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Changes to outdoor restrictions

Restrictions put into place to prevent the spread of coronavirus are changing. This page explains how this will affect what your family can do outdoors and who you can meet up with.

It’s important to remember that these changes don’t mean life will be the same as it was before coronavirus – there are still lots of precautions we all need to take. The restrictions are being eased carefully because the virus is not yet fully contained, so there’s still a risk of it spreading. By continuing to follow the advice, you’re helping to protect yourself, your loved ones and everyone else in your community.

The Scottish Government has set out how it plans to ease the restrictions we’re under due to coronavirus. The changes will happen in four phases. We are now in Phase 2. You can see the whole plan and find out more about what you can and can't do here.

What’s changing in Phase 2?

Changes happening in Phase 2 include:

  • Some people are now able to form an extended household with another family or person who they don’t live with. To form an extended household, at least one of the two households must only have only one adult living in it. No one in either household can be shielding. Our guide to extended households explains more.
  • You can now meet with up to two households outdoors each day, as long as there are no more than 8 of you and you stick to physical distancing and hygiene guidelines. You can also use another household’s toilet if you need to, as long as you avoid touching surfaces, wipe any surfaces that you do touch with antibacterial wipes, wash your hands thoroughly, dry your hands with a freshly laundered towel or a paper towel which you should dispose of in a closed bin. 
  • From 3 July, the guidance around physical distancing for children is changing, so that it’s easier for them to spend time with their friends. Our page on physical distancing for children has more information.
  • You can now go to a place of worship to attend a funeral, carry out essential voluntary services or pray. You can go alone or with other people from your household. 
  • Dentists can now open for urgent appointments.
  • Indoor non-office workplaces can now open (this includes, for example, factories and warehouses).
  • Shops that can be accessed from the street can reopen and outdoor markets can reopen.
  • Outdoor sports courts and playgrounds can reopen.
  • Registration offices can open for high priority tasks and marriage and civil partnerships can take place outdoors, with minimal attendees.
  • Zoos and garden attractions can open.
  • From 3 July, you can travel further than 5 miles for any purpose, however, it’s best to only do this if you really need to, and to stay local if you can. 
  • From 3 July, self-contained holiday accommodation that doesn’t have shared services (for example, cottages) can open. 

What's changing in Phase 3?

Provisional dates have now been provided for Phase 3. However, it’s important to remember that these changes will only happen on these dates if it is safe, so you shouldn’t assume that they’ll definitely happen on these dates. We’ll update this page once we know that the changes are definitely happening.

  • From 6 July, beer gardens and other restaurants and cafés can open to serve food and drink outdoors, with physical distancing and other measures in place.
  • From 10 July, you’ll be able to meet more households outdoors, as long as you maintain physical distancing.
  • From 10 July, you’ll be able to meet up to two other households indoors, as long as you maintain physical distancing.
  • From 13 July, children and young people will be able to play contact sports outdoors, following guidance.
  • From 13 July, dentists can reopen for all procedures that don’t involve using aerosols.
  • From 13 July, more optometrists can open for emergency eye care.
  • From 13 July, non-essential shops in shopping centres can reopen, following guidance and with physical distancing in place.
  • From 15 July, all holiday accommodation can reopen, as long as guidance is followed.
  • From 15 July, pubs, restaurants and cafés can serve food and drink indoors, with physical distancing and other measures in place.
  • From 15 July, hairdressers and barbers can reopen, taking extra hygiene measures.
  • From 15 July, museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments and libraries can reopen, with physical distancing and other measures in place, for example, advance ticketing.
  • From 15 July, all registered childcare providers can open, following guidance, as long as it’s safe to do so.

Tips for going outdoors

Tip #1: Pack to be safe

If you’re going out and about, think about what you will need to take with you to stay safe:

  • hand sanitiser
  • tissues and a bag to put used tissues in
  • something to cover your face with and a bag to keep it in
  • antibacterial wipes.

If you need to travel by public transport, you must wear a face covering. You can find out more about face coverings here.

Tip #2: Plan your toilet trips

Another thing you’ll need to think about it is going to the loo, as public toilets are likely to be closed. If you are visiting someone in their garden you can now use their loo as long as you avoid touching surfaces, wipe any surfaces that you do touch with antibacterial wipes, wash your hands thoroughly, dry your hands with a freshly laundered towel or a paper towel, which you should dispose of in a closed bin. 

