Physical distancing measures are things you should do to reduce how often you interact with others outside your household. This will stop coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading.
These measures are for everyone, including children. They should be used when people are living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers.
- physical distancing is still essential for everyone except children under 12 and people in the same household or extended household
- maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene
- face coverings must be worn in shops and on public transport
Physical distancing guidelines
- wash your hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser) when you return home after going out
- stay 2 metres (6 feet) away from other people at all times
- meet up with a maximum of 4 households outdoors and in small numbers (no more than 15 people in total) staying 2 metres apart
- meet up with a maximum of 2 households indoors and in small numbers (no more than 8 people in total) staying 2 metres apart
- travel by foot, bike or car if you can
- wear a face covering if you use public transport, visit a shop, or visit a care home or hospital
- change your travel times to avoid rush hour
- work from home if you can - your employer should support you to do this
- use phone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services
- meet more than 4 other households each day outdoors, or 2 other households each day indoors
- meet anyone with coronavirus symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste (anosmia))
- have large public gatherings with friends and family - keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media
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.
Read the Scottish Government’s full guidance for staying at home and away from others
You can leave your home for any purpose. Before leaving your home, plan how you’ll stay safe and minimise the risk of spreading the virus.
- whether and how you’ll avoid touching surfaces that others have touched
- how you’ll practise good hygiene
- where physical distancing might be more difficult to follow, and how you’ll avoid or reduce the risk
- what additional things you may need to take with you, such as hand sanitiser, a bag for used tissues and a face covering
Remember that some people - for example those with sight loss, autism, learning disabilities, dementia or other communication or mobility needs - might find physical distancing rules more difficult to follow than others. Please be considerate by giving way when you’re out and about.
Hand washing and respiratory hygiene
To reduce the risk of catching and spreading the virus:
- wash your hands more often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser
- wash your hands 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 mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in your home
In enclosed spaces, where physical distancing is more difficult and where there’s a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household, you should wear a face covering.
By law, people must wear a face covering in retail environments and on public transport and public transport premises, such as railway and bus stations and airports. This applies to open air train stations but not to bus stops.
A face covering can be any covering for your mouth and nose that’s made of cloth or other textiles, and that you can breathe through. Religious face coverings that cover the mouth and the nose count as face coverings for these purposes. You can use a face visor if you prefer, but it must cover your nose and mouth completely.
When applying or removing the covering, it’s important you wash your hands first and avoid touching your face. After each use, you should wash the face covering at 60 °C or dispose of it safely.
Face covering exemptions
Some people aren’t required to wear a face covering.
- children under 5
- police constables or workers such as paramedics acting in the course of their duty
- workers such as drivers or checkout assistants who are physically separated from passengers or customers, by a screen for example
- shop workers if they maintain a 2 metre distance from customers or members of the public
You may also have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if, for example:
- you need to eat or drink
- you’re taking medication
- you’re communicating with someone else who relies on lip reading
- a relevant person, such as a police officer, asks you to remove your face covering
You may also have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering if you have a health condition or are disabled and a face covering would cause difficulty, pain, or severe distress, or because you can’t apply a covering and wear it in the proper manner safely and consistently.
Use your best judgement considering the use of face coverings for children including, for example, children with breathing difficulties and disabled children who would struggle to wear a face covering.
Read more about face coverings
Meeting other households outdoors
Your household can meet and take part in outdoor recreation with up to 4 households at a time in small numbers (no more than 15 people total at a time) outdoors or in a garden as long as you follow physical distancing and stay 2 metres apart.
You should only meet 4 other households a day and:
- follow our advice on physical distancing and hygiene, and wash your hands as soon as you get home
- avoid touching hard surfaces such as gates, walls, fences and park benches with your hands
- take hand sanitiser with you and use it often, especially before eating or after touching surfaces
- bring your own food, plates and cutlery if you’re eating together
- don't go indoors unless you are using a toilet
You’re still not able to have larger public gatherings of friends and family.
You should strictly follow physical distancing advice if you are:
- at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including people over 70, and people with an underlying medical condition)
Children and young people
The same rules apply to children as adults, except:
- children aged 0-11 do not need to maintain physical distancing
- there’s no limit to the number of households that children aged 0-11 can meet in one day
- young people aged 12-17 can only meet up to 15 people from up to four other households at a time, same as adults, but there’s no limit to the number of households that they can meet in one day
These differences mean that young people can meet their friends separately from meetings that other members of their household may be having.
Meeting other households indoors
You can meet people from up to 2 other households at a time indoors.
You should stay at least 2 metres apart from people from other households at all times, so you should meet in small numbers so that physical distancing will be possible. As a guide, 8 people in total may be a safe maximum number.
Children under 12 don’t need to maintain physical distance. Adults accompanying children under 12 should maintain physical distancing from adults from other households or other extended households.
The partners in a couple who don’t live together, and any children who live with them, don’t need to maintain physical distancing from each other.
Members of one household can also stay overnight at someone else’s house, while maintaining physical distancing.
You shouldn’t meet people from more than 4 other households in total (either indoors or outdoors) each day.
Meeting no more than 4 other households each day will limit the risk that someone who had the virus without realising it could infect multiple households on the same day.
