Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19) protection levels: what you can do

Published: 13 Apr 2021
Last updated: 23 Apr 2021 - see all updates

Coronavirus restrictions remain in place. Find out the rules on what you can and cannot do.

10 page PDF

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10 page PDF

119.7 kB

Coronavirus (COVID-19) protection levels: what you can do
Level 4

10 page PDF

119.7 kB

Level 4: what you can and cannot do

Mainland Scotland and some islands are at Level 4. Some islands are at Level 3.  

You can check the level where you live by using the postcode tool

Main points

At Level 4:

  • you can meet in groups of up to 6 from 6 households outdoors in your garden or a public place 
  • you can travel anywhere in Scotland to meet others for the above purposes - but you must not stay away from your local council area (or for Highland or Argyll and Bute, the Level 3 or Level 4 part of those areas that you live in) overnight 
  • you can only go into someone else’s home for certain reasons such as to carry out essential work, to join your extended household or to care for a vulnerable person
  • you can provide informal childcare, for example to look after a grandchild, but only where this is essential
  • there are restrictions on care home and hospital visits
  • 20 people can attend a funeral and 5 people (6 if an interpreter is required) a wedding - receptions and wakes are not allowed
  • tradespeople can carry out only essential work and repairs in your home
  • you should work from home where possible

What can open at Level 4

Places and business that can open at Level 4 include:

  • non-mobile hairdressers and barbers by appointment only 
  • more shops and stores 
  • places of worship with a maximum capacity of 50

What must close at Level 4

Places and business that must close at Level 4 include:

  • hospitality venues like cafes, pubs and restaurants (except for delivery and takeaway)
  • close contact services (except for non-mobile hairdressers and barbers)
  • gyms and swimming pools
  • libraries (except for pre-booked computer access and click and collect)
  • holiday accommodation (except for essential customers)
  • all indoor visitor attractions (outdoor areas can remain open)

This is not a full list. You can get more information in the sections below.

Meeting others indoors in someone else’s home


You can go into another person’s house only for certain reasons, such as for essential work, to join your extended household or 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. ​​

Read Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for unpaid carers.

Meeting others outdoors and indoors in a public place


You can meet people from other households outdoors in a private garden, or in a public place outdoor or indoors.  

From 16 April: the maximum number of people who can meet outdoors is 6 which can be from up to 6 separate households.

The maximum number of people who can meet indoors in a public place is 4 which can be from up to 2 separate households.

2m physical distancing should be maintained between members of different households.

When meeting outdoors, children under the age of 12 do not count towards the total number of people or households counted in a gathering, but do count towards the number of households when meeting indoors – but not the number of people. Children under 12 do not need to maintain physical distance from others. This is to allow children under 12 to play with their friends.

Where an individual household includes more than 6 people, they can meet outside as a household even if the total number of people exceeds 6.

You should:

  • minimise the number of meetings you have with people from other households each day
  • stay at least 2 metres away from anyone who is not part of your household
  • maintain hand and cough hygiene
  • avoid touching hard surfaces with your hands
  • wash your hands when (if circumstances allow) you arrive, when you leave, when you get home and especially before eating or after touching surfaces
  • not share food or utensils – if eating, each household should bring, prepare and eat its own food separately

Those at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including those who had been shielding, people 70 and over, people who are pregnant and people with an underlying medical condition) should strictly follow the physical distancing guidance.

Going into someone else’s home


If you are meeting people from another household in their garden, you should only go into their house if necessary to:

  • access the garden – do so quickly and without touching anything
  • use the 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, you should ensure appropriate cleaning materials are available. You should also provide either a hand towel for each visiting household or paper towels and a safe disposal option.

Extended households


An extended household is a support network which joins two households.

You can form an extended household with another household of any size if you:

  • live by yourself
  • are a single parent
  • are part of a couple who lives apart – including any children you each live with

Read more about extended households.

Shared parenting


Where parents do not live in the same household, children can move between their parents’ homes.

Read more:



Restaurants, cafes, pubs and bars are closed. Guidance for operators is at: sector guidance for tourism and hospitality

Takeaways (and other food and drink businesses) can provide food or drink only for consumption off premises, but they must either deliver to customers or, where the customer collects, operate on a no-entry basis for either pre-order or walk-up service.

