Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): stay at home guidance

Published: 19 Jan 2021
Last updated: 21 Jan 2021 - see all updates

Guidance on stay at home regulations that came into effect on 5 January 2021.

Published:
19 Jan 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): stay at home guidance

Stay at home

To minimise the risk of spreading the virus, you must stay at home as much as possible. By law, in a Level 4 area, you can only leave your home (or garden) for an essential purpose.

There is a list of examples of reasonable excuses below. Although you can leave home for these purposes, you should stay as close to home as possible. Shop online or use local shops and services wherever you can. Travel no further than you need to reach to a safe, non-crowded place to exercise in a socially distanced way. To minimise the risk of spread of coronavirus it is crucial that we all avoid unnecessary travel.

Examples of reasonable excuses to go out:

  • for work or an activity associated with seeking employment, or to provide voluntary or charitable services, but only where that cannot be done from your home.
  • for education including, school, college, university or other essential purposes connected with a course of study
  • for essential shopping, including essential shopping for a vulnerable person. You should use online shopping or shops and other services in your immediate area wherever you can.
  • to obtain or deposit money, where it is not possible to do so from home
  • for healthcare, including medical trials, COVID-19 testing and vaccination, and mental health support
  • for childcare or support services for parents or expectant parents
  • for essential services, including services of a charitable or voluntary nature such as food banks, alcohol or drug support services.
  • to access public services where it is not possible to do so, including from home:
    • services provided to victims (such as victims of crime)
    • social-care services
    • accessing day care centres
    • services provided by the Department for Work and Pensions
    • services provided to victims (including victims of crime)
    • asylum and immigration services and interviews
    • waste or recycling services
  • to provide care, assistance, support to or respite for a vulnerable or disabled person
  • to provide or receive emergency assistance
  • to participate in or facilitate shared parenting
  • to visit a person in an extended household
  • to meet a legal obligation including satisfying bail conditions, to participate in legal proceedings, to comply with a court mandate in terms of sentence imposed or to register a birth
  • for attendance at court including a remote jury centre, an inquiry, a children’s hearing, tribunal proceedings or to resolve a dispute via Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • for essential animal welfare reasons, such as exercising or feeding a horse or going to a vet
  • local outdoor recreation, sport or exercise, walking, cycling, golf, or running that starts and finishes at the same place (which can be up to 5 miles from the boundary of your local authority area) as long as you abide by the rules on meeting other households
  • to attend a marriage ceremony or registration of a civil partnership
  • to attend a funeral or for compassionate reasons which relate to the end of a person’s life. This includes gatherings related to the scattering or interring of ashes, a stone setting ceremony and other similar commemorative events
  • if you are a minister of religion or worship leader, for the purposes of leading an act of worship (broadcast or online), conducting a marriage or civil partnership ceremony or a funeral
  • to donate blood
  • whilst it is permitted to leave your house for activities in connection with moving home (including viewing a property), or for activities in connection with the essential maintenance, purchase, sale, letting, or rental of residential property that the person owns or is otherwise responsible for, at this time it is advisable to postpone, if possible. Travelling for the purposes of undertaking essential work on a property other than your main residence should 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
  • to avoid injury, illness or to escape a risk of harm
  • for those involved in professional sports, for training, coaching or competing in an event
  • to visit a person receiving treatment in a hospital, staying in a hospice or care home, or to accompany a person to a medical appointment.
  • to register or vote in a Scottish or UK Parliament, Local Government or overseas election or by-election, including on behalf of someone else by proxy
  • to visit a person detained in prison, young offenders institute, remand centre, secure accommodation or other place of detention
  • collecting a newly purchased vehicle
  • delivering or collecting a vehicle for a repair, service or MOT

Meeting others indoors in someone'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. Read Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for unpaid carers.

Meeting others outdoors and in indoor public spaces

 

You can only meet people from another household outdoors and in indoor public spaces for certain reasons, such as for work, to join your extended household, for sport, exercise, 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. Read Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for unpaid carers

A maximum of 2 people, aged 12 and over, can meet outdoors for a permitted purpose, if they are not from the same household.

Children under 12 do not count towards households or numbers when meeting outside.

Children under 12 do not need to maintain physical distance from others indoors or outdoors.

The members of an individual or extended household can meet outdoors for sport, exercise or social interaction.

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.

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

Marches, parades and static demonstrations are not allowed at this time.

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

 

People who live in different places can form an “extended household” in the following circumstances:

People who live alone

If you are an adult and you live alone, or if all others in your household are under 18, you, any children who live with you, and the members of one other household (of any size) can agree to form an 'extended household'. This will allow people who live alone (or those living only with children under the age of 18) to be considered part of another household in order to reduce loneliness, isolation and to provide mutual social support.

Couples who do not live together

If two adults are in a relationship and they do not live together, they, and any children they each live with, can agree to form an 'extended household'.

