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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 dropdown 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.

On this page you can find out more about:

Meeting up with friends and family

Can I meet up with friends and family outdoors?

Yes, however, 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!

At all levels, children under 12 don’t count towards the number of households or the number of people when you’re meeting outdoors.

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

Check the dropdown list above to see how many people you can meet with outdoors.

Can I meet my friends and family in their home?

This depends on the level your area is in.

All levels

  • Children under 12 don’t count towards the number of people who can meet up indoors. At levels 1-4 they do count towards the number of households. At level 0 they don't count towards the number of households.
  • The numbers of people you can meet indoors are different depending on where you’re meeting. You can meet in slightly larger groups in indoor public places such as cafés and restaurants than you can in private homes. This is because we know that the risk of passing the virus on to other people is higher when meeting in homes. Some indoor socialising in public places is allowed at all levels, although no in home socialising is allowed in levels 3 and 4.
  • Whatever your level, if you’re 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, your child or children can continue to visit both homes. Our page on shared parenting has more information.
  • There are some exemptions to allow for informal childcare. Read our guide to childcare to learn more.
  • If you’re meeting indoors, everyone should follow good hygiene, by washing hands regularly and keeping surfaces clean.

Check the dropdown list above to see how many people you can meet with inside in your area.

I’m a new parent who needs support. Can someone come into my home to help me?

Whatever level your area is in, another person can come into your home to provide care and support for a vulnerable person. This can include providing emotional support for someone whose wellbeing is at risk, including for those who are isolated because of disability or a caring situation or where they are a parent or carer of a child under one. So if you feel this applies to you, then a friend, family member or support worker can visit you in your home to provide this support. This person doesn’t have to be part of your extended household.

If you feel this applies to you, it doesn’t matter whether you are on your own with your child or live with someone else (for example, your partner or an older child). However, this person must be there to provide you with support because you’re feeling vulnerable or worried about your wellbeing, it isn’t just a social visit.

The person who comes to support you can travel from another local authority area or elsewhere in the UK if necessary. This is because travel for childcare or parental support services and travel to provide care, assistance, support to or respite for a vulnerable person are permitted.

When they’re visiting, make sure you stick to physical distancing and hygiene guidelines to ensure you both stay safe.

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. Whatever level you’re in, children under 12 don’t count towards the number of people you’re meeting indoors. At levels 1-4 they do count towards the number of households. At level 0 they don't count towards the number of households.

Check the dropdown list above to see how many people you can meet with inside in your area.

If you’re in level 3 or 4, some public places may not be open. This table on the Scottish Government website sets out when cinemas, cafés, bowling centres and other leisure, entertainment and hospitality venues can open.

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

Whatever level your area is in, children can get together to play outdoors and can even have small parties outdoors as long as you follow the rules on meeting other people set out in the dropdown list at the top of the page. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an excuse to get lots of children together – try to limit it to a few close friends. Children spending time playing together is important, but it’s also important that we’re careful. Be aware of how many people your child is seeing, and try to keep the number as low as possible while still letting them have fun.

Remember, you shouldn’t share food 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's important to keep each other safe.

Levels 0-2

In levels 0-2, your child can have a party in your home or in a public place like a café or leisure centre, as long as you stick to the rules on meeting other people.

In levels 1 and 0, parties organised by an entertainer or other service provider can also take place indoors. There is no set limit on the number of people who can attend organised parties as long as there is room for everyone aged 12 and over to safely distance. You can read the Scottish Government’s guidance for parties here.

Levels 3-4

If you’re in level 3 or 4, your child can’t have a playdate or a party with anyone from another household inside a home.

However, they can have a party indoors in a public place like a café or leisure centre, as long as you follow the guidance on meeting other households, set out in the dropdown list at the top of the page.

Bear in mind that some public places may be shut.

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?

Whatever level you're in, 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.

You can read the Scottish Government’s advice for unpaid carers here.