Tip #3: Stick to physical distancing and hygiene rules

When you’re out, it’s really important that you remember the following things, as they all help reduce the spread of the virus:

  • Stay 2 metres away from anyone who isn’t a member of your household
  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitiser if you can’t wash your hands
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or your elbow and put the tissue away in a bag afterwards
  • Try not to touch your face
  • Try not to touch any hard surfaces such as gates, benches, walls or fences
  • Wash your hands thoroughly when you get home.

From 3 July, the guidance around physical distancing for children is changing, so that it’s easier for them to spend time with their friends. Our page on physical distancing for children has more information.

You can find out more about physical distancing and hygiene on the NHS Inform website.

Tip #4: Avoid busy places and have a back up plan

When you’re planning to go out, try to head for places that are less likely to be busy, and where your children will be able to play without getting too close to other people. It’s a good idea to have back up plan in place, so if the place you were going to turns out to be crowded, you have somewhere else nearby to go.

Tip #5: Have fun

Being outside is great for your kids’ wellbeing and development so it’s good to take them outdoors to play as often as you can. You can find ideas for games to play outdoors here

Meeting up with friends and family

Can I meet up with friends and family?

Yes, you can now meet up with up to two other households each day, however, there are still some restrictions:

  • You must all stay outdoors when you meet up, for example, in a park or garden.
  • You should all stick to physical distancing guidelines, that is, you should stay 2 metres away from other adults and children aged 12 or over.
  • Only a maximum of 8 people from up to three households should meet up at one time.
  • You should only meet up with up to two households in one day. So for example you could meet your parents and sister one day, then another family the next, but you shouldn't meet up with all of them on the same day.
  • If you’re meeting two households in one day, you don’t need to meet them both at the same time.

From 3 July, the guidance around physical distancing for children is changing, so that it’s easier for them to spend time with their friends. Our page on physical distancing for children has more information.

Some people will be able to form an extended household with another family or person who they don’t live with. To form an extended household, at least one of the two households must only have only one adult living in it. No one in either household can be shielding. Our guide to extended households explains more.

These restrictions on meeting up may not be easy, especially if you have a big family, but they’re in place to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Meeting only in small groups means outdoor spaces are less likely to become crowded (which makes physical distancing harder). Meeting no more than two households each day will reduce the risk that someone who had the virus without realising it could pass it on to several households on the same day.

Remember, the fewer people you meet up with, the less chance the virus has of spreading. So try to limit contact to the friends and family you really want to see! 

Can I meet my friends and family in their home?

No, at present you can only meet up outside, unless you are able to form an extended household. You can find out more about extended households here

This is because the risk of catching or passing on the virus is greater indoors, and the virus could be transmitted by or to you when you touch surfaces

Can we meet up with another household in the communal space outside my flat?

Yes, as long as it’s an outdoor space and you follow the rules outlined above.

Can I meet up with another household in a private garden?

Yes, you can meet up to two households in your garden or their garden as long as there are no more than 8 of you. If you must go through a house to access the garden, do that quickly and without touching surfaces. You should of course maintain physical distancing and hygiene measures as above.

You can now use another household’s toilet if you need to, as long as you avoid touching surfaces, wipe any surfaces that you do touch with antibacterial wipes, wash your hands thoroughly and dry your hands with a freshly laundered towel or a paper towel, which you should dispose of in a closed bin.

Can I meet up with two households in one day, at different times?

Yes, you can meet up with two different households at different times, but you can’t meet up with more than two in one day. There should be no more than 8 people in a group when you meet up.

In addition to the two households you can meet up with, your children over 12 can also meet up with friends from other households, in groups of up to 8 people. Our page on changes to physical distancing for children has more details.

What if someone in my household has a carer from another household?

If someone from your household or a household you want to meet up with has a carer to help them, that carer is considered to be part of the same household as the person they care for, even if they don’t actually live with them. This means they can join when you meet up with other households, however, there shouldn't be more than 8 people there.

Can I travel to meet up with another household?

