Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): calculating physical distancing capacity in public settings

Published: 26 Apr 2021
Last updated: 16 Jun 2021 - see all updates

Guidance on how to work out the maximum number of people who can physically distance within a public setting including businesses, places of worship and public events.

15 page PDF

148.2 kB

15 page PDF

148.2 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19): calculating physical distancing capacity in public settings

15 page PDF

148.2 kB

Physical distance based capacity in events

This guidance does not cover:

  • mass participation sports (marathons, triathlons etc.) There is separate sector guidance available.
  • cinemas, Bingo halls, snooker halls or casinos which are not considered to be events, for which separate sector guidance is available and PDBC non-domestic premises guidance applies.
  • static demonstrations which are covered by separate guidance Coronavirus (COVID-19): protests and demonstrations - (
  • marches and parades which will be covered by separate guidance at the point they are allowed to resume
  • picketing which is exempt through the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Amendment (No.18) Regulations 2021 (
  • flagship events which are identified through the Scottish Government Events Gateway Process

Events are defined as activities that take place whether indoors or outdoors, that are an organised gathering or activity, limited in duration, that bring people together in significant numbers for culture, sport, recreation, entertainment, art or business.

All event organisers/those responsible for any premises hosting events, with the exception of those organising drive-in events, but including those organising events in premises which habitually host events such as concert halls, theatres, music venues, comedy clubs, sports stadiums and grounds, and conference centres, should calculate their PDBC to work out a safe maximum capacity for the premises and event.

The capacity of theatres, concert halls, music venues, comedy clubs, sports stadiums and grounds, museums and galleries and conference centres is subject to two metre physical distancing requirements. Discussions on capacity numbers should take place between the local authority and venue. Matters such as ventilation system, pinch points, transport, performance type, local circumstances and length of performance, match or meeting should be taken into account to determine appropriate maximum capacity number.

There is a standard capacity limit on small events as set out in Table 2 below.

Events can happen in hospitality settings or with alcohol and food at level 2 with 2 metres physical distancing. Where an event is planned for a hospitality space usually subject to hospitality guidance, the events guidance should be followed.

Table 2: Standard attendance limits for small events


Indoor standard limit

Outdoor standard limit

Expected timing (subject to supportive data)

Level 4




Level 3




Level 2

100 seated or standing

500 seated event

250 standing event

17 May

Level 1

200 seated or standing

1000 seated event

500 standing event

Likely 7 June

Level 0

400 seated or standing

2000 seated event

1000 standing event

Likely from end June

The process for approving attendance capacity at an event or an event within the premises set out above will depend on the number of people that assessment would support: 

Small events

Events with attendance up to the limits identified in the levels table at that point in time. These can proceed on the basis of self-assessment per the physical distancing capacities guidance; subject to meeting any normal or existing requirements of the local authority.

Medium events

Events with attendance up to the capacity limits identified at Level 0 in the levels table. If event organisers want to organise an event when their area is in Level 1 or 2 in excess of the relevant capacity limits, they must apply for approval to the local authority, who will consider the application drawing on existing procedures and processes.

Large events

Events with attendance above the limits identified at Level 0 in the levels table, and which may take place after Scotland moves to Level 0 (planned for 28th June). These will be subject to additional consideration by the local authority, drawing on existing procedures and processes. We will also have the power to call in certain applications or application types within this category. Whether this power will be used will be dependent on an assessment of risk prior to Scotland moving to Level 1.

Flagship events

Please note that internationally significant flagship events will fall under the Scottish Government Events Gateway Process and are dealt with separately from this guidance.

Drive-in events can resume in Level 3 and are not subject to the attendance capacity process set out above. Organisers should consider the facilities required for attendees such as toilets when calculating their capacity and how any queuing for facilities will be managed to ensure physical distancing is maintained. Face covering requirements (subject to exemptions) will apply in any indoor areas. Organisers should be clear to attendees that only one household (or extended household) may be present in a vehicle.

Small outdoor and indoor events can resume subject to capacity constraints and gathering restrictions at Level 2 providing that the event takes forward a self-assessment process and: 

  • utilises outside space wherever possible
  • organisers carry out a risk assessment, including assessing the indoor and outdoor space available to adhere to distancing requirements and have calculated the maximum capacity for the event to support physical distancing.
  • organisers have followed events guidance and checklist and any other relevant sectoral guidance
  • organisers can assure that attendees arrive and leave the event in a staggered manner where possible before / after the event or throughout the day, ensuring gathering rules are adhered to.
  • organisers can assure that attendees will be dispersed across a sufficiently large geographic area or will be sufficiently distributed throughout the day, so as to mitigate the risk of crowding at the venue (including entry and exit points; toilet facilities; and food and drink facilities) and on public transport
  • organisers and attendees maintain group sizes permitted by gathering restrictions and have processes in place to help prevent mixing between groups
  • organisers and attendees use face coverings in indoor areas where required noting face covering exemptions.
  • is ticketed, where possible, to monitor capacity
  • has all permits/licenses required and reasonable action has been taken by the event organiser to mitigate risk to public health

Where planning a small scale indoor sporting competition, organisers must ensure they abide by the guidance for indoor sports facilities: Getting your facilities fit for sport ( Organisers of outdoor sports participation events where there are multiple sporting bubbles (or waves) of participants, should refer to sportscotland’s Return to Sport and Physical Activity guidance.

Where the self-assessment supports the staging of events above the capacities identified in the protection levels table, an application can made to the local authority as set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19) stadia and live events guidance

First published: 26 Apr 2021 Last updated: 16 Jun 2021 -