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 and young people explains more.

Do we still need to physically distance from friends and family?

Level 0

In level 0, if you’re meeting friends or family outdoors or in a private garden or home, you don’t need to physically distance from the people in your group. If you’re meeting indoors in a public place, you only need to stay one metre apart instead of two metres. However, you should still be very careful, especially with friends or family members who are on the shielding list. Remember that close contact increases the chance of catching or passing on COVID-19, so try to limit the number of people you have close contact with.

Levels 1-2

In levels 1-2, if you’re meeting friends or family in a private garden or home, you no longer need to maintain physical distancing. However, you should still be very careful, especially with friends or family members who are on the shielding list. Remember that close contact increases the chance of catching or passing on COVID-19, so try to limit the number of people you have close contact with.

When you’re out and about in indoor or outdoor public spaces, it’s really important to still maintain physical distancing.

Levels 3-4

In levels 3 and 4, you must maintain physical distancing from anyone aged 12 and over who isn’t part of your household or extended household.

Outdoor activities

How far can we travel when we go out?

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 for a permitted reason. 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 travel to a level 0-2 or level 4 area unless it’s for a permitted reason. 

Level 4

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

All levels

Permitted 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
  • sport for under 18 year olds
  • organised activities for under 18s (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 your household or extended household unless it's essential.

Can I go shopping for non-essential items?

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.

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?

Depending on the level your area is in, there may be measures in place relating to when restaurants and cafés can open and what they can serve. Visit the Scottish Government website to find out more. 

If you're 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.

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.

Staying safe indoors

How can I stay safe if I’m meeting people indoors?

It’s easier to catch and pass on the virus indoors, so when you’re spending time with other households indoors you should always:

  • keep windows and doors open as much as possible so the space is well ventilated
  • maintain hand and cough hygiene
  • avoid touching hard surfaces with your hands
  • follow advice on the NHS Inform website about hygiene 
  • if you choose not to physically distance when meeting friends or family in a private garden or home, try to limit the number of people you have close contact with
  • wash your hands when you arrive, when you leave, when you get home and especially before eating or after touching surfaces
  • try not to share food or utensils – if you’re going to be eating, each household should bring, prepare and eat their own food separately.
     

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How can I prepare for people visiting my home to make sure it’s safe for everyone?

It’s easier to catch and pass on the virus indoors, so it’s very important that you maintain good hygiene – so give yourself time to prepare. If someone else is coming to your home, wipe down surfaces they may touch before they arrive, for example, door knobs and the arms of chairs, and provide a separate hand towel for them to use when they wash their hands.

If children under 12 are likely to be sharing toys, make sure these are clean too. Wipe everything down again after they leave. This may seem a hassle but it’s important to help keep everyone safe. 

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How can I prepare for visiting another household indoors?

Before visiting someone, make sure you check that that’s okay. If you’re at someone else’s home, make sure you wash your hands regularly, try not to touch hard surfaces and wipe down any surfaces you and your children do touch – bring your own towel and some wipes with you to be on the safe side. If you’re planning on eating, it’s best to bring your own food and cutlery, and always wash your hands before eating.

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Can friends and family stay overnight in my home? Can I stay overnight at theirs?

If you’re in an area in level 0-2, it’s possible to stay overnight at someone else’s house. However, it’s important to think the arrangements through and decide whether it’s practical. For example, you’ll need to bring your own food and utensils and to give the bathroom surfaces a wipe down whenever you use it. It’s a good idea to keep the room they sleep in well ventilated as well, for example by keeping a window open.

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Can I go on holiday with my friends or family?

If you’re in a level 0-2 area, you can book self-contained holiday accommodation with friends or family, provided you stick to the rules on indoor socialising. 

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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 up and physical distancing for your area’s level 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 other people as long as you follow the rules on meeting up and physical distancing for your area’s level 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. More advice and support on shielding can be found here.

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