What is Coronavirus and How Might It Affect Me?

Last Updated: 28/05/2020 at 18:32

The current coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19 as it’s officially known, was first detected in China in December 2019, but has since spread to many countries including the UK.  

Coronavirus is a group of infectious diseases that range from a common cold to a much more serious illness that affects your lungs and breathing. It makes people unwell, and in some cases, has led to serious illness and death. 

There have been cases of coronavirus in lots of different places around the world, including in the UK, which can make it seem quite scary. But you can take simple steps like washing your hands and keeping a stock of tissues for coughs and sneezes, that can really help prevent you from catching any kind of virus. 

What’s happening in Scotland?

The First Minister announced on May 28th that restrictions are now being gradually lifted as of 29th May as part of a route map for coming out of lockdown. This is set out in four phases which will be put in place over time but exactly when is subject to scientific data supporting doing so. 

The First Minister has stressed that the lifting of these restrictions doesn't mean that lockdown is now over and that people should still try and stay home as much as possible. 

We've outlined what's changed below. Even though there are changes, you are still encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, except to:

  • go shopping for basic necessities (such as food and medicine) and at other shops that are open (find out more about restrictions and how to practice physical distancing when shopping);
  • exercise and other outdoor activity alone or with members of 1 other household at a time;
  • use outdoor spaces for other recreational purposes, for example to sit or relax alone or with members of 1 other household at a time;
  • ensure basic animal welfare needs are met, including taking dogs out when necessary;
  • any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person;
  • travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home;
  • access recycling or waste disposal services, for example, local authority household waste recycling centres.

See below for more information about meeting others outdoors and what exercise is allowed under these new restrictions. 

Remember, if you have symptoms of coronavirus, are shielding or have been asked to self isolate by a contact tracer (because you've come into contact with someone with coronavirus) you should self isolate as per NHS Inform advice.

Meeting others outdoors

You can now meet up outdoors with people from one other household in groups of no more than eight in a park or a garden. You should do the following while meeting members of another household:

  • Stay at least two meters apart from people who don't live in your household;
  • Avoid touching the same surfaces as people from another household (e.g sharing cutlery, plates, cups etc.);
  • Meet people from only one other household per day;
  • Continue to practice good hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.

You should not go inside other people's houses or use shared facilities, such as bathrooms, as the virus can be transmitted across surfaces. 


You can now take part in non-contact sports outdoors such as tennis and golf if you can also follow the above guidance. If you can, when taking part in any activity or exercise you should only do so if you can do so safely, maintain a physical distance of two metres or more and not put yourself or others at risk. You can have a look at guidance for playing each sport safely on the Sportscotland website.

Meeting outside for exercise with people from more than one household at a time is not allowed, for example having a game of football with friends from different households.

Travelling to exercise or to meet friends or family 

You can travel to meet friends or family and for exercise (following the above restrictions), however the Scottish Government is advising that you do this locally, broadly within five miles of your home. You should avoid crowded places where social distancing could be difficult (like popular spots such as the beach) and long journeys to visit friends or family that might require using indoor facilities such as the toilet, as the virus is more easily transmitted indoors. 

If you (or a person in your care) have a health condition that requires you to leave the home to look after your health - including if that involves travel beyond your local area - then you can do so.

Schools and colleges

All schools and colleges in Scotland have been closed since Monday 23rd March - and special plans have been made for the children of essential workers such as NHS staff or supermarket workers to go to school if needed. SQA exams due to be held through May and June have also been cancelled.

As part of the route map for coming out of lockdown, plans have been put in place for schools to return on Tuesday 11th August, however this is subject to change depending on how well the virus can be controlled in Scotland. If schools return on this date it is likely that you will return to a mixture of home learning and in-school learning. The exact date that you go back to school may vary depending on your Council and whether your school plans teacher training on these dates, your school will have the most up to date advice about when your school will be going back. 

Find out more about the impact of coronavirus on education and watch our Q&A with SQA about exams for more information

Test and protect

From Thursday 28th May, NHS Scotland will also bring in a system called 'Test and Protect' which aims to stop the spread of the virus in communities.

It will involve testing to confirm positive cases of coronavirus after which specialist tracers will get in touch with those who may have come into close contact with anyone who has tested positive and ask them to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

For the most up to date situation in Scotland visit the Scottish Government website and for the UK, take a look at the UK Government website, both of which are updated daily. 

What changes have happened over time?

