Coronavirus - what it means for you
We'll update our advice to help you understand any changes when they apply to you.
On this page:
- Health advice
- If you're on the shielding list
- Local support if you can't leave your home
- Protection levels
- Meeting people
- Check if you need to cover your face
- Watching out for coronavirus scams
- If you have less money because of coronavirus
- Going to work
- Childcare and schools
- If you're at college or university
- If you're planning to travel abroad
- Rules about travelling within the UK
- If you think shops are acting unfairly or not following physical distancing rules
Coronavirus causes the illness called COVID-19. There are things you can do to avoid getting coronavirus and stop it spreading. Read the latest advice about symptoms, social distancing and testing on NHS inform.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate for ten days from the day your symptoms started and book a test. You can book a test online on NHS inform or by calling the free NHS inform helpline on 0800 028 2816. You and your household should self-isolate while you wait for your test and the result.
If you test positive for COVID-19, a contact-tracing team will be in touch to ask for details of anyone you’ve had close contact with. This is called contact tracing. Your close contacts and everyone in your household will be asked to self-isolate for ten days from the last day they had contact with you. Check the contact tracing guidance on NHS inform.
There's also specific advice for:
- unpaid carers - check the Scottish government advice for unpaid carers
- older people - check Age Scotland's advice or phone their helpline on 0800 12 44 222, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
If you don't have symptoms of COVID-19 but want general information, phone the free NHS inform helpline on 0800 028 2816. The helpline is open every day from 8am to 10pm.
Overseas visitors to Scotland don't have to pay to be diagnosed or treated for coronavirus on the NHS, whatever their residence status. Read about healthcare for overseas visitors on NHS inform.
Caring for your mental health
It’s important to take care of your mental health, and support is available to help you. Get information on supporting your mental well-being on NHS inform.
The Clear your head website has ideas and resources to support your mental well-being.
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis and you already get help from your GP, phone your GP or care team first. If you can’t talk to them, call 111 to speak to NHS 24.
You can follow the same rules as others in your local council area. But the Scottish government has said that if you live or work in a level 4 area and you can’t work from home, you shouldn’t go to work.
There’s advice about shielding in different protection levels in the shielding guidance on mygov.scot.
If you can't leave your home, for example because you're self-isolating, you can call the Scottish government's national assistance helpline on 0800 111 4000, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
The helpline will connect you with your local council for support getting food and medicine, social work services, emotional support and support from local volunteer groups.
The helpline is for anyone who doesn't have help from family, friends or neighbours and who can't access help online.
Find out more about the help you can get on the Ready Scotland website.
If you've been asked to self-isolate by the Test and Protect service, you might be able to get help from your local self-isolation assistance service. Contact tracers will ask if you want your local council to phone you to see if you need help while you’re self-isolating. This might be getting food or medicine or help applying for a self-isolation grant.
The local self-isolation assistance service is for people who are at higher risk, like people who are on the shielding list, over 70 years old, disabled or on low incomes.
There are five protection levels for different parts of Scotland – also called tiers.
The protection levels are 0, 1, 2, 3 and 4.
The rules you have to follow depend on the level in your local council area. You can check the level where you live using the Scottish government protection level checker.
All of mainland Scotland, Arran, Bute and Skye are in level 4. The law says you must stay at home except for essential purposes. Find out what you can and can’t do in the Scottish government's stay at home guidance.
Other parts of Scotland are in level 3. Find out what you can and can’t do in the Scottish government's level 3 guidance.
The rules you have to follow about meeting people depend on the protection level in your local council area. Some of the rules for meeting others are different for children and young people.
Find out more about the rules for meeting people and extended households.
The police have powers to enforce these rules, including breaking up large gatherings or fining people.
The rules in other parts of the UK might be different, so you should follow the rules for the part of the UK you're in.
If you need to self-isolate because you or someone in your household has symptoms of COVID-19, or you're a contact of someone who has tested positive, you must stay at home. Check the Scottish government guidance on how to self-isolate.