Yes, you can travel outside your local area to meet up to two other households in an outdoor space such as a park or a private garden, but you should use your judgement about how far to travel. Keep in mind that the continuing restrictions are there to stop the virus spreading, including to those we care about. For this reason, avoid long journeys that would mean you need to use toilets on the way, as the risk of passing on the virus is greater indoors, and the virus could be transmitted by or to you when you touch surfaces.

Can my teenage children meet their friends?

Yes, children aged 12-17 can meet up outside, in groups of no more than 8, with people from up to two other households at a time, following physical distancing guidelines. However, the good news for them is that from 3 July they can do this more often, as there is no longer a limit on the total number of households they can meet up with in a day.

You can also meet up with two households yourself, regardless of whether or not your teen has met up with friends that day. Our page on changes to physical distancing for children has more details.

18-year-olds and over must follow the guidelines for adults, meeting up with no more than 2 households a day, outside, maintaining physical distancing. 

Outdoor activities

Can we go to the beach?

Yes, you can go to the beach to paddle, make sandcastles, have a picnic and so on, as long as you maintain physical distancing and hygiene measures. However, especially on sunny days, bear in mind that beaches can get very crowded, so try to avoid busy times like weekends if you can.

Can we have a picnic or barbecue?

Yes, you can now have a picnic or barbecue with up to two other households outdoors, provided there are no more than 8 of you and you maintain physical distancing and hygiene measures. It’s particularly important to keep your hands clean when eating, so make sure you have plenty of hand sanitiser. 

Each household should bring, prepare and eat their own food separately. Avoid sharing utensils, dishes or plates between households.

Can children share toys outdoors if we use hand sanitiser and wipe the toys down regularly?

Children under 12 can share toys and play equipment (including trampolines and slides but not paddling pools or sandpits), but it’s important to keep them clean and for your children to wash their hands regularly. For children 12 and over, who still need to physically distance, our page on outdoor activities has ideas for games you can play with other households that don't involve contact or shared equipment.

Can I go shopping for non-essential items?

Yes, non-essential shops with doors directly onto the street can now reopen. However, as you might expect, shopping won’t be quite the same experience it was before coronavirus, as shops are putting safety measures into place. So for example you must maintain physical distancing, there may well be plexiglass screens at counters, signs and floor markings around the store, and you may have to queue outside. The Scottish Government has published guidance for retailers which help you understand the actions that stores should be taking. These measures are all being put in place to keep staff and customers safe.

As a customer there are some simple steps you and your family should follow to make your shopping experience safe and enjoyable. 

  • Shop local, and don’t travel any further than necessary.
  • Be prepared for shopping to take a little bit longer than usual and understand that you may need to queue for longer as a result. If it’s sunny, make sure you’ve got sunscreen on, and avoid smoking while you’re queuing.
  • Wear a face covering when you go in to stores unless there’s a medical reason not to. Children under 5 don’t need to wear a face covering.  
  • Maintain physical distancing from other customers and staff where possible.
  • Don’t go shopping if you have symptoms of illness or if you’re shielding. Instead, ask friends, family or a community support group to help you out, or make an online order. Many Local Authorities are also providing assistance to people who are shielding.
  • Use click and collect facilities or online delivery if you can.  
  • Shop in as small a group as possible.
  • Try to avoid busy times and crowded areas. If you see a store is busy, try to come back another time.
  • Use hand sanitiser if it’s provided.
  • Be considerate to retail staff and follow their instructions. Remember that they’re working in challenging circumstances.
  • Be prepared to show ID for age-restricted products and possible removal of face coverings if requested. 
  • Try not to touch things if you’re not considering buying them.
  • From 10 July, you must wear a face covering when you go into a shop.

Play parks, sports and games

Can we play non-contact sports outdoors?

Yes, you can now do some non-contact outdoor activities like cycling, golf, walking, tennis, fishing and athletics (running and jogging). You can do these sports with people from your own household, or with two other households, as long as you stay 2 metres apart.  You shouldn't share sports equipment. 

This doesn’t mean that these activities will always be safe, so use your judgement and only take part in an activity if you can stay 2 metres apart from others and not put yourself or others at risk.

You can also have an outdoor session with a personal trainer or coach, provided this does not involve more than one other household and no more than 8 people and physical distancing is maintained.