Hotels and other accommodation providers can still serve food to qualifying guests – such as people travelling for work – up to 22:00. Room service, including alcohol, is allowed as normal.

It is against the law to consume alcohol in an outdoors public place in any Level 4 area.



All holiday accommodation is closed to tourism. Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering can remain open for:

  • anyone who is unable to return to their main residence
  • anyone who uses that accommodation as their main residence
  • anyone who is living in that accommodation for work purposes
  • anyone who needs accommodation while moving home
  • anyone who requires accommodation to attend a funeral
  • anyone who requires accommodation to attend a marriage ceremony or civil partnership registration
  • anyone who requires accommodation to participate in or facilitate shared parenting arrangements
  • anyone required to quarantine following arrival in Scotland from out with the Common Travel Area
  • for the provision of accommodation to the homeless or support services for the homeless
  • for the hosting of blood donation sessions

When providing accommodation to workers, this should only be open for essential workers who require accommodation as part of their role. Workers accommodation guidance.

Providers may offer accommodation to customers in circumstances other than those detailed above, provided it is not for holiday purposes. An example of this would be where someone needs accommodation for an hospital visit.

In line with Competition and Markets Authority guidance, a full refund should be offered to customers who booked holiday homes, but could not stay in them due to lockdown restrictions. The regulation of consumer protection is the responsibility of the UK Government at Westminster. The Competition and Markets Authority has issued guidance to businesses and consumers about refunds.​​​​​​

Travel and transport


You must stay in your local authority area except where you have a reasonable excuse to travel  See further guidance on travel and transport 

and view maps of local authority area boundaries.



You should use online shopping or shops and other services in your local area wherever you can. 

An expanded list of retailers permitted to open can be found in the question and answer section of the retail sector guidance under the sub heading ‘the shopping experience’.  Retailers should follow and implement the Scottish Government’s guidance to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

Adults, unless accompanying a vulnerable person or a child or children under 18, should shop alone where possible.

Read more:

Click and collect services can resume for collection of goods by appointment

You can also shop online for any item to be delivered or to be picked up by appointment at a click-and-collect service.

Whilst retailers will implement procedures to ensure the safety of customers and staff, it is an individual’s responsibility to ensure they comply with the following guidance:

  • do not visit any retail premises if you have tested positive or have developed any of the COVID-19 symptoms
  • you must wear a face covering when you go into any retail premises including any indoor area of a shopping centre, unless exempt. Read the face covering policy
  • maintain a 2 metre physical distance from other people
  • you must follow direction signs, customer flow systems and shop capacities as indicated by the retailer
  • adults, unless accompanying a vulnerable person or a child/children under 18, should shop alone

In order to keep transmission rates as low as possible, you are also advised to:

  • avoid crowded shops. Try to avoid times when shops will be busy. If you do not think you can maintain physical distancing in a shop, go back later
  • visit stores that are using infection control measures and use the available hand sanitiser and sanitising stations
  • try to avoid touching goods unless you intend to buy them
  • be polite. Please ensure that you are considerate to retail staff and abide by their guidance and instructions, including removing your face covering if requested for proof of age
  • restrictions on travel for non-permitted activities across local authority boundaries remain in place.  Non-essential shopping is not an exception to this. You must stay within your council area for non-essential shopping (including Click and Collect) and should only travel to another area for essential shopping if there are no practical alternatives.

Close contact services


Premise-based hairdressers and barbers are permitted to open on an appointment only basis. 

All other close contact services and mobile close contact service providers must not operate. Read more: Guidance for close contact services

Close contact services that remain closed include:

  • beauty and nail services (including make-up)
  • hair removal
  • tattoo, piercing and body modification
  • fashion design, dress-fitting and tailoring
  • indoor portrait photography and art services
  • massage therapies
  • complementary and alternative medicine services requiring physical contact or close physical proximity between persons, but not osteopathy and chiropractic services
  • spa and wellness services
  • other services or procedures which require physical contact or close physical proximity between a provider and a customer and are not ancillary to medical, health, or social care services.

Going to work/working from home


People should work from home wherever that is practicable.  By law, employers must take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus. Supporting employees to work from home where possible is an important part of that.

