Overview

Physical distancing measures are for everyone, including children. We should all be trying to reduce our interaction with people to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Physical distancing measures should be used when people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.

Stay at home

Everyone must stay at home as you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms. Do not meet others, even friends or family. 

You must:

  • only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you can’t work from home)
  • stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people at all times If you go out
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home

You can go outside for exercise more than once a day, for example a run, walk or cycle alone or with members of your household. This only applies to exercise – you must not go outside for other activities such as sitting, sunbathing, or outdoor leisure activities like golf or football. You should stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people at all times while exercising outside.

Read the Scottish Government’s full guidance for staying at home and away from others

Higher risk of severe illness

People who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus should strictly follow physical distancing measures.

Their household and other contacts should also strictly follow physical distancing advice. 

Higher-risk group

This group includes people who are:

And those with: 

  • chronic (long-term) respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis 
  • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure 
  • chronic kidney disease 
  • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis 
  • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning disability or cerebral palsy 
  • diabetes 
  • problems with their spleen, for example sickle cell disease
  • a weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
  • a BMI of 40 or above who are seriously overweight

Extremely high risk of severe illness

Some groups of people are considered to be at extremely high risk of severe illness with coronavirus and should rigorously follow shielding measures.

Their household and other contacts should strictly follow physical distancing measures to protect them.

Extremely high-risk group

This group includes people with: 

  • cancer and are receiving active chemotherapy 
  • lung cancer and are either receiving or previously received radical radiotherapy 
  • cancers of the blood or bone marrow, such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment 
  • severe chest conditions such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, severe COPD, severe bronchiectasis and pulmonary hypertension 
  • rare diseases, including all forms of interstitial lung disease/sarcoidosis, and inborn errors of metabolism (such as SCID and homozygous sickle cell) that significantly increase the risk of infections  
  • an absent spleen or have had their spleen removed
  • significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) and are pregnant

And those that have had:

  • solid organ transplants
  • bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs

Or receiving:

  • immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer 
  • other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors 
  • immunosuppression therapies that significantly increase the risk of infection
  • renal dialysis treatment

What is physical distancing?

Physical distancing measures are steps everyone should take to reduce the social interaction between people. This will help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

They are:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia))
  • Stay at home and only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you can’t work from home)
  • Stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people at all times If you go out
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • Do not meet others, even friends or family - if parents don’t live together, children under 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes as long as no-one in either household has symptoms
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport - when possible, alter your travel times to avoid rush hour
  • Work from home, where possible - your employer should support you to do this
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family - keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
  • Use phone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services

You can go outside for exercise more than once a day, for example a run, walk or cycle alone or with members of your household. This only applies to exercise – you must not go outside for other activities such as sitting, sunbathing, or outdoor leisure activities like golf or football. You should stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people at all times while exercising outside.

Read the Scottish Government’s full guidance for staying at home and away from others

Hand washing and respiratory hygiene

To help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like coronavirus, you should:

  • wash your hands more often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser
  • wash your hand when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home

Helpline for vulnerable people

A helpline (0800 111 4000) has been setup for those at increased risk who don’t have a support network, such as family or existing community support.

You can use this service if you:

  • can’t get online
  • are over 70 years old
  • have a disability
  • receive mental health support
  • are pregnant
  • receive a flu jab for health reasons
  • are in the shielding group and haven’t received a letter yet

Callers will be connected to their local authority who will help them access the services they need, including:

  • essential food and medication
  • links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups

The helpline is open from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Summary of advice

Everyone should:

  • wash their hands more often
  • stay at home for 7 days if they have symptoms
  • stay at home for 14 days if someone in their household has symptoms

People with serious underlying health conditions must follow shielding measures.

Under 70 years old, without any underlying health condition

Action

Recommendation

Social mixing in the community

Not allowed

Having friends and family to the house

Not allowed

Use remote access to NHS essential services

Strongly advised

Vary daily commute, use less public transport

Only essential travel allowed

Home working

Required unless essential to attend workplace. Physical distancing measures to be followed

70 years old and over

Action

Recommendation

Social mixing in the community

Not allowed

Having friends and family to the house

Not allowed unless for essential care

Use remote access to NHS essential services

Strongly advised

Vary daily commute, use less public transport

Only essential travel allowed

Home working

Required unless essential to attend workplace. Physical distancing measures to be followed

Anyone in a vulnerable group, including people who are pregnant or have an underlying health condition

Action

Recommendation

Social mixing in the community

Not allowed

Having friends and family to the house

Not allowed unless for essential care

Use remote access to NHS essential services

Strongly advised

Vary daily commute, use less public transport

Only essential travel allowed

Home working

Required unless essential to attend workplace. Physical distancing measures to be followed

Common questions

How can I get assistance with foods and medicines if I’m reducing social contact?

