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Coronavirus - what it means for you

This advice applies to Scotland

The Scottish government plans to change the rules about staying at home in phases. We’ll update our advice to help you understand any changes when they apply to you.

On this page:

Health advice

Coronavirus causes the illness called COVID-19. There are things you can do to avoid getting coronavirus and stop it spreading.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you should self-isolate for seven 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. Your close contacts and everyone in your household will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days from the last day they had contact with you. This is called contact tracing. Check the contact tracing guidance on NHS inform.

Read the latest advice about symptoms, social distancing and testing on NHS inform.

There is also specific advice for:

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.

Advice in British Sign Language and Easy Read format are also available.

Overseas visitors to Scotland don't have to pay to be diagnosed or treated for coronavirus on the NHS, whatever their residency status. Read about healthcare for overseas visitors on NHS inform.

Face masks

You might want to cover your mouth and nose if you go somewhere that physical distancing is difficult, like public transport or a small shop. The Scottish government says you can wear a material that you can breathe through, like a scarf. These are called face coverings and are different from surgical or medical face masks worn by healthcare professionals.

Check the Scottish government guidance on face coverings.

Getting help for other medical conditions

If you need medical care for other conditions or symptoms, you should still:

  • phone your GP practice, or 111 out of hours
  • go to A&E for urgent help
  • phone 999 in an emergency
  • ask a pharmacist about treating minor ailments
  • get help for dental emergencies - find out where to get emergency dental care on NHS inform
  • get help for eye care emergencies – contact your local optician, they might refer you to an Emergency Eye care Treatment Centre. Find a local optician on NHS inform
  • take children for vaccinations.

Find your nearest A&E or pharmacy on NHS inform. 

If you have any coronavirus symptoms on top of your medical concerns, phone your GP or 111 for advice first. If it's an emergency, phone 999 and tell the call handler about the coronavirus symptoms. 

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.

If you’re extremely vulnerable because of a medical condition

You’re 'extremely vulnerable' if you have certain medical conditions – for example, severe asthma or cancer.

NHS Scotland has contacted people who are 'extremely vulnerable'. They’ll tell you how to avoid coming into contact with coronavirus.

You should shield yourself for 12 weeks, starting when the NHS contacted you, by:

  • staying at home 
  • avoiding all non-essential contact with other people in your household.

If you think you’re extremely vulnerable but NHS Scotland hasn’t contacted you, contact your GP or hospital clinician. 

Read more about shielding and which groups are 'extremely vulnerable' on NHS inform.

Register for deliveries of food and medicine

The letter from NHS Scotland will tell you how to register. Register even if you don't need support right now because you have family or friends helping. 

You can ask to be contacted by text message. If you don't have a mobile phone, you can phone your council's shielding support line. Find your local shielding support line on the Scottish government website. 

There’s more information, like how vulnerable people were identified and how deliveries will be made, in the Scottish government shielding guidance

Local support for people who can't leave their home 

If someone can’t leave their home because they’re at high risk from coronavirus or they're self-isolating, they can call the national assistance helpline on 0800 111 4000, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. You can give this phone number to someone you’re helping or call on their behalf.

The helpline will connect them with their 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 is in one of these categories:

  • can’t access help online
  • is over 70
  • is disabled
  • gets mental health support
  • is pregnant
  • receives a flu jab for health reasons.

Rules about staying at home

The Scottish government is easing the rules but you should still stay at home as much as possible. When you go out, you should stay two metres apart from anyone that you don’t live with. 

You can go out for limited reasons, including:

  • shopping for basics, like food and medicine, and at other shops that are open
  • exercise - for example, running, walking, cycling or non-contact sport, like golf or tennis. This can be alone, with members of your household or one other household. You can exercise more than once a day, but you should stay in your local area
  • any medical need
  • caring for a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work - but only if it's 'not reasonably possible' to work from home
  • to use a local waste recycling centre - check the council's website before you go
  • to use outdoor spaces – for example to sit in a park, sunbathe or have a picnic.