Those activities that  can be done effectively through home working should be adopted.  Offices and call-centres that provide essential services can continue to operate, such as those in the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector, courts and tribunals. There are 13 designated CNI sectors including agriculture and food production, activity to maintain the food supply chain, energy and transport.

Tradespeople, home repairs, and working in someone else’s home


The Coronavirus regulations require that work carried out in someone else’s home for the maintenance, upkeep or functioning of the home must only be carried out where it is essential or where that house is unoccupied. People must not go into other people’s houses for that type of work where it is not essential. This applies to anyone carrying out work, voluntary or charitable services. Businesses who employ people to carry out this work should consider if it is essential before asking their employees to enter someone else’s home.

Examples of essential work may include:

  • to carry out utility (including electricity, gas, water, telephone, broadband) safety checks, repairs, maintenance and installations (where those cannot be delayed)
  • to carry out repairs and maintenance that would otherwise threaten the household’s health and safety
  • to deliver, install or repair key household furniture and appliances such as washing machines, fridges and cookers
  • to support a home move, for example furniture removal
  • domestic cleaner providing services in support of a clean and safe living environment for people in vulnerable circumstance, living with a disability and as a result of that vulnerable circumstance or disability are unable to clean their own home
  • to deliver goods or shopping, where essential in supporting a vulnerable person

Non-essential work may include cosmetic painting/ decorating, or kitchen/ bathroom/glazing/carpeting/electrical replacements where not required to maintain the health and safety of the household

Safety when working in someone else’s home

When carrying out essential work in someone’s house, workers should stay 2 metres apart from the people who live there, wear a face covering and follow good hygiene practices both before and after. Read general guidance on workplaces.

Stadia and events


Stadia must be closed to spectators.

No live events are permitted.

Sports and exercise


You are permitted to meet others in small numbers outdoors for informal exercise or sport, provided you follow the socialising rules on meeting other households outdoors (see section above).

Under 12s

Organised outdoor contact sport, non-contact sport, exercise, personal training, coaching and group activities are permitted. Sports organisers must ensure they operate in line with the relevant guidance:

12 to 17 year olds

Organised outdoor contact and non-contact sport, exercise, personal training, coaching and group activities are permitted. It is advised that these activities take place in groups of up to 15 people (this number includes up to 2 adult coaches or instructors), providing appropriate guidance is followed.  

Sports organisations should refer to guidance agreed between their Scottish Governing Body of Sport and sportscotland and ensure they operate in line with the guidance.


Organised outdoor non-contact sports, exercise, personal training and coaching are permitted. It is advised that these activities take place in groups of up to 15 people (including coaches and instructors), providing appropriate guidance is followed.

Outdoor contact sports are not permitted, except for professional sport. 

Sports organisations should refer to guidance agreed between their Scottish Governing Body of Sport and sportscotland and ensure they operate in line with the guidance.

Outdoor gyms are permitted to open. 

Indoor sports facilities are required to close, except where these are used for professional sport.

You can meet in groups of up to 6 adults from 6 households for exercise outdoors (under 12s do not count towards the number of people meeting or households), and travel anywhere in Scotland for that purpose (but you must not stay away from your local council area (or for Highland or Argyll and Bute, the Level 3 or Level 4 part of those areas that you live in) overnight).

Leisure and entertainment


All leisure and entertainment premises must be closed (except for use in limited circumstances outwith their main purpose).

Film and TV production can continue to take place. All such activity must be done in compliance with industry guidance.

Driving lessons


Driving lessons and tests (including theory tests) for the general public cannot take place.  The only exception is where driving lessons are given by a member of your household.

There is also a special exemption for the police, fire service and some bus operators to carry out lessons and tests for their staff. This applies only where they have the authority from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA).

Moving house, letting property, and second homes


Whilst it is currently permitted to conduct activities in connection with moving home or the essential maintenance, purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property that you own or are responsible for you are strongly advised to postpone those at this time, if possible.

You should search for property online and carry out viewings virtually in the first instance and only physically view a property which you or the person on whose behalf you are acting are very likely to want to move into.

Travel for the purposes of undertaking essential work on a property other than your main residence must not be used as a pretext for a holiday. You should not stay longer than for the length of time required to undertake the necessary work.

