Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying safe and protecting others

Last updated: 7 Dec 2021 - see all updates
Published: 24 Aug 2021

Rules and guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

24 Aug 2021
Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying safe and protecting others

To help protect yourself and others:

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More information and advice

Vaccination (including vaccine certificates)


One of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves and others against COVID-19 is to get the vaccine.

If you haven't had your vaccine yet you can:

Coronavirus vaccine certificates

Coronavirus vaccine certificates (or passports) are needed to get into certain venues and events. 

You can download the NHS Scotland Covid Status app or get a paper record of your vaccine status from NHS Inform.

Check the vaccine certification scheme guidance for businesses and event organisers and for customers.

Face coverings 


By law, you must wear a face covering (unless exempt) in indoor public places. This includes:

  • shops
  • venues like bars and cafes
  • visitor attractions
  • public transport

You are also advised to wear a face covering outdoors in crowded places.

Children under 12 don't have to wear a face covering - but any children attending secondary school before their 12th birthday are advised to follow the same rules at school as those aged 12 and over.

You can still catch and pass on the virus, even if you have been vaccinated. Wearing a face covering helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Check the guidance on face coverings.

Meeting people and physical distancing


There are no limits on the number of people or households you can meet at home and in public places, and you no longer need to stay 2 metres apart from others.

But to reduce your risk:

  • keep a safe distance from people not in your household, especially indoors – the greater the distance the greater the protection
  • meet outdoors if possible, as this is safer than meeting indoors
  • avoid crowded places
  • open windows if you meet inside - the more fresh air you let in the safer it will be

Travel and tourism


You must wear a face covering (unless exempt) on public transport.

If you are travelling to a Scottish island you are advised to take a COVID-19 test before you travel.


International travel

Some controls on travel remain in place to help reduce the risk of importing new strains of the virus from abroad.

 If you’re planning to travel abroad you must check:

  • the rules for the country territory you are travelling to - foreign travel advice by country is on
  • whether a country you’re travelling to is on the red list
  • what you need to do when you arrive back in Scotland


Eating, drinking and going out (hospitality)


All hospitality venues including pubs, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs can open.

When you visit the above places, you’ll need to provide your contact details or use the Check In Scotland app.

You must also wear a face covering indoors unless you are:

  • eating or drinking (whilst seated or standing)
  • dancing (for example, in a nightclub)

Businesses must follow the guidance for the hospitality sector. This provides advice on how to reduce the risk for staff and customers, for example by:

  • providing table or takeaway service
  • taking steps to manage queues

If you run a hospitality businesses you should follow the hospitality guidance.

Weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events



There are no limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships and funerals. This is also the case for other life events such as christenings, anniversary celebrations, bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs.

Face coverings


Face coverings must be worn by everyone (unless exempt) during the ceremony/service part of weddings, civil partnerships and funerals apart from:

  • the person carrying out the ceremony or service, or providing the eulogy
  • the wedding couple

You may only remove a face covering in these circumstances if you can stay 1 metre away from other people or are separated by a screen or partition.

If one of the couple marrying or entering a civil partnership is being accompanied down the aisle, both they and the guest (or guests) accompanying them, do not need to wear a face covering at this point in the ceremony.

You may temporarily remove your face covering to eat or drink as part of a religious rite, or to take an occasional drink of water. But you should put your covering back on as soon as possible, and not keep it off for the entire ceremony or service.​​​

Receptions and funeral wakes

Everyone must wear a face covering at wedding receptions, funeral wakes and other events held in hospitality venues, but may remove it if:

  • eating or drinking (either seating or standing)
  • dancing (during wedding receptions and parties)

Businesses, venues and workplaces


All businesses and venues such as nightclubs can open.

Many businesses have already taken steps to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we would advise this to continue.

This includes things like:

  • enhanced cleaning
  • physical distancing measures such as screens and queue management (in the case of public-facing businesses)
  • processes for managing outbreaks
  • improved ventilation

All businesses and workplaces should follow the principles set out in the safer workplace guidance, and carry out regular risk-assessments. This replaces much of the previous sector specific guidance.

Businesses should also follow advice on ensuring good ventilation in their premises.

 Specific guidance is still available for some sectors including:

See all sector guidance.

For business advice and support:

  • check the Find Business Support website
  • call 0300 3030 0660 (Monday-Friday, 8:30am - 5:30pm, select Option 1)

Fresh air and ventilation


Fresh air helps to stop COVID-19 particles from spreading.

Letting plenty of fresh air into our homes, schools, businesses and workplaces is one of the main things we can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Remember to:

  • meet outdoors if possible
  • open windows or doors if meeting inside
  • open windows where possible when travelling in cars, buses and trains

Check the guidance on improving ventilation which contains guidance for households and businesses.



 To help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 you should:

  • wash your hands or use hand sanitiser regularly
  • clean surfaces regularly, for example restaurants should ensure tables are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised between customers
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze

This is particularly important if you are at higher risk and/or yet to be fully vaccinated.

If you were on the shielding list


If you were previously on the shielding list you can follow the same rules as others.

You can find more information in the guidance for people at the highest risk.

Going to work


Your employer has a responsibility to carry out regular risk assessments and take steps to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace.

Over these coming winter months, to help reduce transmission, you should work from home if possible.