If your partner or family member makes you feel anxious or threatened
You can still get help during this time. You can call Scotland’s Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0800 027 1234 or check the Safer.Scot website.
Read our advice about domestic abuse and where to get help.
By law, most people in Scotland aged five or over must wear a face covering in most indoor public places, including:
- shops and services - including takeaways, estate agents, beauty parlours, banks, post offices, cinemas, community centres and libraries
- restaurants and cafés - when you're entering, leaving or going to the toilet
- leisure centres - including fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools and skating rinks
- public transport - like buses, trains, subways, trams and planes as well as taxis and private-hire vehicles
- transport buildings - bus stations, railways stations, airports and ferry terminals
- ferries - unless it's completely outdoors or you can stay two metres away from other people
- places of worship - including churches and mosques
- tourist attractions - like aquariums, indoor zoos, museums and galleries
- crematoriums - and funeral directors' premises.
You must wear a face covering in indoor communal areas in workplaces, like canteens or corridors.
Pupils and adults might need to wear a face covering in school and on school transport. Check the rules on wearing a face covering in school.
Check the Scottish government guidance on face coverings for a full list of indoor places where you must wear a face covering.
When you don't need a face covering
Some people don't have to wear a face covering, like police officers or paramedics on duty and drivers who sit behind screens.
If you don't wear a face covering when you should, the police can fine you. But you might have a reasonable excuse not to cover your face, for example if:
- a health condition or disability means that wearing a face covering would cause you difficulty, pain or severe distress or anxiety
- you need to eat, drink or take medication
- you need to communicate with someone who lip-reads
- you’re exercising, for example in a gym
- a police officer asks you to remove it.
You should explain your reason for not wearing a face covering. The police will decide whether this is reasonable.
You can get an exemption card if you’re disabled or have a health condition that means you can’t wear a face covering. You don’t need to have a card, but you can get one if it would make you feel more comfortable or confident. Get a card by filling in the Disability Equality Scotland online form or call the free helpline on 0800 121 6240.
What to cover your face with
Your face covering needs to cover both your nose and mouth. It could be something like a scarf or a cloth mask you've made yourself. Religious face coverings that cover your mouth and nose count too.
You don't have to wear a surgical or medical mask like those used by doctors and nurses.
After wearing a face covering, you'll need to wash it at 60 degrees or put it in the bin.
To avoid coronavirus scams, you should:
- only use trusted information about coronavirus - like NHS inform
- be wary of emails, social media messages or texts about coronavirus, especially from people you don't know
- avoid clicking on links to buy products or donate money if you're not sure it's safe
- not give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know and trust – for example, if someone knocks on your door and offers to help
- be wary of contact tracing calls and texts. Check NHS inform’s contact tracing guidance to find out more, including how they’ll contact you and what information you’ll be asked to give.
If you have less money because of coronavirus, help is available. You might be able to:
- increase your income - for example, by claiming benefits
- reduce your bills - for example, by getting a council tax reduction.
You might be able to claim benefits like Universal Credit, or get more money if you’re already getting benefits. This includes any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) your employer might give you.
It’s important to apply as soon as you can. Don’t be put off by longer wait times.
If you’re already getting benefits, check if the government has made changes to your benefits.
Help with bills like rent and council tax
You might have less money to pay your rent, mortgage, energy bills, council tax or court fines. You can check what help you can get if you're struggling to pay your bills or are worried about being evicted.
If you can't pay your council tax
If you can't pay your council tax, check with your council if they can be flexible about your payments because of coronavirus. Find your local council on mygov.scot.
If your property has been left unoccupied by people who were already exempt, for example students, because of coronavirus, you could get an exemption. Check with your local council.
You might be eligible for a council tax reduction if your income has dropped or if you started claiming benefits recently. Use our check my council tax tool to see if you can reduce your bill.
If you need help with food and energy
If you need urgent help to pay for essentials like food, gas or electricity, you can apply to your local council for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund.
The council will check your eligibility. You can apply even if you've had crisis grants before. Check our advice on applying for a crisis grant.