Residential tenancies – evictions

In Level 3 or 4 areas, residential tenancy evictions are not to take place unless the eviction ground is nuisance, using the property for immoral or illegal purposes, anti-social behaviour, certain convictions, or association with a person who has relevant convictions or who has engaged in anti-social behaviour.

Public buildings


Public buildings will be closed, except for some libraries which may be open to provide free computer and internet access, where an appointment has been booked. Library click and collect services may also be available.  You should check with your local library service in the first instance.

Read more: guidance for public libraries

Community centres can continue to operate for the delivery of essential services only, such as emergency shelter, medical services or meals for the homeless.

Courts and Tribunals will remain open. Further details are available from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website.

Visitor attractions


All indoor visitor attractions such as museums, galleries, heritage attractions, indoor areas of zoos and aquariums are closed.

Outdoor visitor attractions, such as parks, gardens and the outdoor areas of zoos may remain open, to enable exercise and recreation to be undertaken with appropriate physical distancing in place, but should only be visited in line with travel restrictions.

Visitor attractions’ retail and indoor hospitality facilities will be closed, other that food to go/takeaways operating doorway/hatch collection only.

Public and customer toilets can be opened, as long as it is safe to do so. Where toilets are part of a larger premises e.g. a shop, face coverings must be worn.

Specific sector guidance can be found at:



Places of worship are required to take measures to protect individuals, worshippers, staff members and volunteers from infection by COVID-19. 

Indoor acts of worship should be limited to a maximum of 50 people providing there is sufficient space to maintain 2 metre physical distancing. Where that is not possible capacity should be reduced. The 2 metre distance is not required between members of the same household or extended household group, or between a carer and the person assisted by the carer. 

Events such as bar mitzvahs, baptisms, Holy Communions and christenings can take place but only as part of a scheduled act of worship (but not a separate event afterwards) and with a maximum of 50 people.

Places of worship are required to maintain a temporary register of worshipper and staff/volunteer contact details for a period of 21 days for Test and Protect. This is to support contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system, in the event of an outbreak linked to a particular venue.

Life events (including weddings and funerals)


Wedding ceremonies and civil partnership registrations can take place with a maximum capacity of 5 people (including the couple, the witnesses and the person conducting the ceremony, 6 if an interpreter is required), provided the venue’s capacity allows for 2 metre physical distancing.

Funerals can take place with a maximum capacity of 20, provided the venue’s capacity allows for 2 metre physical distancing.

Wedding or civil partnership receptions and post funeral gatherings such as wakes cannot take place.

You must maintain a safe distance of 2 metres between people not in your household or extended household.

Face coverings must be worn by those attending a wedding or civil partnership, except for the couple and the person conducting the ceremony. Face coverings do not need to be worn by the person leading a funeral service or by the person providing the eulogy.



Nurseries, childminders and regulated school age childcare providers are open.

Only essential informal childcare (family and friends) is permitted.




All schools are expected to re-open for full-time in-school learning following the Spring break holidays (pupils returning to school in the period 12–20 April).

This means that from the 12-20 April:

  • an expected return to full-time in-school learning for all secondary school pupils 
  • the continuation of full-time in-school learning for all primary school pupils, as from 15 March
  • the continuation of regulated childcare, including breakfast and after-school clubs, as from 15 March

These plans are conditional on continued progress on suppressing coronavirus (COVID-19).

Information for parents and carers is on the Parent Club website, and full guidance for schools was updated on 24 March.

Colleges and universities


Colleges can bring back students for in-person learning in subject areas which have been identified by Colleges Scotland as most at risk of not being able to complete this academic year. Universities will continue to operate with a 5% of total students at any one time limit on in-person learning, with some flexibility for smaller institutions and for postgraduate students.

From 26 April, both colleges and universities will operate ‘Restricted Blended Learning’ in Levels 4 and 3, and ‘Blended Learning’ in Levels 2, 1 and 0.  Further information on what this will involve can be found at guidance for higher and further education institutions and student accommodation providers

Children's organised activities


Outdoor group activities

Under 12s

Organised outdoor contact sport, non-contact sport, exercise, personal training, coaching and group activities are permitted. Sports providers must ensure they operate in line with the relevant guidance:

12 to 17 year olds

Organised outdoor non-contact sport, exercise, personal training, coaching and group activities are permitted. It is advised that these activities take place in groups of up to 15 people (this number includes up to 2 adult coaches or instructors), providing appropriate guidance is followed.  Outdoor contact sports are also permitted. 