- stay at least 2 metres away from anyone who is not part of your household
- maintain hand and cough hygiene
- avoid touching hard surfaces with your hands
- maintain physical distancing and good hygiene
- wash your hands when you arrive, when you leave, when you get home and especially before eating or after touching surfaces
- keep rooms well ventilated – consider opening windows or a door
You shouldn’t share food or utensils – if eating, each household should bring, prepare and eat their own food separately.
Those at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including people over 70, people who are pregnant and people with an underlying medical condition) should strictly follow physical distancing guidance.
Children and young people
The same rules apply to children as adults, with some differences.
Children aged 0-11 don’t need to maintain physical distancing. This means that an adult from another household looking after young children doesn’t need to physically distance from the child. However, you should follow hygiene measures and keep avoid being close to them as much as possible.
There’s no limit to the number of households that children aged 0-11 can meet in one day.
Young people aged 12-17 can only meet up to 8 people from up to two other households indoors at a time, same as adults. But there’s no limit to the number of households they can meet in one day. This means young people can meet their friends indoors separately from meetings that other members of their household may be having.
Read more about meeting others and forming an extended household
Exercise, sport and leisure
You may meet outdoors with members of up to 4 other households at a time for exercise or activity.
This means that events such as organised races, walking club trips and cycle club rides that would involve people from more than 5 households are not permitted.
If meeting people from another household outdoors, you should only meet in small groups - no more than 15 people in total at a time – and you shouldn’t meet people from more than 4 other households each day.
Use your judgement and only take part in an activity if you can do so safely, maintain physical distancing and not put yourself or others at risk.
Plan in advance and don’t take unnecessary risks that may result in the need for medical care or emergency services support. You should also consult the safety guidance for each individual activity before taking part.
Read safety guidance for activities here
When taking part in activity outside, where possible, avoid touching surfaces with your hands, sharing equipment and touching your mouth and face. Use good hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
Sports facilities and play parks
Indoor sport facilities are still closed.
Outdoor sports courts are permitted to open. You should maintain strict physical distancing at all times when using outdoor sports courts.
Outdoor play parks and outdoor gym equipment can open, but strict physical distancing should be followed.
Different groups of children may use a play park at the same time as each other. However, children shouldn’t use a play park if it’s crowded. Please encourage children to be considerate of others when using play parks and outdoor facilities.
If children use a play park they should be extra careful about hand hygiene and everyone should use hand sanitiser immediately before and after using the play equipment.
Adults and those aged 12 and over accompanying younger children to play parks should continue to maintain physical distancing.
Read more guidance for exercise, sport and leisure
Restaurants, cafes and pubs
You can sit outdoors at a restaurant, café or pub but must provide your contact details so you can be contacted if you have been physically close enough to someone who has tested positive for the virus.
More guidance for retail, tourism and hospitality customers from the Scottish Government.
You should only travel if you’re not showing coronavirus symptoms and no-one in your household is self-isolating.
People who’re in the higher risk category should carefully consider how to rigorously follow physical distancing when travelling.
Travelling for leisure
You can travel any distance for exercise, leisure or to meet up with people from another household outdoors as long as you maintain physical distancing.
Travel by foot, bike or car where possible and avoid public transport if you can.
Don't travel to the Scottish islands unless for essential reasons.
Travelling to work
You can only travel if you aren’t showing coronavirus symptoms and neither you nor any of your household are self-isolating.
You can use public transport (buses, trams, subways, trains or aircraft) and private/commercial vehicles (car, taxi, minibus or lorry) to travel to and from work. Stay 2 meters apart whenever possible and avoid busier times of travel to ensure you can follow physical distancing
The Scottish Government has made the use of facial coverings mandatory when using public transport.
If you need to share a private vehicle with people from other households for an essential journey, try to limit the number of passengers and space out as much as possible.
People from the same household can travel in a private vehicle together in larger numbers for essential journeys.
When sharing a car:
- wash your hands before and after each journey
- catch coughs and sneezes in tissues or cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve or elbow (not your hands), put the tissues in a bin and wash hands immediately
- follow physical distancing as much as possible
- clean vehicles between different drivers or passengers
Schools and childcare
Staff can return to schools to prepare for reopening.
Childminding services and outdoor nurseries will reopen so more families can access essential childcare.
Support will be available to pupils at important milestones such as those due to start their first year of primary or secondary school.
Workers and business owners
You should continue to work from home if you can. If you can’t work from home, your employer is encouraged to stagger start times and flexible working.
Drive-through takeaways, garden centres, plant nurseries and household recycling centres will reopen with physical distancing in place.
Health and social care
Primary and community-based NHS services, including mental health, will reopen and:
- COVID-free GP services will be retained and digital consultations will increase
- the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service will be rolled out in community pharmacies
- emergency dental hubs will provide more cover as dental practices prepare to reopen
- urgent planned surgery which was previously paused will be restarted
- IVF treatment will be resumed following the approval of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority
- more emergency eyecare will be provided in the community
Carers and those being cared for
You can get respite and day care if you are an unpaid carer or have a disabled family member as long as you follow physical distancing and hygiene measures.
Visitors may be allowed into care homes.
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.