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Current coronavirus guidelines on meeting others

The number of households you and your children can meet with and where you can meet them depends on the COVID-19 protection level your area is in. You can find out which level you’re in using the checker here.

The drop-down list below sets out the number of households you can meet with and where, depending on your level. The FAQs below explain the rules in more detail. The rules around socialising are being kept under review so we’ll keep this page updated if anything changes

Guide to COVID-19 protection levels in Scotland

Why are the restrictions being tightened?

Although we’re all frustrated by these protective measures, it’s important to remember that when we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we reduce the risk of spreading the virus. The new variant of the virus is turning out to be even more contagious, which is why it’s super important that we only have contact with people if we absolutely have to.

We know it’s not easy, but by continuing to follow these measures, you’re helping to protect yourself, your loved ones and everyone else in your community.

Meeting up with friends and family

Can I meet up with friends and family outdoors?

Stay at home

Only 2 people aged 12+ from 2 households can meet outdoors for sport, exercise or social interaction. Children under 12 do not count towards households or numbers when meeting outside.

Level 0

In level 0, up to 15 people from up to 5 different households can meet outdoors. For young people aged 12-17 the rules are slightly different: up to eight 12-17 year olds can meet together outdoors, from up to 8 different households. However, if anyone younger than 12 or older than 17 is also in the group, or they are meeting inside in a public place like a café, they must follow the limit of 15 people from 5 households. 

Level 1

Up to 8 people from 3 different households can meet up outdoors in level 1 areas. Children under 12 don’t count towards the total number of people or households outdoors. The rules are slightly different for 12-17 year olds: outdoors they can meet in groups of up to 8, from up to 8 different households. However, if anyone in the group is younger than 12 or older than 17, they must stick to the rule of 8 people from 3 households.

Levels 2-4

In areas in levels 2-4, up to 6 people from two households can meet up outdoors (see the drop-down list above). Children under 12 don’t count towards the 6 people, or the number of households when outdoors. The rules are slightly different for those aged 12-17. They can meet up together outside in groups of up to 6 children from up to 6 households. However, if anyone in the group is younger than 12 or older than 17, they must stick to the rule of 6 people from 2 households.

Adults should try to limit the number of other households they see each day. The fewer people we meet, the less chance we have of passing the virus to lots of different households. So try to limit contact to the friends and family you really want to see!

Some people will be able to form an extended household with another family or person who they don’t live with. Our guide to extended households explains more.

Can I meet my friends and family in their home?

This depends on the level your area is in.

Stay at home

At the moment it isn’t possible to meet up with anyone indoors, unless it’s for essential purposes, such as providing care. You can see a list of these essential purposes on the gov.scot website.

Level 0

If you’re in level 0, up to 8 people can meet indoors in a private home from 3 households. Children under 12 do not count towards the numbers but do count towards the households.

Everyone should follow good hygiene, by washing hands regularly and keeping surfaces clean.

Levels 1-4

If you’re in level 1-4, you can’t meet other households in their home or yours. This is because we know that the risk of passing the virus on to other people is higher when meeting in homes.

Whatever your level, if you are part of an extended household, all members of the extended household can meet in each other's homes. Our guide to extended households explains more. In addition, when you share parenting with someone, but live in separate homes, you can continue to do this. Our page on shared parenting has more information.

There are also some indoor exemptions to allow for informal childcare. Read our guide to childcare to learn more.

Can I meet my friends and family anywhere else inside, e.g. a café or restaurant?

Again, the number of people you can meet depends on the level you’re in, as well as the activity. This table on the Scottish Government website sets out when cinemas, cafés, bowling centres and other leisure, entertainment and hospitality venues can open.

Stay at home

At the moment it isn’t possible to meet up with anyone indoors, unless it’s for essential purposes, such as providing care. You can see a list of these essential purposes on the gov.scot website.

Level 0

If you’re in level 0, up to 8 people can meet indoors from 3 households. Children under 12 do not count towards the numbers but do count towards the households.

Levels 1-4

If you’re in level 1-4, you can meet others indoors in public places like cafés or restaurants in groups of up to 6 people from 2 households. Children under 12 from those 2 households aren’t counted towards the 6 people limit but they must be from the 2 households. However, bear in mind that if you are in level 3, some public places will be closed.

Can my child have a playdate or have a party with their friends?

Stay at home

Only two people aged 12 or over from two households can meet outdoors and should maintain physical distancing. However, children under 12 do not count towards households or numbers when meeting outside. 

This means that a group of under 12s can get together to play, as long as there are no more than two people aged 12 or older there from two households. But this should not be seen as an opportunity for lots and lots of children to play together. Children are still at risk of passing the virus among each other and to adults in their household, and you should try to keep the other children they see to a minimum while still letting them play together outside.

Levels 1-4

If you’re in level 1, 2 or 3, your child can’t have a playdate or a party with anyone from another household inside a home.

In other areas in levels 1-4 your child can have a playdate or party outside or inside a public place (in line with current measures) as long as you follow the guidance on meeting other households, as set out in the drop-down list at the top of the page.

Bear in mind that if you’re in level 2, 3 or 4 some public places may be shut.

There should be no food sharing between households. Blowing out birthday candles and singing are unfortunately also risk factors for spreading the virus, so should be avoided. We know that this doesn't sound like any fun, but it is important to keep each other safe.

Can I meet up with another household in an outdoor communal space or private garden?

Yes, you can meet outside in an outdoor communal space or private garden as long as you follow the rules outlined above (see ‘can I meet up with friends and family outdoors?’).

If you need to go through someone's house to access their garden, you should do so quickly and without touching anything. 