When you're ready to apply, find your local council on mygov.scot.
You can also check our advice about foodbanks and other emergency help.
The Scottish government has said you should only go to work if it's not possible for you to work from home. In level 4 areas, this is the law.
If you're a key worker, check NHS inform advice for key workers.
Being furloughed if you can't work
If your work has shut down or there's no work because of coronavirus, your employer might use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to pay you. This is known as being 'furloughed'.
Find out what benefits you can get if you're self-isolating.
If you need to look after your children or someone else
You might be able to get paid time off work, or your employer might make changes so you can do your job flexibly. If you're looking after a child who has been asked to self-isolate, you might be able to get a self-isolation support grant. Check your options if you need to change how you work to care for someone.
If you're off work because you're on the shielding list
In level 0 to 3 areas, Scottish government guidance says you can go to work if you can't work from home and your workplace is safe enough.
In level 4 areas, if you can't work from home, you shouldn't go to work.
If working from home isn't possible, you can ask your employer if they'll furlough you - find out more about being furloughed.
If your employer doesn’t furlough you, check if you can get Statutory Sick Pay.
If you're a social care worker and you were shielding between March and October 2020
If you’re a social care worker and you weren’t furloughed when you were shielding between March and October 2020, you could get a lump sum back payment. This could be the difference between any sick pay you got and 80% of your normal wages.
You’re a social care worker if you work in the social care sector - for example, if you work in:
- a care home
- offender accommodation
- housing support
- someone's own home as a personal assistant.
If you’re getting any benefits such as Universal Credit, you’ll need to check if the payment will affect your benefits. Contact your local bureau to see if you’ll be better or worse off getting the payment. An adviser can do a better off calculation for you.
Find out more about the Social Care Staff Support Fund and apply on the Inspiring Scotland website.
If you're worried about going to work because of coronavirus
In level 4 areas, you must work from home if you can. The law says your employer must help you to work from home wherever possible. Read more about working from home on the Scottish government website.
If you can't work from home, there are things your employer should do to make sure you're safe.
You and your employer can use the Scottish government's risk assessment guidance and tool to start a discussion about what your risk from coronavirus might be. This will help you understand the risk to you based on your age, gender, ethnicity, weight and any underlying health conditions.
You don't have to use the guidance and tool, and it doesn't replace an assessment from a doctor or occupational health specialist.
If you decide not to work, there might be ways to keep getting paid.
If you're worried about working and you’re pregnant or disabled, there might be other things your employer has to do.
Check what to do if you’re worried about working.
You might be eligible for support from the UK government's Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Check if you're eligible for self-employed support.
Financial support for businesses
There are details of financial support for businesses from the UK government on GOV.UK.
For the latest updates from the Scottish government, check the Find Business Support website.
You can also call the Scottish government helpline on 0300 303 0660, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm.
The Scottish government has announced changes that affect childcare and schools.
Until 1 February, nurseries and other formal childcare settings can open only to children of key workers and vulnerable children. The Scottish government might change these rules, so stay in contact with your child's care provider.
The rules for informal childcare will depend on what protection level you’re in. You can check your local area’s level using the Scottish government protection level checker.
All of mainland Scotland, Arran, Bute and Skye are in level 4. You should only get a friend or family member from another household to look after your child if it's essential - for example, you're a key worker and need informal childcare to allow you to go to work.
If you're in a level 3 area, a friend or family member from another household can look after your child if necessary. They can only look after children from one household at a time.
Going to school and online learning
For most primary and secondary school children, online learning will last until 29 January.
Schools are open for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
Get more information from your local council, or child’s school or nursery. Find your local council on mygov.scot.
Unless you're exempt, face coverings should be worn:
- in primary schools – by adults moving around the school, for example in corridors and common areas
- in secondary schools - by adults and all pupils moving around the school, for example in corridors and common areas
- on school transport - by all children aged five or over travelling to and from primary or secondary school
- by parents, carers and visitors – when on school grounds, indoors and outdoors. This includes when you’re dropping off or picking up your child.