Some employers have already been working with employees and unions to plan a gradual return to offices and other places of work. However at this time, given the uncertainty around the Omicron COVID-19 variant, employers are being encouraged to support a greater degree of working from home than pre-COVID-19 and businesses should consider at this time whether staff need to be in an office at all.

Where staff do need to be in a workplace, businesses should ensure all appropriate measures are in place to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID.

For example you must wear a face covering in indoor communal areas of workplaces, like canteens and corridors, unless you can be 1 metre apart from other people.

Read the guidance for making workplaces safe.

Schools, education and childcare


Information for parents and carers is on the Parent Club website.

Guidance is available to help reduce the risk in:

Events and performances


Events like music concerts and live sport can take place but anyone over the age of 18, who wants to go to a large event - or to a late night venue - will need to show evidence that they are fully vaccinated, or evidence that they are exempt.

Event organisers should look at how to make them as safe as possible, including using outdoor space and encouraging people to keep a safe distance from others.

Face coverings

Performers such as actors, musicians and choir members

Performers such as actors, musicians and choir members must wear a face covering when rehearsing or performing indoors. They may remove it if:

  • they stay 1 metre away from other people, or
  • there is a partition between them and others, or
  • it is not possible to wear a face covering  because this would negatively affect the performance or rehearsal - but performers must still be 1 metre away from members of the audience

Presenting, addressing a public gathering, making a speech or being a panel member

People who are presenting, addressing a public gathering, making a speech or being a panel member (for example at a conference) must wear a face covering indoors. They may remove it if:

  • they stay 1 metre away from other people, or
  • there is a partition between them and others

The exemption allowing performers to remove their face covering if it is not possible to distance or use a partition does not apply to people who are presenting.

See: guidance on safer operation of culture venues during COVID-19

Places of worship (including choirs)


There are no limits on the number of people who can attend places of worship.

You need to wear a face covering in these settings.  

Choirs and bands can perform without a face covering (but only with 1 metre distancing or a partition between other performers/audience in place) but you should wear a face covering if singing as part of a congregation.

Read the guidance for places of worship.

Hospitals, doctors surgeries and dentists


When you go to NHS health settings like hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and dentists you should still try to keep a distance from others where possible and follow any signs or recommendations in place. 

The reason why we’re continuing to recommend physical distancing in these places is because you're more likely to come into contact with people who are more vulnerable to ill health as a result of COVID-19. Keeping a safe distance helps to control the spread of the virus and protect those at higher risk.

Public buildings and services (including libraries, sports and community centres)


Some services and facilities may still be operating differently than before the pandemic, for example by having reduced hours and booking systems.

You should check with individual services before using them to see if any restrictions are still in place.

Getting tested and self-isolating


Getting tested

If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms you must self-isolate immediately and get tested.

If you don’t have symptoms, we’re encouraging everyone to take regular tests because one in three people who have COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms.

You should take a test at least twice a week and especially if you’re socialising or mixing with other households.

You can order free tests to be delivered to your home.

Find out which test you need when in the testing guidance.


If you are fully vaccinated, the advice on self-isolating for close contacts of positive cases has changed.

You do not need to self-isolate if:

  • you have no COVID-19 symptoms and
  • you have received a negative PCR test result since being advised that you are a close contact of a positive case

You must self-isolate while awaiting the result of the PCR test result. If symptoms develop at any stage, you must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test

If you are not fully vaccinated you must self-isolate for 10 days if identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, and book a PCR test if you develop symptoms.

Check the guidance on self-isolating, explaining who needs to isolate and what support you may be able to get.

Staying safe if you've ended self-isolation

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, you can still get coronavirus and pass it on to others.

If you’re a close contact who can end self-isolation, you can help protect others by following our guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread.

As well as getting a PCR test, you may also consider:

Contact tracing (Test and Protect)

Our contact tracing system Test and Protect traces the contacts of people with confirmed COVID-19 and, if necessary, will advise them to self-isolate.

If you have a smartphone you are advised to keep using or download the Protect Scotland app and ensure it is active.

The app will notify you if you have been in close contact with another app user who tests positive for coronavirus and may need to self-isolate.

You can get more information at the Test and Protect website.

Visiting people in care homes and hospitals


Hospitals and care homes are welcoming visitors as much as possible, while caring for our loved ones.

People in hospital and care homes are more vulnerable to COVID-19 so precautions like distancing are still recommended there. Face coverings must also be worn inside (unless exempt). Physical distancing remains an important precaution and the greater the distance, the greater the protection.

If you are planning on visiting someone in a hospital or care home you should check what specific protection measures are in place before you go.

You can also get general advice on care home visiting at the NHS Inform website.

Help and advice


If you’re looking for some additional support for you or someone you know, you can get more information at the Ready Scotland website.

It's important to use friends, family and neighbours for support if you can. If you do need extra help getting food, medicine, or practical or emotional support, call the free National Assistance Helpline on 0800 111 4000, or text on 0800 111 4114 (Monday-Friday, office hours). This will connect you to your local council. A friend or carer can call or text for you if needed.

Future plans


We expect it will be necessary to keep some precautionary measures in place until early 2022. This is to help manage the increased pressure the NHS will face over the winter period.

However we will review the situation regularly to ensure any measures are still needed.

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First published: 24 Aug 2021 Last updated: 7 Dec 2021 -