Sports organisations should refer to guidance agreed between their Scottish Governing Body of Sport and sportscotland and ensure they operate in line with the guidance.

Unregulated children’s activities

Unregulated activities for parents and children under 5 such as baby and toddler groups that take place outdoors are permitted. It is advised that these activities are limited to a maximum of 15 adults and unlimited under 5s.

Public services


Public services will be delivered online where possible. Face-to-face services can continue where this is essential.

Any advice or rules on staying safe do not prevent anyone from acting to keep themselves safe from domestic abuse, including leaving home (see further guidance). If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or go to

Visiting  hospitals


There are restrictions on visiting people in hospital.

You can still visit someone in hospital or accompany someone to appointments if you’re:

  • a birth partner supporting a woman during hospital visits
  • visiting someone receiving end-of-life care
  • supporting someone with a mental health issue, or dementia, or a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed
  • accompanying a child

You may be able to be visit for other reasons if hospital staff feel it is essential.

You should make any arrangements by contacting clinical staff before visiting.

Visiting care homes


Care home residents are permitted to:

  • receive up to two indoors visits a week
  • have up to two designated indoor visitors – but only one person can visit at a time

Essential visits should be supported at all times. Garden or window visits are also allowed. 

Care home visits are classed as essential travel so you can travel to or from any area for this reason.

For more information:



Contact with others

The Chief Medical Officer wrote to everyone on the shielding list during the week beginning 4 January to set out advice. We are not advising you stop going outside, which we know is good for mental and physical health. You should stay home as much as possible but you can still go out for exercise and essential shopping or medicines.

You should minimise contact with people outside your own household if you can.

You should not take public transport.


If you, your child or someone you care for is on the shielding list, you can sign up for priority access to supermarket online delivery slots.

Once you register you will get priority access to see online delivery slots. It may take a few weeks for you to get registered for the service. . Supermarkets have also increased the number of ways to shop and have shopping delivered which are available now.

If you do visit shops or supermarkets strictly follow the guidelines when shopping and limit the number of times you go to a shop. Shop at quieter times.

If you cannot work from home

You should continue to work from home if you can.

If you cannot work from home, if you live or work in an area in lockdown, you should not go to work. The letter you will receive from the Chief Medical Officer acts as a fit note for as long as lockdown restrictions are in place.

This letter is called a shielding notification and can be shown to your employer without the need for a GP fit note.

School/ formal childcare

Children on the shielding list should not attend in person.

Domestic abuse support


Coronavirus rules and guidance do not prevent anyone from leaving their home to escape domestic abuse or taking other measures to keep themselves safe from domestic abuse.

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse help is available.

Call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or visit Safer.Scot.

Domestic abuse is a crime. Call 101 to report it or 999 in an emergency.

Support for people


Support services

Support groups and one-to-one support should be delivered remotely where possible, but support may be delivered in-person if remote delivery is not possible and they are essential for people’s wellbeing. Examples of support services include peer support groups, vulnerable persons’ or families’ support groups, talking therapy groups, day centres, respite care, one to one talking therapy and counselling. Support services do not include close contact retail services, such as massage, which are covered by separate guidance on this page.

An essential support service is one where the participant’s health (including their mental health) and wellbeing would be significantly impacted by non-attendance. If services must take place in-person, relevant guidance must be followed.

Child contact centre providers are advised to provide only essential contact services in person.  During this time providers should move their contact services online where possible, or by telephone.

Read more: child contact services guidance

Supporting others

Remember that some people may find physical distancing rules harder to follow than others, for example those with sight loss, autism, learning disabilities and dementia or other communication or mobility needs.

You can help by being considerate and by:

  • keeping your distance – for example, if you see someone with a guide dog, long cane or with mobility difficulties, you can help them by making sure you keep 2m away. 
  • being friendly and offering help – for example, by letting someone with sight loss know where a shopping queue starts or if there is a safer place to cross a road

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First published: 13 Apr 2021 Last updated: 23 Apr 2021 -