Coronavirus > Coronavirus information and support > Current restrictions & staying safe 

Current restrictions and staying safe

Current restrictions & staying safe

As we all work hard to reduce the spread of the virus and stay safe, it is important to continue to follow the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland advice.

As of January 5th 2021, Scotland is in full lockdown (with the exception of some islands). Understanding what you can and cannot do and sticking to the rules means we all keep as safe as possible. For the full stay-at-home guidance, see the Scottish Government website.

You must continue to:

  • follow physical distancing advice, stay 2m away from anyone not in your household or extended household – this advice is for everyone but is particularly important if you are in a vulnerable group
  • wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you return home or use alcohol-based hand gel if you are out and about
  • wear face coverings (for example a face mask or a scarf) to cover your nose and mouth in indoor public spaces. It is now law to wear a face covering when using public transport and in shops.
  • avoid touching your face
  • avoid contact with anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus
  • follow the stay at home advice from NHS Scotland if your or someone in your household has symptoms and book a test.

Forming an extended household

If you live alone (or the others in your household are under 18), you can form an ‘extended household’ with one other household. You can treat the extended household as if you live in the same one. This means that you do not have to physically distance and can spend time in each others’ home. You are only allowed to form one extended household. If you would like to form an extended household, it is important to discuss and agree this between the households.

Non-cohabiting partners (and children under 18 in their households) can also form an extended household without physical distancing.

It is very important that if an individual in an extended household develops symptoms of coronavirus, all members of the extended household must isolate immediately. If the person with symptoms tests positive for coronavirus, all members of the extended household must isolate for 14 days from the start of the symptoms.

For further details about current guidance, please visit the Scottish Government website or NHS Inform.

Who does the current guidance apply to?

The current guidance applies to everyone, including those who are high-risk and had previously been advised to shield. You can find more information about this on our shielding page.

It is particularly important for those who are in at at-risk group to strictly follow hygiene rules and stay 2m apart from anyone not in your household or extended household. If you are in a high-risk group, you may decide that you want to continue to follow tighter restrictions, it is up to you if you want to do this.

If you are at low risk, you can still spread the virus to someone else who is at greater risk, this is why it is so important that we all stick to the guidance around physical distancing, hygiene practices and face coverings.

Wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport

It is now law to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops. This is because some people can have coronavirus and not have any symptoms or their symptoms have not yet developed. Wearing a face covering means that it is less likely for these people to spread the virus to others when they are in the same enclosed space. This is especially important to help protect those at most risk of coronavirus. This includes those with chest and heart conditions.

The law applies to wearing face coverings in shops and public transport because in these enclosed spaces:

  • physical distancing is much harder
  • it is likely that you will come into close contact with people from outside your own household.

Wearing a face covering however does not apply to everyone and there are some exemptions. For example, if you have a health condition like COPD that would make wearing a face covering difficult, if you are disabled or if wearing a face covering would cause severe distress.

It is expected that people use their own judgement to decide whether or not they are able to wear a face covering. You do not need to have a medical certificate to show you are exempt but it may help to carry with you an exemption card.

We’ve created a simple card you can show to let people know you are exempt. You could print this out and keep it in your wallet or handbag, or save it to your mobile phone’s photo gallery to show when you are out and about.

“I have problems with my breathing and am exempt from wearing a face covering”

“Due to a health condition, I am exempt from wearing a face covering”

You can read more about face coverings and how to use them on the Scottish Government website.

Why is physical distancing so important?

Physical distancing not only protects yourself from catching the virus, but importantly, it protects those who are most vulnerable. This will help to slow down the spread of the virus and reduce the number of people who get it.

You need to stay at least 2 meters apart from other people, that’s 6 feet or about three steps. This is because the main way the virus is spread is through droplets produced when we cough, sneeze and even when we talk.

If the spread of the virus is slowed, it also means the health system is under less pressure. This means that those people who still get the virus, will have better access to care and get the help they need, when they need it. It also means those people who do not have the virus, but need medical care for other reasons, will also get the care they need, when they need it.

How long will physical distancing last?

It is likely that we will have to follow some form of physical distancing for quite some time. This is because, even if the number of cases of the virus go down, when we start interacting with each other again, they start to go back up.

What’s the difference between physical distancing and self-isolation?

Physical distancing, as much as possible, applies to everyone. Self-isolation applies to people who have symptoms of coronavirus or are living with someone who has symptoms of coronavirus.

Self-isolation is stricter that physical distancing. Physical distancing still allows you to leave the home under certain circumstances, keeping a safe distance from others. Self-isolation means you are not allowed to go out at all and should avoid contact with the people you live with.

For more information on physical distancing, see the current government advice.