However, if one member of a household gets coronavirus, there is a strong likelihood that other members of that household will also catch it. For this reason, there are some important rules that extended households should follow to remain as safe as possible:

  • a household must not form an extended household with more than one other household
  • households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form an extended household with a new household for at least a 14-day period.

All the adults living in both households should agree to form the extended household. We also encourage parents or guardians to involve their children in discussions. Forming an extended household is an important decision that should be properly discussed and agreed beforehand. Physical distancing between members of an extended household is not required.

Once two households have agreed to form an extended household, they may meet outdoors or indoors, visit and stay at each other’s homes, and do everything that people in other households can do, such as watch TV, share a meal and look after each other’s children.

Members of an extended household are considered to be one household for the legal requirements on meeting other households and going outside, and for the guidance in this document about seeing friends and family and about exercise and leisure activity.

If someone in the extended household develops COVID-19 symptoms, to avoid spreading the virus all members of the extended household must isolate immediately if they met the symptomatic person at any time between 2 days before and up to 10 days after their symptoms started.

If the symptomatic person tests positive, all members of their direct household must isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms. Similarly, other members of the extended household must isolate for 10 days from when the most recent contact took place. Isolate means staying in your own home for the full 10 days.

Read more: Test and Protect: self-isolation guidance

Those at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including people over 70, people who are pregnant and people with an underlying medical condition) may take part in an extended household arrangement, but should strictly follow the handwashing, surface cleaning and respiratory hygiene guidance on the NHS Inform website.

Shared parenting

 

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

Read more:

Child contact centre providers (with the exception of those provided by local authorities) must close other than for the provision of handover services. Read more: child contact services guidance.

Hospitality

 

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

From 00:01 on Saturday 16 January takeaways (and other food and drink businesses) can only provide food or drink 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 i.e. keyworkers staying in their premises up to 22:00. Room service, including alcohol, is allowed as normal.

From 00:01 on Saturday 16 January it is against the law to consume alcohol in an outdoors public place in any Level 4 area.

Accommodation

 

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

  • anyone who is using that accommodation for work purposes
  • anyone who requires accommodation to attend a funeral
  • anyone who is providing accommodation or support services to the homeless
  • anyone who uses that accommodation as their main residence
  • anyone who needs accommodation while moving home
  • anyone who is unable to return to their main residence
  • 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

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 for an essential purpose. An example of this would be where someone needs accommodation for an essential 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

 

By law, you can only leave your home (or garden) if you have a reasonable excuse. See further guidance on travel and transport and view maps of local authority area boundaries.

Shopping

 

In Level 4 areas you are allowed to leave home for essential shopping only, including essential shopping for a vulnerable person. You should use online shopping or shops and other services in your immediate area wherever you can. Only essential retail will be able to remain open providing they follow and have implemented Scottish Government guidance to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

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

A list of essential retail can be found in the question and answer section of the retail sector guidance under the sub heading ‘the shopping experience’. This list was recently updated to reflect changes which came into force on 26 December 2020, replacing the previously permitted category of “homeware, building supplies and hardware stores” with “building merchants and suppliers of products and tools used in building work and repairs”. Garden Centres and plant nurseries have also been removed from the list of essential retail. Please check retailers’ websites before travelling to see whether this change affects them.

Additionally some retail services are now listed under businesses which are required to close, these are: tanning salons or premises with self-tanning machines or spray-tan booths, travel agencies, and premises laid out as a showroom to demonstrate products for installation in residential property, such as kitchen, bathroom, furniture or glazing showrooms.

Read more:

From Saturday 16 January click and collect can operate for essential and certain non-essential retail only. The non-essential retailers which can continue to operate click and collect services are:

  • clothing and footwear stores
  • homeware stores
  • garden centre/plant nurseries
  • baby equipment shops
  • electrical shops (including repairs)
  • key cutting and shoe repairs
  • bookstores

Online ordering for delivery from other closed retailers can continue.

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
  • you must follow direction signs, one way systems and shop capacities if provided by a retail outlet
  • maintain a 2 metre physical distance between other people
  • during this period 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
  • 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.
  • shop local and do not travel further than necessary to visit stores
  • be patient – shopping may take longer than you may be used to and you may need to queue for longer as a result. Please do not smoke when queuing outside shops
  • you should only use public transport for essential shopping where it is not possible in your local council area – you should use online shopping or shops, banks and other services in your local area wherever you can

Get help: If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and are self-isolating, or are vulnerable or shielding and you need essential items like food or medicine you should request assistance from friends, family, community support groups, make an online order, or call the National Helpline on 0800 111 4000.

Going to work/working from home – what the law says

 

Working from home protects the NHS and saves lives. If you are able to work from home, you must do so wherever possible. Under current rules you need to have a reasonable excuse for leaving the house. This only includes going to work if that work cannot be done from home.

