Staying Safe & Protecting Others

Thanks to the vaccination programme, Test and Protect, and the efforts of everyone across the country, Scotland is moving beyond the Protection Levels system. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is not over and we must continue to focus on  suppressing the virus to a level consistent with alleviating its harms while we recover and rebuild for a better future.

We understand that some people may feel anxious about the easing of restrictions – particularly those who cannot have the vaccine or are more vulnerable to the impacts of the virus. Even those who have been double vaccinated can still catch, transmit and fall ill from the virus.  We strongly encourage everyone to take up the offer of a vaccine in order to protect others at high risk as well as themselves.

This guidance is intended to provide further detail on the principles we should all follow to help us keep each other safe. Some of these measures are legal requirements, which will be kept under regular review to ensure they remain necessary and proportionate. Specific sectoral guidance is available where appropriate.

We are grateful for all of those individuals and businesses who have already sacrificed so much to support Scotland’s recovery, and also to our NHS and many other workers and volunteers.

What we need to do to keep safe

Vaccinations and Test and Protect

The best protection we have against COVID-19 is vaccination. NHS Scotland strongly recommends that you attend your vaccine appointments when offered, this includes any booster vaccine which may be available. Further information on COVID-19 vaccines can be found at NHS Inform.

Test and Protect will evolve as we progress to the next stages of the pandemic. The contact tracing system continues to trace the contacts of people with COVID-19 and ensure they isolate, if appropriate, with support available from their local authority. Everyone with a smartphone is encouraged to download the Protect Scotland app and ensure it is active.

Download the Protect Scotland app. This will help identify times where you may have been in contact with the virus and can advise when self-isolation may be necessary.

If you begin to display symptoms or suspect you have been in contact with the virus, you must self-isolate and get tested. Regular testing allows the pandemic to be tracked across the country and allows for intervention if necessary. Everyone in Scotland can get free rapid Lateral Flow Devices for at home testing.

You should self-isolate and stay at home if you display any of the symptoms of COVID-19: a high temperature, a new continuous cough or the loss or change in your sense of taste and smell.


Beyond Level 0, the requirement to self-isolate as a close contact of a positive case has changed for fully vaccinated individuals, as long as you remain asymptomatic.

You do not need to self-isolate as a close contact if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • you are fully vaccinated and 14 days has passed since your second dose of vaccination
  • you have taken a negative PCR test since being advised to isolate as a close contact. You must remain in self-isolation while awaiting the result of the PCR test result
  • you do not develop COVID-19 symptoms. If symptoms develop at any stage, you must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test, in line with existing arrangements

Adults who are not fully vaccinated must continue to self-isolate for 10 days if identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive. If you are not fully vaccinated, receiving a negative PCR test result after identification as a close contact does not permit you to leave self-isolation.

People who test positive must still self-isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, or from the date of the positive test if displaying no symptoms.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): getting tested in Scotland

If a young person aged 5 to 17 is identified as a close contact, they will need to take a PCR test – but they can end their self-isolation if they test negative. Close contacts under the age of 5 will be encouraged to take a PCR test. However there is no requirement on under 5s to self-isolate provided they do not develop symptoms. Further guidance will be made available for school pupils.

Face coverings

Although vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19, no vaccine is 100 percent effective and we know that even those vaccinated can get the virus. Clinical and public health advice is clear that face coverings continue to be an effective way of stopping transmission.

Unless exempt for specific circumstances, the law says you must wear a face covering in most indoor public places including public transport.

The Scottish Government recommends that face coverings should be worn when moving around when it is crowded. This is encouraged for busy outdoor events.

Children under 12 are exempt from any requirement to wear face coverings, but can, of course continue to choose to do so. It is recommended that, in the case of the small number of children already attending secondary school before their 12th birthday, they are encouraged to follow the same rules that apply to those aged 12 and over to align with their peer group.

Guidance for Education and Early Learning Centres (ELC) is available further down this page.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): face coverings guidance


The evidence shows that good ventilation is an important tool in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, especially for spaces which might otherwise be confined or particularly busy. We would advise the following:

  • open windows or doors to let fresh air in
  • travel in cars, trains, and buses with windows open
  • if possible, meet outdoors instead of indoors

We are looking at a range of options to support improvements in ventilation.

CO2 monitors can help identify poor air quality and prompt action to improve the air.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): ventilation guidance

Hand hygiene and surface cleaning

Hand hygiene should continue to be maintained to a high standard and hand sanitiser be made available in public spaces if possible.  This will help reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, as well as other illnesses or infectious diseases.

