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Meeting up with other households

You cannot meet up with other households in your home or theirs for the time being. This is because the rate of infection is starting to rise. These restrictions may not be easy, but they’re in place to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. 

You can still meet up with other households outdoors, or indoors in a public place - but only one household at a time and in a group of no more than 6 people. When outside under 12s do not count towards the total number of people meeting or towards the number of households. If you are meeting indoors in a public space like a cafe, under 12s don’t count towards the 6 people who can meet, but they must be from the two households.

Physical distancing is still really important, so you should stay 2 meters away for anyone aged 12 or older who is not in your household. Children under 12 do not need to distance from anyone in the group. 

Why have the restrictions changed?

Cases of coronavirus are starting to rise again, so some additional restrictions have been put in place, to help bring cases back under control. When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we reduce the spread of the infection. Meeting only in smaller groups means spaces are less likely to become crowded (which makes physical distancing harder). We know that the risk of spreading the virus is much lower outside, and that the risk is much higher when meeting inside homes. 

Limiting the number of households and people you meet with each day also reduces the risk of someone who has the virus, without realising it, passing it on to several households on the same day. The fewer people we spend time with (not just passing them in the street or park), the less likely we are to catch and pass on the virus.

We know it’s not easy, but by continuing to follow the advice, 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?

Yes. Up to 6 people from two households can meet up outdoors. 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 of any age, from up to 6 households. So, for example a 12 year old could meet up to 5 of their friends outside, regardless of whether their friends are aged 11, 12 or 13.  However, if anyone aged 18 or older is also in the group (or they are meeting inside in a public place like a cafe) they must follow the limit of 6 people from 2 households.

Adults and children 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?

No. You currently can’t meet other households in their home or yours. This is because infections are on the rise, and we know that the risk of passing the virus on to other people is higher when meeting in homes.

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.

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 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 the cinema?

You can meet others indoors in public places like cafés or restaurants in groups of up to 6 people from two households. Children under 12 from those two households aren’t counted towards the 6 people limit. Bear in mind that from 6pm on 9 October new restrictions are in place for pubs, restaurants and cafés. You can find out more about these restrictions here.

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

Your child can’t have a playdate or a party with anyone from another household inside a home. 

However, your child can have a playdate or party outside or inside a public place as long as you follow the guidance on meeting other households. In places like a cinema, café or bowling alley, there should be no more than two households present, and no more than 6 people aged 12 or older, children under 12 don’t count towards the limit of 6 people  

Outside the rules are slightly different. There should be no more than 6 people from up to two households present. However, children under 12 do not have to be from these two households and do not count towards the 6 people limit. For children aged 12-17, as long as there is no one 18 or older, then there can be up to 6 children from different households.

  • If there is no one aged 12 or older, there are no limits on the number of children or households who can meet
  • If there is anyone aged 18 or older, there can only be 6 people and 2 households, however children under 12 are not included in this limit
  • If there are no adults present, and there are children aged 12-17, then the limit is 6 people from 6 households.
  • Children under 12 can have a birthday party outdoors. If you have a party outdoors then children from multiple households can be present as long as no more than 2 adults from no more than 2 households are present.

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 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 1 other household in your garden or their garden as long as there are no more than 6 of you, excluding under 12s who don’t count towards the 6 people or the two households. You should of course maintain physical distancing and hygiene measures.

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 outside 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 6 people (excluding under 12s).

Can my teenage children meet their friends?

Yes, children aged 12-17 can meet in groups of up to 6 people from 6 different households outside at a time, as long as they follow physical distancing guidelines, which means staying 2 metres from each other.  However, if anyone aged 18 or older is also in the group, or they are meeting inside in a public place like a café, they must follow the limit of 6 people from 2 households.

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. Remember the limits on group size of 6 people from 2 households (excluding under 12s).

Can we have a picnic or barbecue?

Yes, you can now have a picnic or barbecue with 1 other household, provided there are no more than 6 of you (excluding under 12s) 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 it’s important to keep them clean and for your children to wash their hands regularly. However, don't use alcohol-based hand sanitiser on babies under 1 year old. 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 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. 

  • You must wear a face covering when you go into a shop.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

Can I go to a pub or café?

From 6pm on 9 October, new restrictions are in place for pubs, restaurants and cafés. You can find out more about these restrictions here

If you are visiting a café or restaurant, remember you should stick to the following steps to ensure you stay safe and protect others:

  • Don’t meet more than 1 other household, in groups of more than 6 people.
  • Stick to physical distancing rules.
  • Wear a face covering when you're moving around the pub, restaurant or café (you don't need to wear one when you're eating or drinking).
  • 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 youth activities explains more about the sports you can play and where you can play them.

What about going to the play park?

You shouldn’t meet more than 1 other household at a time, in a group of no more than 6 people (under 12s don’t count to the limit of 6 people and don’t need to be from the 2 households). While it’s ok for children to play with other kids they don’t know at the play park, they should try to limit the number of children from different households that they are playing with. Our page on sport, play and youth activities has tips on how to use play parks safely.

Vulnerable people

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

Yes, you can meet with 1 other household outdoors at a time, as long as there are no more than 6 of you, you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene. You can also meet inside in public spaces like cafés, but not in each other’s homes.

Under 12s don’t count to the limit of 6 people wherever you meet, and outside they can be from multiple households. 

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

Yes, you can meet with them outdoors, as long as you stay 2 metres apart and maintain good hand hygiene. You can also meet inside in public spaces like cafés, but not in each other’s homes.

I've been shielding, can I meet up with another household?

Yes. On 1 August, shielding was paused altogether, so people who were shielding can now follow the same rules as everyone else, provided they feel comfortable doing so. However, to stay safe, it’s important to strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures. You can find out more about shielding at the gov.scot website.

I’ve been 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 people from 1 other household, as long as there are no more than 6 of you
  • 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 – 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.

On 1 August, shielding was paused altogether, so people who were shielding can now follow the same rules as everyone else, provided they feel comfortable doing so. However, to stay safe, it’s important to strictly follow physical distancing and hygiene measures. You can find a guide to how safe different activities are here, so you can make an informed decision. You can also get advice on how to stay safe doing different activities here. You can find out more about shielding at 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 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 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 #2: 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 #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 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 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.

The guidance around physical distancing for children has changed, 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