Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Last updated: 17 Feb 2022 - 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
Update 22 February 2022: a staged approach to easing protective measures and lifting the remaining legal restrictions has been announced. Read more

Evidence shows that you can catch COVID-19 even if you’ve been vaccinated, or had it before. 

Measures and guidance are in place to help slow down the spread of the virus keeping as many businesses and services open as possible, and reduce pressure on health services.

To help protect yourself and others

You should also follow other rules and guidance on how to stay safe set out in more detail below.

More information and advice

Meeting people 


There are no limits on the number of people or households you can meet at home and in public places.

But to reduce your risk:

  • take care when socalisiing - try to keep gatherings small
  • 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



Retailers should follow and implement the rules and guidance to ensure the safety of customers and staff. Mitigations should be put in place, such as:

  • wherever possible put in place separate entrance and exits to help control the flow of customers
  • provide and maintain hygiene stations and enhanced cleaning measures
  • use tannoy systems, signs, floor markings and queue management systems to help people to distance from others particularly at potential pinch-points of congregation like tills
  • promoting the use of face coverings
  • using screens to create a physical barrier between people, for example at till points and self-service checkouts
  • maximising fresh air coming into the premises

Read more:

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
  • if you don’t have symptoms take regular lateral flow tests – especially before mixing with other people
  • you must wear a face covering when you go into any retail premises including any indoor area of a shopping centre, unless exempt, you should also wear a face covering in crowded outdoor spaces - read the face covering guidance
  • maintain a safe distance from other people - don’t lean over other people to get access to items
  • follow direction signs, customer flow systems and shop capacities as indicated by the retailer

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, many stores have adjusted opening times which may allow greater opportunity to shop at quieter times
  • shop alone, if possible, unless accompanying a vulnerable person or a child/children under 18
  • visit stores that are using infection control measures and use the available hand sanitiser and sanitising stations
  • 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

Eating, drinking and going out (hospitality)


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

You should think carefully about unnecessary contacts with other people just now, especially in crowded places – for example, it would be sensible be cautious with social interactions keeping your gatherings to the smallest number possible.

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)

You may be asked to show your COVID status (passport) in some venues.

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:

  • taking steps to manage queues
  • gathering contact information

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

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.

Find out about the vaccine, including the booster and third dose vaccinations, on the NHS Inform website.

COVID certification scheme (covid passports)

If you are attending certain venues and events you will need to provide proof of:

  • vaccination - or
  • a negative test within the last 24 hours
  • or you are exempt

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

Changes to the certification scheme 

The COVID certification scheme remains in place with two changes:

  • organisers of large events of 1000 people or more should check the vaccination certification status of at least 50% of the attendees rather than 20% which was the previous number to be checked or at least 1,000 people - whichever figure is the highest
  • when getting their status checked to attend an event or seek entry to late night premises, most people will be classed as ‘fully vaccinated’ under the scheme if they have either:
    had their second dose within the last 120 days, but no less than 14 days ago or​​​​​​
    a booster vaccination if their second dose was more than 120, but not less than 10 days ago

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.

Organised activities for children

You do not need to wear a face covering when interacting directly with children under five.

See the guidance on face coverings for more information.

Visiting people in care homes and hospitals


People in hospital and care homes are more vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Individual visits in care homes should continue. Group sizes and numbers will be advised by care home staff taking into account of size of visiting area and other factors. You should take a lateral flow test before every visit to a care home.

National guidance sets out that hospital visiting should continue with appropriate protections. You should take a lateral flow test before every hospital visit.

Other precautions are also important:

  • face coverings must also be worn inside (unless exempt)
  • physical distancing remains an important precaution and the greater the distance, the greater the protection

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

Check information on planning foreign travel, quarantine rules and testing for people entering Scotland.

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.

These events, and their associated receptions and gatherings, can go ahead as planned.

There are no formal physical distancing requirements at weddings, civil partnerships and funerals. Those attending these events should continue to do all they can to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19 by following all other measures such as complying with the requirement to wear face coverings unless exempt, practicing good hand hygiene, taking lateral flow tests before attending the event and maintaining physical distancing where they can.

Other life events

Life events which form part of an act of worship (such as christenings, bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs) can continue to take place now.

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 one 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 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:

For business advice and support:

  • check the Find Business Support website
  • call 0300 3030 0660 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5:30pm, select option one)

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.

Schools, education and childcare


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 one 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 one 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 one 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 two 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 safe use of places of worship.

Going to work


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

Employers are being encouraged to look at options for flexible working, in discussion with staff and unions, to help keep the virus under control. This could be by supporting staff to:

  • continue working from home
  • do a mixture of home and office working

There are other things that employers can do to help, such as introducing staggered office hours.

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

Read the guidance for making workplaces safe.

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.


Self-isolation advice, including who needs to self-isolate, how long self-isolation should last, and how to book a test, can be found at Coronavirus (COVID-19): Self-isolation guidance for individuals with possible coronavirus infection on NHS Inform.

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.

You may consider:

  • limiting close contact with other people outside your household, especially in enclosed spaces
  • wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and where you cannot maintain physical distancing
  • limiting contact with anyone who is at highest risk
  • not visiting people in care homes or hospitals until 10 days after contact with a positive case, unless essential and agreed with care home or hospital staff in advance
  • taking part in lateral flow device testing, beyond any required LFD tests in what would have been your isolation period
  • if you work in health and social care, you should follow the guidance specific to these settings

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.

Children's organised activities


Under 12s

Organisers should ensure they operate in line with the relevant guidance.

To help reduce the risk of transmission coaches, leaders and anyone attending these types of activities to spectate should:

  • wear face coverings (unless exempt) when indoors, unless exercising
  • take lateral flow tests before attending, especially if you will be mixing with people from other households, children aged under 11 do not need to do rapid tests
  • follow the guidance and instructions in place for the venue which might include using one way systems, hygiene measures and ventilation

Read more:

12 to 17 year olds

To help reduce the risk of transmission coaches, leaders and anyone attending these types of activities to participate or spectate should:

  • wear face coverings when indoors, unless exercising or are exempt – read the face coverings guidance
  • take lateral flow tests before attending activities, especially if you will be mixing with people from other households
  • follow the guidance and instructions in place for the venue which might include using one way systems, hygiene measures and ventilation

Read more:

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


First published: 24 Aug 2021 Last updated: 17 Feb 2022 -