It is also important to continue cleaning surfaces regularly, for example, restaurants should ensure tables are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised in between customers.

If needing to sneeze, or cough, around other people, sneeze into a tissue, handkerchief or your elbow to minimise the chance of spreading illness.

HPS Website - Hand hygiene (

Keep your distance if you can

There is now no legal requirement for physical distancing and no limit on the numbers of people who can gather together to socialise.

Even though the law has changed, it’s important people keep thinking about how the virus can be transmitted. This is particularly important for those who may be vulnerable and those who are yet to be fully vaccinated.  We would encourage people and businesses to think about how best to use the space available.

Public facing businesses

Many public facing and private businesses across the country have established excellent practices in terms of mitigating risk of COVID-19. The Scottish Government is advising businesses to keep these practices in place such as screens, queue management and having robust processes in place for managing outbreaks.


Local licensing laws will apply to all hospitality though the mandatory collection of contact details remains in place.  There is no requirement to wear a mask while seated at a table or while eating or drinking (whether seated or standing).  However, to help reduce transmission risks and protect staff and customers, we would strongly encourage the use of table service where possible, alternatively a takeaway service may also be provided.

Cultural venues, stadia and live events

We fully understand and appreciate the challenges faced by venues and settings across the cultural sector and the live events industry. However, the Delta variant and the continued higher rates of prevalence mean we must, at this moment, remain cautious about people gathering together in large numbers. The risk is not just within a venue or setting but also in the associated increase in people travelling or attending nearby hospitality.

Outdoor events are considered safer than indoor events but there will still be points of constriction, around entrances/exits or communal facilities for example.

Outdoor events must be limited to 5000 attendees but exemptions may be sought through the existing local authority exemption process.

Indoor events will be limited to 2000 attendees but similarly may follow the existing exemptions process for higher numbers.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) stadia and live events guidance

Nightclubs and adult entertainment

In line with other hospitality venues, nightclubs, discos, dance halls and adult entertainment venues may now reopen subject to the requirements for face coverings and the mandatory collection of customer details.  Masks may be removed for dancing, as well as for eating and drinking under the allowed exemptions.

Weddings, funerals, civil partnerships and other milestone events

There are no restrictions remaining on how many people may attend significant life or milestone events

There do however remain requirements for face coverings to be worn at such events, with exemptions from this during the ceremony for the  person leading the funeral service, marriage ceremony or civil partnership, the person providing the eulogy at a funeral, the couple getting married or entering a civil partnership, and guests accompanying one of the parties getting married or entering a civil partnership down the aisle.  There are also exemptions when eating and drinking or dancing at weddings.

Schools and early learning

New guidance has been put in place for the return to education after the summer break covering self-isolation for school pupils and requirements for face coverings.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on reducing the risks in schools

Flexible working practices

The removal of restrictions more generally means that people who have been able to work remotely can begin to return to their office or other place of work.  However, working from home, where appropriate and possible, will continue to be an important mitigation for controlling the virus as it reduces the movement and interaction of a lot of people on a regular basis which is how the virus transmits.

Where practical, we are encouraging employers to facilitate flexible working practices based on discussions with their staff and unions where appropriate. This may mean more of a hybrid approach to work, allowing both home and office-based working. This would maintain the wellbeing benefits many have found while working from home, but also allow options for those who are keen to return to an office environment. Staggered office hours or a mixture of commuting and non-commuting days would also ease pressure on rush hour traffic and public transport, thereby further reducing risks of COVID-19 transmission.

Employers, businesses and organisations should maintain or develop effective processes to manage outbreaks in a workplace or public setting as part of their COVID-19 risk assessments.

International travel

We have retained some border controls to help protect against the risk of importing new strains of the virus from abroad.  Please check travel advice before travelling for up-to-date information, please see further advice and guidance on international travel and managed isolation.

Further information and guidance

We recognise that this is a challenging time and that some people will need extra support. If you’re looking for some additional support for yourself or someone you know, a list of organisations who may be able to offer help and advice can be found on the Ready Scotland website.

For business advice and support please check the Find Business Support website, or call 0300 3030 0660 (Open Monday-Friday, 8:30am - 5:30pm, select Option 1).

Future plans

We anticipate that it may be necessary to keep some precautionary measures in place until early 2022, in order to help manage the increased pressure the NHS will face over the winter period. However we will review the position every 3 weeks to ensure any measures remain necessary and proportionate.

Source: Scottish Government