In secondary schools in level 3 or 4, pupils in S4-S6 and their teachers should wear a face covering in class. Other pupils don’t have to wear a face covering in class, but you can if you want to.
If you or your child has symptoms of COVID-19
If you or your child has symptoms of coronavirus, you should book a test straight away and self-isolate. This means you shouldn't send your child to school or nursery.
If the test result is negative, your household can stop self-isolating. Anyone with a positive test result should check the self-isolation guidance on NHS inform.
If someone at school tests positive for COVID-19
If your child is a close contact of someone at school who has tested positive for coronavirus, they might have to self-isolate for ten days. A local Test and Protect team will tell you if your child needs to self-isolate.
Check your local council website for information on what will happen if there’s a confirmed case of COVID-19 in school. Find your local council on mygov.scot.
If you need to take time off to look after your children, speak to your employer. Read more about taking time off to look after children.
Each college and university is responsible for making decisions about its higher education courses and exams. Check their website for information for students.
Check Student Information Scotland’s coronavirus update for information on how coronavirus affects students, including student accommodation and hardship payments.
You can only leave Scotland if it's essential. You can check the list of essential reasons in the Scottish government's guidance on international travel.
If you need to travel abroad for an essential reason, you should check if:
- the country is allowing people from the UK to enter
- the country is on the list of places that are not a high risk to travellers. The list might change at short notice, including while you’re abroad. Read the latest travel guidance on GOV.UK
- you need a negative COVID-19 test result to travel to the UK - check the Scottish government's international travel guidance
- you need to self-isolate when you get back to the UK. Check the rules on entering the UK from abroad
- your travel insurance covers medical and travel problems caused by coronavirus.
If you travel to a country that the UK government considers high risk, your insurance policy might not be valid.
Travelling without valid travel insurance is a big risk. For example, you might have to pay all of your medical costs if you get ill or have an accident. If you need to buy travel insurance or make a claim, check our advice about travel insurance.
If you've booked a holiday
Check what your travel agent, airline or accommodation provider says about your booking.
If your booking is cancelled because of coronavirus, contact the company you booked with. You have the right to a refund, or you can choose to rebook the holiday for another time.
You can also find out what to do if your package holiday is cancelled.
If you need more help, you can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
If your visa is ending and you can't leave the UK
If your visa expires between 1 December 2020 and 31 January 2021, you can ask for extra time to stay in the UK. This is called ‘exceptional assurance’.
Contact the Home Office if you can't leave by 31 January, for example because:
- you have a medical condition which makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus – check if you’re extremely vulnerable on NHS inform
- the country you need to go to won't let you in because of coronavirus
- you can't arrange travel in time.
You should contact the Home Office using the contact details on GOV.UK. You'll need to show evidence of why you can't leave in time.
Mainland Scotland, Arran, Bute and Skye are in level 4. Other parts of Scotland are in level 3. You can check your local area's level using the Scottish government protection level checker.
It's against the law to travel into or out of a level 3 or 4 area, except if you have a reasonable excuse - like work, caring for someone or fleeing domestic abuse. This includes travel from a level 3 area to another level 3 area, or from one level 4 area to another level 4 area.
If you’ve formed an extended household, or 'support bubble', you can still meet people in your bubble. You can travel to meet them if they live in a different area or protection level, but think carefully if this is the best thing to do. The government says you should stay local.
The police can stop you to check why you’re travelling.
There are rules about travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.
Find out more about the rules and reasons you can travel on the Scottish government website.
If you think shops are acting unfairly or not following physical distancing rules
If you’re worried a business isn’t being fair with their prices or is acting illegally, you can report them to Trading Standards. Trading Standards might not reply to your complaint.
Check which businesses should be closed and the extra rules for bars, restaurants and cafés in the Scottish government's protection level guidance.
If a business is open when it shouldn't be, or isn't following physical distancing rules, you can report it to your local council. Find your local council on mygov.scot.