Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on support, information, food and other essentials

Published: 23 May 2020
Last updated: 20 Nov 2020 - see all updates

Guidance on the help and support available to protect the wellbeing of people affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on support, information, food and other essentials
Help with food and shopping

Help with food and shopping

If you are on the shielding list or you are at most clinical risk from COVID-19

Those who are at most clinical risk from COVID-19 should follow the same advice and guidance as everyone else on shopping for food, but should take extra care when visiting shops. Read the and guidance about how to take extra care linked to each protection level in your area.

Supermarkets and shops are making shopping safer

Most supermarkets and shops now have areas where you can clean your hands, trolleys and baskets. There are safety screens at check outs and more self-service and contactless options. They have also increased the ways someone else can shop for you.

Since the start of the pandemic, many stores have also introduced measures to make shopping trips easier and safer for vulnerable and older customers. These include priority hours, help with your shopping in-store and in-store home deliveries.

Shopping in person

If you go to the shops, or if someone goes to the shops for you, make getting your shopping safer by:

  • reducing the number of times you go shopping
  • going to the shops at quieter times
  • putting on your face covering before touching baskets or trolleys
  • cleaning the handles of your trolley or basket before you use them
  • using hand sanitiser when you arrive and leave
  • avoiding touching doors with your hands 
  • using contactless payment if you can

If you need additional support because you have a hidden disability such as autism, dementia, visual or hearing impairment, or anxiety, you can pick up a sunflower lanyard at Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s. This shows shop assistants that you may need help finding items or need more time at the checkout.

Priority hours

Priority hours have been introduced in the following stores for disabled and older customers or those who need more help:


Priority times

Additional info


Every Monday - Saturday, stores will open 30 minutes beforetheir usual opening times




Every day stores will open between 8.00 – 9.00

Access to Co-op stores is not restricted in these times, but colleagues will be on hand to offer assistance to anybody who needs it



‘Book and Shop’ service allows customers to book a guaranteed slot to shop at their local store. This means they do not  need to queue when they arrive.

M&S book and shop

Start times are allocated in 30-minute intervals. When they arrive, customers should check-in with the hosts at the store entrance


Priority entry from 08.00 to 09.00 Monday, Wednesday and Friday



If your usual supermarket is not listed above, you can call them to ask what support they offer to those who need help when shopping.

I would like to shop when it is quieter

If you would like to shop when stores are quieter, please see below for more information on the quiet times for some of the larger retailers.


Quiet times


Before 11am and after 3pm


8-11am Mon-Thurs


2pm - close

Face coverings

The Scottish Government mandate the wearing of face coverings on transport, most indoor public places and communal areas in workplaces. Face coverings play a role in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.

If you need a face covering exemption card, apply on the Face Covering Exemption Card website [].

There are many different ways to shop and pay for food

Many supermarkets and shops offer online shopping and delivery, click and collect, in-store shopping with delivery and ordering by phone.

You can order food boxes and prepared meals.

You can ask family, friends or neighbours to do your shopping using a gift card.

In addition to the services offered by larger retailers, many local businesses also offer a range of goods which can delivered to you.

If you need more information or support to get food and other essentials

You or the person who cares for you can call the free national helpline number on 0800 111 4000 (Monday – Friday, business hours) or text phone on 0800 111 4114. This will connect you to your local authority.

If you are worried about being able to afford food

The national helpline will be able to connect you to local sources of support.

You can access the national helpline by calling 0800 111 4000 or text phone on 0800 111 4114.

You can also get help from:



First published: 23 May 2020 Last updated: 20 Nov 2020 -