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COVID-19 Protection Levels in Scotland

There are now 5 new COVID-19 protection levels in place in different areas of Scotland. These levels set out measures that can be applied nationally or locally. They depend on the number of coronavirus cases across Scotland.

How do I know what level my area is in?

To find out what level you’re in, use the checker here.

Why has this new system been introduced?

This new system has been introduced to make it easier for everyone to understand what protective measures are in place in their area. It also means that if your area is moving from one level to another, you’ll know what to expect.

What do the different levels mean?

Level 0 has the fewest restrictions – it is close to the place we were in over the summer, with most businesses open and indoor socialising permitted. Level 4 has the strongest restrictions, although it is not a return to the full lockdown we saw in March, April and May. For example, limited outdoor socialising is still allowed. Schools will also stay open wherever possible, with enhanced and targeted protective measures. This table sets out the different levels of protective measures.

Who decides which level each area is in?

This decision is made by the Scottish Government, on the basis of advice from local Directors of Public Health and Public Health Scotland, through the National Incident Management Team, and the assessment of senior Government advisors, also taking into account factors such as general health and wellbeing, and how local businesses will be affected. The Scottish Government will also engage with local authority partners prior to making decisions.

The Scottish Government’s Coronavirus COVID-19: Scotland’s Strategic Framework explains this in more detail.

How will I know if the level my area in is changing?

Changes to levels are likely to be reported in the news, and you can also check the Scottish Government website for any updates. We’ll also be keeping our pages up to date with changes. You can check what level you’re in here.

How long will my area stay in its current level?

Levels will be reviewed every week to see whether they should be maintained, increased, or reduced. However, areas are likely to move between levels less frequently than that. Once set, levels are likely to be in place for two to four weeks at least, to give time for the effect of the changes to show.

How many people can we meet? Can we meet in other people's homes?

At the moment, you can't meet other people in their homes, unless you live in Orkney, Shetland or the Western Isles. However, you can meet up outside, and in public places indoors, too. Our page on meeting other households has more details on how many people you and your children can meet and where you can meet them.

Why are we not allowed to get together in each other’s houses at the moment?

Everything we do that involves contact with other people is potentially risky, and could result in the virus being spread further. The less often we travel between levels and the less often we meet people, the less chance there is of the virus spreading. So it’s not about the rules being consistent across all areas of our lives, it’s really a trade-off: if we are all having less contact with others in our homes and indoors for non-essential purposes, there are fewer opportunities for the virus to spread, which means reducing the rate of infection, preventing deaths, relieving pressure on the NHS 

Will schools and early learning and childcare settings be staying open?

Yes. Whatever level you’re in, schools and ELC settings will be staying open, unless there’s an outbreak at a particular school or setting. If this is the case at your child’s school, home or blended learning will be introduced so your child won’t miss out. Keeping schools open is one of the reasons why it’s so important that we all follow the rules and help reduce the spread of the virus.

What’s happening about informal childcare?

If you’re in level 0-3 then other friends or family can still look after your children, in line with the restrictions on numbers. This means that for levels 1-3 the caregiver can only look after children from one other household. So, for example, a nanny-share wouldn’t be permitted, as that would involve children from 2 households and a nanny from a third household. If a grandparent normally looks after cousins, then in levels 1-3, they would only be able to look after one set of grandchildren at a time. 

At level 4, you can only ask friends and family to look after your children in their homes if you are an essential worker. If you are an essential worker and your child has as disability that makes moving households difficult, the adult looking after your child can come into your home, rather than the child going to their home. Our page on childcare explains more.

I’m finding life hard – where can I get help and support?

The coronavirus pandemic has been really tough for everyone, particularly parents. If you feel you’re struggling, there is support to help you cope with any difficulties you’re having. Our page on finding support has lots of information to help you, from financial support, ways to help you or your child’s mental health, to practical info on arranging childcare. Our family support directory brings together all the helpful organisations, benefits and information that support parents and carers, no matter what your situation or stage your child is at. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it.

Information about financial support during the coronavirus outbreak and the self-isolation support grant can be found here.

I’ve been shielding, how does the new system affect me?

At the beginning of the pandemic, people at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus were advised to shield, to minimise the chance of catching the virus. Shielding was paused from 1 August. However, the Scottish Government is advising people who were shielding to take extra precautions. You can find out more about this at the Scottish Government website.