You should ask family, friends and neighbours to support you and use online services.

If this isn’t possible, then the public sector, business, charities, and the general public are gearing up to help those advised to stay at home. It’s important to speak to others and ask them to help you to make arrangements for:

  • food
  • medicines
  • essential services and supplies
  • looking after your physical health, mental health and wellbeing

If you receive support from health and social care organisations, such as care support through your local authority, this will continue as normal.

Your health or social care provider will be asked to take additional precautions to make sure that you’re protected.

What should I do if I have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

You should access medical assistance remotely (not face-to-face), wherever possible.

If you have a scheduled hospital or medical appointment during this time, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need. Consider whether appointments can be postponed.

What is the advice for visitors, including those who are providing care for me?

Only people providing essential care should be allowed to visit your home. Essential care includes washing, dressing or preparing meals.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, make sure they know you have a condition that makes you more vulnerable to severe illness with coronavirus. This will help you agree a plan for continuing your care.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, these carers can continue to visit.

It’s also a good idea to speak to your carers about what happens if one of them becomes unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, your local council should be able to help you.

What is the advice if I live with a vulnerable person?

If you live in a house with a vulnerable person, the whole household must be very strict about:

How do I look after my wellbeing?

You may find your mood and feelings are affected by physical distancing. You may feel bored, frustrated low or worried and have problems sleeping.

It can be easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour which in turn can make you feel worse.

There are simple things you can do that may help, to stay mentally and physically active during this time, such as:

  • exercise regularly - look for ideas of exercises you can do at home
  • spend time doing things you enjoy – this might include reading, cooking, other indoor hobbies or listening to/watching favourite radio or TV programmes
  • eating healthy, well-balanced meals
  • drinking enough water
  • trying to avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs
  • keeping your windows open to let in fresh air
  • getting some natural sunlight if you can or go outside into the garden
  • taking vitamin D if you’re not getting enough natural sunlight
  • walking, running or cycling outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres (6 feet) away from others

What steps can I take to stay connected with family and friends during this time?

Try to stay in touch with those around you over the phone, by post, or online.

Let people know how you would like to stay in touch and build that into your routine. This is also important in looking after your mental wellbeing. You may find it helpful to talk to them about how you’re feeling.

It’s okay to share your concerns with others you trust. You may end up providing support to them too.

What’s the advice for informal carers?

If you’re caring for someone who’s vulnerable, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them, including:

  • washing your hands on arrival and often - use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser
  • covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • putting used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands
  • providing information on who they should call if they feel unwell (their GP phone number and 111) and how to use NHS inform
  • accessing advice on creating a contingency plan from Carers UK
  • finding out about different sources of support that could be used
  • looking after your own well-being and physical health

Don’t visit if you’re unwell. Make alternative arrangements for their care.

Can I car share to get to work?

You should only undertake essential travel if you’re not showing coronavirus symptoms and no-one in your household is self-isolating. You can only travel for work purposes if you can’t work from home.

You can use public transport (buses, trams, subways or trains) and private/commercial vehicles to travel to essential work, staying 2 meters apart whenever possible.

If people from different households need to share a private vehicle (car, taxi, minibus or lorry) for essential work, they should consider how to follow physical distancing measures. For example, in a car you can limit the number of passengers and space out as much as possible.

Household members can travel together in larger numbers in a private vehicle for essential purposes.

People who’re in the higher risk category should carefully consider how to rigorously follow physical distancing measures.

People who’re shielding shouldn’t be travelling outside the home other than for very limited reasons such as essential health care.

General infection prevention and control measures should be followed:

  • Wash your hands before and after journey
  • Catch coughs and sneezes in tissues or cover mouth and nose with sleeve or elbow (not hands), dispose of the tissue into a bin and wash hands immediately.
  • Practice physical distancing as much as possible
  • Avoid busier times of travel on public transport to ensure you can practise physical distancing
  • Clean vehicles between different drivers or passengers