By law, employers must take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of the incidence and spread of coronavirus. This includes supporting staff to work from home for those roles that can be undertaken remotely. If staff were working from home during the first lockdown in March 2020 they should be working from home now.

Employers must not ask or direct an employee to commit an offence by requiring travel for work that it is possible to be done from home.   Nor should employers encourage, authorise or make arrangements that would allow or put pressure on their employees to break the law.

Read further information: coronavirus; working from home guidance

Please see furlough guidance: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

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.

Read further information and guidance on working in other people’s homes.

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.

Close contact retail services

 

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

Close contact services include:

  • hairdressing and barbers
  • beauty and nail services (including make-up)
  • hair removal
  • tattoo, piercing and body modification
  • fashion design, dress-fitting and tailoring
  • indoor portrait photography
  • 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.

Stadia and events

 

Stadia must be closed to spectators.

No live events are permitted.

Sports and exercise

 

A maximum of 2 people, age 12 and over, can meet outdoors for sport and exercise, if they are not from the same household. Children under 12 do not count towards number when meeting outside. 

The members of an individual household or extended household can meet outdoors for sport or exercise.

You can travel for local outdoor sport or exercise such as meeting another person, walking, cycling, golf or running that starts and finishes at the same place (which can be up to 5 miles from the boundary of your local authority area), as long as you abide by the rules on meeting other households.

Indoor sports facilities are closed.

Outdoor gyms can remain open.

Outdoor non-contact sports such as golf and tennis are permitted for all age groups provided this is within a single household group, or the group contains no more than 2 people from 2 different households. Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards this number.

Organised sport and exercise can only take place within a single household group, or a group containing no more than 2 people from 2 different households. Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards this number.

Organised sport and exercise for under-12s can continue in line with workplace and socialising guidance, and sport-specific guidance agreed between the Scottish Governing Body of Sport and sportscotland. Sports providers must ensure they operate in line with the relevant guidance:

Leisure and entertainment

 

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

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

Driving lessons

 

Driving lessons, including motorcycle lessons, must not be held unless all occupants of the vehicle or vehicles are from the same household or extended household.

Moving home / 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 at this time, if possible.

You should search for property online and do viewings virtually in the first instance and only physically view a property which you most likely 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.

You should stay as close to home as possible in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

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 such as libraries will be closed, however, library click and collect services may still operate.

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 and 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 hospitality facilities will be closed.

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:

Worship

 

Places of worship are required to close for worship, but can open for the purposes of leading an act of worship (broadcast or online), conducting a marriage or civil partnership ceremony or a funeral.​​​​​

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.

Christenings, bar mitzvahs and other life events apart from weddings, civil partnerships or funerals should not take place.

Childcare

 

Regulated day care of children services, including nurseries and school age childcare, can only open to children of key workers and vulnerable children. Childminders caring for fewer than 12 children may operate as normal in accordance with Level 4 guidance, (or Level 3 in Island authorities and other designated island communities in Argyll and Bute and Highland).  This will be reviewed on 2 February, with the intention to begin a phased return to in-school learning from mid February.

See:

Informal childcare

Only essential informal childcare is permitted. ​​​Only children should enter the home of another household. Further information is available on the Parent Club website.

Schools

 

At present school buildings are open to provide in-person learning to children of key workers and vulnerable pupils, with remote learning at home for all other children and young people.

This situation will be reviewed on 2 February and we will continue to explore the potential to begin a phased return to in-school learning from mid-February.

Read: school re-opening arrangements

Colleges and universities

 

Colleges and universities can operate using a more restricted mix of face-to-face and distance learning.

Unregulated children’s activities

 

Unregulated activities for parents and children under 5 such as baby and toddler groups that take place outdoors are permitted. They are limited to a maximum of 7 adults and unlimited under 5s.

Outdoor organised activities for children are limited to 15 under 12s which includes a maximum of 2 adult facilitators.

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 www.safer.scot.

Offices, call centres and other workplaces

 

People are strongly advised to work from home wherever that is practicable.

Businesses which 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.

Not all CNI activity will be essential. Those operations which can be done effectively through home working should be adopted.

Outdoor workplaces, construction, manufacturing, veterinary services and film and TV production can also remain open. They should plan for the minimum number of people needed on site to operate safely and effectively.

Home visits by tradespeople should only be for essential services.

Visiting hospitals

 

Visiting care homes

 
  • visiting a loved one in care homes is classed as essential travel – exempt from travel restrictions
  • indoors: essential visits only
  • outdoors: visits to the care home to see loved ones via garden or window visits, arranged with care home in advance. As a result of the additional risk posed by the new variant, garden visits should now be limited to one visitor and visits by children and young people should be suspended.

Read more: care home visiting guidance

Shielding

 

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.

Shopping

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 (with the exception of those provided by local authorities) must close other than for the provision of handover services. 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

Easy read version 

First published: 19 Jan 2021 Last updated: 21 Jan 2021 -