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, secondary schools (corridors and communal areas), on public transport and school transport (children aged 5 and over)

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 indoors or outdoors with another household (no more than 6 people in total at a time) staying 2 metres apart - children under 12 from within each household old do not count towards the 6 person limit
  • travel by foot, bike or car if you can
  • wear a face covering if you use public transport, use school transport (children aged 5 and over) visit a care home/hospital, when you move around a secondary school or go to a shop, library, museum, bank or church
  • 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

Do not:

  • 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

Leaving home

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

Face coverings

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.

People must by law wear a face covering:

  • in all shops and supermarkets
  • on public transport
  • in public transport premises such as railway and bus stations and airports (This applies to open air train stations but not to bus stops)
  • on school transport (children aged 5 and over)
  • in secondary schools (corridors and communal areas) but not in classrooms
  • in libraries
  • in museums
  • in banks/post offices
  • in places of worship

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. If a face shield is worn, another face covering must be worn underneath.

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.

These include:

  • 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

You can meet and take part in outdoor recreation with another household at a time in small numbers (no more than 6 people in total at a time) outdoors or in a garden as long as you follow physical distancing and stay 2 metres apart.

When meeting another household:

  • 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:

  • pregnant
  • at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including people over 70, and people with an underlying medical condition)

Meeting other households indoors

You can meet indoors with people from another household in small numbers (no more than 6 people in total at a time) as long as you follow physical distancing and stay 2 metres apart.

Children under 12 do not 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 do not live together, and any children who live with them, do not 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 should:

  • 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.

Read more about meeting others and forming an extended household

Children and young people

The same rules apply to children aged 12 and over as adults.

Children under 12 do not need to maintain physical distancing and do not count towards the limit of 6 people from 2 households but must be from within either household.

Exercise, sport and leisure

You may meet outdoors with members of another household (maximum of 6 people in total 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 2 households are not permitted.

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. 

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 physical distancing and hygiene 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 who are receiving active chemotherapy 
  • lung cancer who 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

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

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.

Further information

Common questions

How can I get help 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 working 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.

Visiting a hospital or care home

If you need to visit a hospital (including to attend an appointment) or care home for the elderly,  you should wear a face covering of the same kind that the Scottish Government has recommended be worn on public transport, where it’s not always possible to maintain a 2 metre distance from other people. 

The hospital or elderly care home should provide visitors with a face mask where required.

If you suffer from breathing difficulties, or suffer from genuine discomfort or distress when wearing a face mask, you should raise this with the hospital or care home so alternative arrangements can be made.

The Scottish Government have produced guidance for visitors and staff on the extended use of face masks in health and care settings. 

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.

You can find more guidance for carers including unpaid carers and information about how to obtain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) through the Scottish Government.

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 washing 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 wellbeing and physical health

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

You can find more guidance for unpaid carers through the Scottish Government.