If you need to use their toilet, avoid touching surfaces with your hands as much as possible, 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.

If members of another household are going to visit you outside and might need to use your toilet, make sure cleaning materials are available. You should also provide either a hand towel for each visiting household or paper towels and a safe disposal option.

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

Carers can continue to go into homes to provide care. 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, as long as you follow the rules about meeting up with other households as set out in the drop-down list at the top of the page.

Can my teenage children meet their friends?

Teenagers can meet up as long as they follow the rules for their area's level. Our page on coronavirus guidelines for children explains more.

Outdoor activities

How far can we travel when we go out?

Stay at home
To minimise the risk of spreading the virus, you must stay at home as much as possible. You can find out more at the gov.scot website.

Levels 0-2
If you live in an area in level 0-2 you mustn’t travel in and out of areas in levels 3 or 4 unless it’s essential. You should also try not to travel between areas in other levels as well.

Level 3
If you live in a level 3 area you mustn’t leave your local authority area unless it’s essential. 

Level 4
If you live in a level 4 area you mustn’t leave your local authority area unless it’s essential and should try to travel within your local authority area as little as possible.

All levels
Essential reasons for travel include:

  • work
  • education (this includes travel for school, university and nursery, home education, training and school day trips) 
  • essential childcare
  • if you are sharing parenting or in an extended household and you live in different local authority areas
  • providing or receiving voluntary services
  • children’s organised activities (including baby and toddler groups)
  • accessing healthcare
  • antenatal and postnatal classes.

You can find out more about travel restrictions and exemptions, travelling safely and using public transport on the Scottish Government website.

We should avoid car sharing with people outside an extended household unless it's essential.

Can I go shopping for non-essential items?

Stay at home

Only essential shops can stay open. Try to shop online or as close to home as you can, and to go shopping on your own if you can.

Levels 0-4

Unless you live in a level 4 area, non-essential shops can open. In level 4, only essential shops can stay open, although click and collect and outdoor retail is still permitted.

Whatever level your area is in, as you might expect, shopping isn't 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.

All levels

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

  • You must wear a face covering when you go into a shop unless there’s a medical reason not to. Children under 5 don’t need to wear a face covering.
  • 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.
  • Maintain physical distancing from other customers and staff where possible and always follow any one way systems in place.
  • 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 and always wash your hands when you get home.
  • 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.
  • If using a disposable face covering, after use please dispose of this hygienically in a bin.

Can I go to a restaurant or café?

Stay at home

Restaurants, cafés and pubs are closed, but take away is still permitted.

Levels 0-4

Depending on the level your area is in, there may be measures relating to when restaurants and cafés can open and what they can serve. Visit the Scottish Government website to find out more. If you are visiting a café or restaurant, remember you should stick to the following steps to ensure you stay safe and protect others:

  • Follow the rules about meeting other households in your area.
  • Stick to physical distancing rules.
  • Wear a face covering when you're moving around the restaurant or café (you don't need to wear one when you're eating or drinking).
  • Book in advance if you can and avoid busy times, as crowds make physical distancing difficult.
  • Try not to touch shared surfaces.
  • Pay attention to all signs and listen to staff.
  • Provide your contact details to help support Test and Protect.

Play parks, sports and games

Can we play sport?

Our page on sport, play and children’s activities explains more about the sports you can play and where you can play them.

What about going to the play park?

It’s fine to take the kids to the play park as long as you stick to the rules on meeting other people for your area’s level. Our page on sport, play and children activities has tips on how to use play parks safely.

Vulnerable people

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

You can meet other people as long as you follow the rules on meeting for your area’s level, you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene. Our page on pregnancy and coronavirus has more advice.

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

You can meet with them as long as you follow the rules on meeting up for your area’s level, you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene.

I've been shielding, should I be taking any extra precautions?

At the beginning of the pandemic, people who are 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.

More advice and support on shielding can be found here.

You can read the latest guidance for shielding under 'stay at home' restrictions on the gov.scot website.

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

Tips for staying safe outdoors

Tip #1: Download the Protect Scotland app

The Protect Scotland app from NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect is a free, mobile phone app designed to help us protect each other and further reduce the spread of coronavirus. The app will alert you if you have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for coronavirus. And if you test positive, it can help identify people who you have been in close contact with that you may have otherwise missed, while keeping your information private and anonymous. You can find out more about the app here.

Tip #2: 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 or go into a shop or other indoor public place, you and any children aged 5 and over must wear a face covering. However, under 5s shouldn't wear face coverings at all. You can find out more about face coverings and where you need to wear one here. In addition, you shouldn't use alcohol-based hand sanitiser on babies under 1 year old. You should avoid sharing a car with other households unless absolutely necessary.

Tip #3: Plan your toilet trips

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

Tip #4: 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 unless they are under 12 years old
  • 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 or bin 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.

Our pages on staying safe during coronavirus and coronavirus guidelines for children has more information.

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

Tip #5: 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 #6: Wrap up warm

Getting outdoors is great for everyone’s health and wellbeing, but as the weather gets colder, it’s important to wrap up warm. Charity shops are great places to pick up warm woollies and coats for children who are growing all the time. You could also ask online if any of your friends with older children have any clothes they can pass on to you – you could pass your kids’ outgrown clothes on to someone else. Just give them a wash or a wipe down before you wear them. By not buying new, not only are you saving money, you’re also helping save the planet!

Tip #7: 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.

If you’re not able to go out because you’re self-isolating, our page on keeping active during coronavirus has tips to help you cope. You can find out more about self-isolating here.