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Coronavirus - meeting people

This advice applies to Scotland

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 about meeting people depend on the protection level in your local council area. You can check the level where you live using the Scottish government protection level checker.

The police have powers to enforce these rules, including by breaking up large gatherings or fining people.

Some types of gathering are allowed, for example helping someone to move house, providing care, working or volunteering. 

The rules in other parts of the UK might be different. You should follow the rules for the part of the UK you're in.

Meeting people from other households

All of mainland Scotland, Arran, Bute and Skye are in level 4. By law, you must stay at home except for essential purposes. Find out more about what you can and can’t do in the Scottish government’s stay at home guidance.

The following areas are in level 3:

  • Orkney
  • Shetland
  • the Western Isles
  • the Highland islands - except Skye, which is in level 4
  • the outer Argyll islands.

Find out more about what you can and can't do in the Scottish government’s level 3 guidance.

If your area is at level 0

You can meet in groups of:

  • up to eight people from three households indoors
  • up to 15 people from five households outdoors.

You can go inside other people’s homes, and other people can go inside your home.

Find out more about what you can do, like going to restaurants and playing sport, in the Scottish government’s level 0 guidance.

If your area is at level 1

It's against the law for more than six people, or people from more than two households, to meet socially in an indoor public place like a restaurant, pub or café.

It's against the law for more than eight people, or people from more than three households, to meet socially outdoors.

By law, you must not go inside other people's homes, and other people must not go inside your home.

There are some exceptions. You can still visit inside someone's home if:

  • your two households form an extended household, sometimes called a 'social bubble'
  • you're providing informal childcare, for example looking after your grandchildren
  • you're a tradesperson who needs to carry out work.

Find out more about what you can do, like going to restaurants and playing sport in the Scottish government’s level 1 guidance.

If your area is at level 2

It’s against the law for more than six people, or people from more than two households, to meet socially. This applies both outdoors, in a private garden or a park, and in indoor public places like restaurants, pubs or cafés. 

By law, you must not go inside other people's homes, and other people must not go inside your home.

There are some exceptions. You can still visit inside someone's home if:

  • your two households form an extended household, sometimes called a 'social bubble'
  • you're providing informal childcare, for example looking after your grandchildren
  • you're a tradesperson who needs to carry out work.

Find out more about what you can do, like going to restaurants and playing sport, in the Scottish government’s level 2 guidance.

If your area is at level 3

It’s against the law for more than six people, or people from more than two households, to meet socially. This applies both outdoors, in a private garden or a park, and in indoor public places like restaurants, pubs or cafés. 

By law, you must not go inside other people's homes, and other people must not go inside your home.

There are some exceptions. You can still visit inside someone's home if:

  • your two households form an extended household, sometimes called a 'social bubble'
  • you're providing informal childcare, for example looking after your grandchildren
  • you're a tradesperson who needs to carry out work.

Find out more about what you can do, like going to restaurants and playing sport, in the Scottish government’s level 3 guidance.

If your area is at level 4 

By law, you must stay at home except for essential purposes.

It’s against the law for more than two people, or people from more than two households, to meet socially. This applies outdoors in a private garden or a park. 

You must not go inside other people's homes, and other people must not go inside your home.

There are some exceptions. You can still visit inside someone's home if:

  • your two households form an extended household, sometimes called a 'social bubble'
  • you're providing informal childcare, for example looking after your grandchildren
  • you're a tradesperson who needs to carry out essential work.

Find out more about what you can and can't do in the Scottish government's stay at home guidance.

The Scottish government also advises that:

  • you limit the number of households you meet in a day
  • you avoid sharing a car with people from another household. If you need to share a car, you can check the advice on car sharing from Transport Scotland
  • different households stay two metres apart, whether you’re meeting outside or in an indoor public space. Couples who don’t live together don’t have to stay two metres apart from each other.

Some places, like cafés and bars, might be a one-metre zone. There will be signs up to tell you if you're in a one-metre area. This means you should stay at least one metre apart from people who aren't in your household, even if you're socialising with them. There should be other measures in place to keep you safe, like hand sanitiser stations.

Some of the rules for meeting others are different for children and young people.

Children under 12

The rules for children under 12 apply at every protection level.

Children under 12 don't count towards the number of people in a gathering. But they do count towards the number of households.

Children under 12 don't have to stay two metres away from other people.

If you're 12 to 17

In an indoor public space, you should follow the rules on meeting people for the level you're in.

In levels 0 and 1, you can meet outdoors in groups of up to eight people from any number of households.

In levels 2 and 3, you can meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from any number of households.

In level 4, you can meet outdoors with one person from another household.

You should stay two metres away from people who aren't in your household.

Check the Young Scot website for information for young people.

If you're on the shielding list

You can follow the same rules for meeting people as others in your local council area.

You can find information about shielding in different protection levels in the shielding guidance on mygov.scot.

Travelling to meet others

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 one level 3 area to another level 3 area, or from one level 4 area to another level 4 area. 

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.

Forming an extended household 

Your household can choose to join one other household and form an 'extended household'. This might also be called a 'social bubble' or 'support bubble'.

You can treat people in your extended household as part of your household, and you count as one household. For example, you can: 

  • meet inside each other’s homes 
  • stay overnight, have meals together and take care of each other’s children
  • be less than two metres apart
  • travel to meet them, even if you live in different parts of Scotland or the UK. Think carefully if this is the best thing to do, the government says you should stay local. Check Transport Scotland’s advice on safe travel.

Scottish government guidance says that only some people should form an extended household. You can form an extended household if you're:

  • living alone
  • the only adult living with children aged under 18 - for example, a single parent
  • in a couple who don't live together.

You can only be in one extended household.

If you decide to stop being an extended household, you should wait at least 14 days before forming a new extended household.

If you have coronavirus symptoms, you should book a test and all members of the extended household should self-isolate if they've had contact with you. Check NHS inform’s guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection.

If you share childcare between different houses

If you live in a different home from your child’s other parent, you can continue to share childcare. The government has said children under 18 can move between their parents’ homes. This includes if you live in different protection levels in Scotland or another part of the UK.  

It’s important to think about your child’s health, how they feel about moving between households and whether there are vulnerable members of either household.

If there’s a court order or formal agreement in place, you should try to stick to those arrangements. If you decide it’s best to change the agreement, you can do this. Write down any change you agree, for example in a note, email or text.

If you have an informal arrangement, you should discuss what to do with your child’s other parent.

It might not be safe to maintain in-person contact if one household has symptoms and all the members of the household need to self-isolate. You could use phone or video call instead.

Read more about coronavirus and shared parenting on Parent Club.

Sharing childcare and forming an extended household 

If you’re a single parent and you don’t live with other adults, you can form an extended household with one other household.

You and your child’s other parent can each form an extended household separately. Your child can be part of both extended households as long as they’re under 18.

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