from 5 households can meet outdoors.

In these places, anyone under the age of 12 from your or the other household that are part of your group, 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 in our article.

Visiting places of worship & life events

From Friday 8th January, places of worship in mainland Scotland will have to close unless for limited reasons outlined below, this is due to Level 4 restrictions being enhanced.

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 are closed unless for funerals, weddings, civil partnerships or broadcasting a service.
  • 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 1, 2 & 3

  • 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 in our article.

Other indoor public places

From 5th January, indoor public places will be closed across mainland Scotland until at least February 1st due to enhanced Level 4 restrictions being in place

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:

Level 3 & 4

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 0 & 1

  • All venues are open with the exception of nightclubs.

Find out more about the Levels Framework and what level your area is in 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 may be taking your own extra precautions, or may asked by the Scottish Government to 'shield' in the future.

From 2nd November, those who previously followed shielding advice have been subject to different rules. You can find out more about what the new shielding advice will be on page 43 of the Scottish Government's official publication.

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

NHS Scotland Test & Protect App

NHS Scotland have 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)