Don’t take any unnecessary risks that could result in the need for medical care or emergency services support. You can find more safety guidance on the sportscotland website.

Can we exercise with another household?

Yes, you can exercise with up to two other households, as long as there are no more than 8 of you. Everyone aged 12 and over should stay at least 2 metres apart and not share any exercise equipment. For example, you could go for a walk or bike ride together, or do yoga or a bootcamp routine in the park. Our page on outdoor activities has ideas for games you can play with other households that don't involve contact or shared equipment.

Can we play football, basketball or rounders with another household?

No, at the moment only non-contact sports like golf, hiking and fishing are allowed (see the answer to ‘can we play non-contact sports?' above). Any games like football or basketball that involve more than one person touching the same equipment risk passing on the virus. However, you can still play these sports with members of your own household or extended household, as long as you stay at least 2 metres away from other people and are considerate of others using the park, particularly if it’s busy.

Our page on outdoor activities has ideas for games you can play with other households that don't involve contact or shared equipment.

Can we take the kids to a play park?

Play parks can now reopen. This is great news for kids who’ve been longing to get back on the swings! And from 3 July, new guidance for children means that under 12s don’t need to maintain physical distancing when playing with their friends, although there are limits to the number of children who can play together. Children over 12 should still keep 2 metres apart from each other and from adults – our page on changes to physical distancing for children explains more.

If you’re worried about staying safe when you go to the play park, here are some tips to keep everybody safe:

  • Try to visit at times that are likely to be less busy, such as early in the morning.
  • Make sure you always have hand sanitiser with you, to clean your kids’ hands when they’re finished playing. If you’re having a picnic, it’s best to eat before the kids go to the play park, to be on the safe side. You could also wipe the equipment with antibacterial wipes before your kids touch it.
  • Tell the kids to try not to touch their faces with their hands while they’re playing. 
  • Don’t forget that you should use hand sanitiser too if you’re pushing the kids on the swing! Unless you need to help your wee ones, try not to touch any of the play park equipment and keep your distance so there’s more room for the kids.

We realise this won’t be the easiest thing, particularly with younger children, but hopefully kids will put up with a bit of hand sanitiser to get to go climbing and swinging again!

Are outdoor sports facilities like skate parks reopening?

Yes, you can now use unmanned, open facilities like outdoor skate parks, outdoor tennis courts or cycle pump tracks, as long as you stick to the physical distancing and hygiene rules outlined above.

Can we drive somewhere to get exercise or to play sport?

Yes, you can drive somewhere to get exercise, but to avoid places you think may be crowded. 

Will Active Schools programmes be restarting?

No, these are not restarting yet.

Vulnerable people

I’m pregnant, can I still go out and see another family?

Yes, provided you aren’t shielding because of a health condition, you can meet with up to two household outdoors, as long as there are no more than 8 of you, you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene.

My parents are over 70, can I meet up with them outdoors?

Yes, provided your parents aren’t shielding because of a health condition you can meet with them outdoors, as long as you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene.

I'm currently shielding, can I meet up with another household?

Yes, if you're shielding you can now meet with one other household each day, as long as there are no more than 8 of you and you maintain strict physical distancing and hygiene measures. If you have to go into someone else’s house to get to their garden, do so quickly and without touching anything. You shouldn’t use the toilet in someone else’s house. You can find out more about shielding at the NHS Inform website.

I’m currently shielding, can I go outside for exercise?

Yes, and there’s no limit on the amount of times you can go out, or how long you can stay out for.

If you decide to go out for exercise you:

  • can go out on your own or with someone you live with for a walk, wheel, run or cycle
  • can take part in non-contact outdoor activities such as golf, hiking, canoeing, outdoor swimming, and angling
  • should maintain strict physical distancing at all times, even with people from your household – this means you should stay 2 metres away from everybody
  • should choose times and areas that are quiet, if you can
  • should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds as soon as you get back home.

You can find out more about shielding at the NHS Inform website.

Someone in my household is shielding, can I meet up with other households?

Yes, if someone in your household is shielding you can meet with up to two other households outdoors, as long as you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene, however, it’s particularly important to be as careful as you can. The person who is shielding should only meet up with one other household per day.

For a full list of all the changes (including changes for health and social care services and businesses) visit the Scottish Government website.