On 23rd March, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, addressed the nation with a statement including new measures that would restrict people's activities in day-to-day life and require everyone to stay at home much more. These measures were effective immediately for a period of three weeks and in Scotland, the First Minister, also introduced these measures in this timeframe.

On 16th April, Dominic Raab announced that these measures would continue for a further three weeks in the UK and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed measures in Scotland would remain.

On 7th May, the First Minister announced that the existing lockdown measures in Scotland would remain in place for now and legally need to be reviewed again on 28th May.

On 10th May, the First Minister announced that previous restrictions on limiting outdoor exercise to once a day was to be lifted from Monday 11th May. From that date, outdoor exercise more than once per day was allowed, however the First Minister advised that this time wasn't to be used for picnics, sunbathing or barbecues. All previous advice on social distancing, including only exercising with members of your household or alone and exercising local to your house, still applied.

At the same time, changes were made in England to lockdown restrictions but they were different to what was announced in Scotland. If you are unsure of what advice applies to you, look for the most up-to-date guidance from the Scottish Government.

On 21st May, the First Minister announced that a route map (a plan to ease lockdown restrictions) had been published by the Scottish Government that aimed to gradually and carefully remove restrictions in Scotland. The timing of these changes will depend on the coronavirus situation in Scotland and if the scientific data supports making changes.

The first phase of this plan was introduced on 29th May, with changes focusing on outdoor activity such as being able to meet up with people from one other household outdoors and travel broadly within five miles for exercise. Find out more about the different phases and what phase we're in.

Who is most at risk of coronavirus?

Like many other flu-like viruses, coronavirus will have more severe symptoms in people who already have weakened immune systems, in older people, and people who have long-term health conditions like cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease. 

What can I do to protect myself against coronavirus?

Be hygienic! 

Make sure to wash your hands regularly – especially after going to the toilet, after coughing or sneezing, and before eating food. It's also good practice to make sure you don't come too close in contact with anyone who may be carrying an infectious disease, like a cold or flu. 

It’s also important to know how to wash your hands properly. Watch the tutorial below.  

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The most common symptoms of coronavirus are: 

  • high temperature or fever 
  • new continuous cough 
  • shortness of breath 
  • loss of or change in smell or taste

These symptoms don't always mean you have coronavirus though. The symptoms are similar to many other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. 

What do I do if I have coronavirus symptoms? 

You should stay at home for 7 days if you have either: 

  • a high temperature 
  • a new, continuous cough 
  • loss of/change in smell or taste

Staying at home and separating yourself from other people, is also known as self-isolating. This will help to protect others in your community while you are infectious. 

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus, you should follow the 'Test and Protect' approach and book a test online through the NHS Inform website or call 0800 028 2816you should get tested in the first 3 days of coronavirus symptoms appearing (although testing is effective up until up to five days after you noticed the symptoms)Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. 

Remember, in an absolute emergency - such as difficulty to breathe, call 999 to request an ambulance.

You should receive the results of your test by text to the mobile phone of the person who booked the test, these should be received within 48 hours (you should self-isolate until you receive your results). 

If you're tested for coronavirus and it comes back positive, you will be asked and supported to self-isolate for seven days. As part of this process, you will also be asked for the details of people who you have come into close contact with. Contact tracers will then get in touch with anyone who may have come into close contact with you and will ask them to self-isolate for fourteen days. 

What do I do if I live with someone with coronavirus symptoms? 

If you live with someone who has coronavirus (a new cough, a fever or loss of/change in smell or taste) you should stay at home for 14 days (the 14 days starts from the day the person became ill). Staying at home and separating yourself from other people, is also known as self-isolating.

This helps to reduce the chances of you spreading coronavirus to others. 

After 14 days, you and anyone you live with who does not have symptoms can return to their normal routine.

But, if you or anyone in your home gets symptoms, they should stay at home for 7 days from the day their symptoms start. Even if it means you're at home for longer than 14 days. 

More information

If you do not have symptoms and are looking for general information, a free NHS Inform helpline has been set up on 0800 028 2816.

The helpline is open:

  • Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 10.00pm
  • Saturday and Sunday, 8.00am to 6.00pm

The NHS also has a useful website that has the answers to a lot of common questions.

A national helpline was also set up to support vulnerable and high-risk people during the coronavirus outbreak in Scotland.

This includes people who do not have family or existing community support and cannot get online and who are over 70, disabled, require the support of mental health services, are pregnant or receive a flu jab for health reasons. 

Call: 0800 111 4000

Open: Weekdays 9am-5pm (this may be extended in the future).

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