If you need to self-isolate because you or someone in your household have symptoms, or you’re a contact of someone who tested positive, you should stay at home. Check the Scottish government guidance on how to self-isolate.

Read about what you can do in phase 1 on the Scottish Government website.

The rules apply every day, including public holidays, until the Scottish government changes the rules. 

The rules in other parts of the UK might be different, but you should follow the rules for the part of the UK you are in. 

The police have powers to enforce these rules. If you’re outside without a good reason, the police can make you go home. If you refuse to go home, the police can fine you.

Meeting family and friends

You can meet with one other household outdoors, for example in a garden or a park, but you should stay two metres apart. There should be no more than eight people meeting at one time.

You should only meet one other household a day. You can meet another household on a different day.

You can travel to see family and friends outside, but the Scottish government says you should avoid long journeys where you might need to use indoor facilities like toilets.

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 be moved between their parents’ homes. 

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 your family on Parent Club.

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.

Watch out for coronavirus scams

Police Scotland has seen an increase in 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.

Use our advice to check if something is a scam.

If you have less money because of coronavirus

If you have less money because of coronavirus, help is available. You might be able to:

Getting benefits

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. 

Check what benefits you can get.

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 for 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 due to 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 from 27 May 2020. 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.

If you’re shielding, register for free deliveries of food and medicine.

You can also check our advice about foodbanks and other emergency help

Going to work 

The government has said you should only go to work if it’s ‘not reasonably possible’ for you to work from home.

If your employer tells you not to work because of coronavirus

If your place of work has shut down or there’s no work for you because of coronavirus, you might still get paid. 

Your employer might use the government Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to pay you while there’s no work to do. If you’ve been 'furloughed', your employer is probably using the scheme. Find out how the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme works.

Your employer might not have realised they could use the scheme, or just used different words when they told you not to work. They might have said you were being laid off or made redundant. Check your options if your employer said you were being laid off or made redundant.

If you're off work because you're self-isolating or shielding 

You might get statutory sick pay (SSP) if you're following government guidance to self-isolate or you're shielding.

You could get SSP if:

  • you have coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus
  • someone you live with has coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus
  • NHS Scotland has sent you a letter advising you to shield because you're extremely vulnerable.

If you have a health condition but you're not classed as extremely vulnerable, you can find out what to do if you're worried about working.

In most cases, you'll need to get an 'isolation note' online if you're sick for more than seven days. This will prove to your employer you need to stay off work.

You can get an isolation note on the NHS website.

You don't need an isolation note if you:

  • are sick for less than seven days
  • have got a letter from NHS Scotland advising you to shield - this letter is evidence that you're not fit to work outside your home. 

If you’re worried about going to work because of coronavirus

If you’re worried about having to go to work, there are things your employer should do to make sure you’re safe.

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.

If you're self-employed and need financial support

You might be eligible for support from the UK government's Self-employment Income Support Scheme or the Scottish government’s Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund. Check if you're eligible for self-employed support.

School closures and key workers

The Scottish government has said that schools will reopen on 11 August if it’s safe to do so.

Check your council website for information on back to school arrangements and support for children starting or leaving school. The school might also contact you directly. 

Find your local council on mygov.scot

Childminders and outdoor nurseries can reopen from 3 June. Check arrangements with your child’s childminder or nursery.

There’s information about schools and nurseries reopening on Parent club.

Childcare hubs for keyworkers and vulnerable children 

Local councils have made special arrangements for childcare if:

  • you’re a 'key worker' - your job keeps an important service running, like the NHS or police
  • your child is considered vulnerable - for example, if they get free school meals or have additional support needs.

The childcare arrangements will continue in June and July.

Many areas have learning and childcare hubs for children to go to. Check for changes to childcare hubs ahead of schools reopening. 

There's more detail about who's a key worker on the Scottish government website.

You might not qualify for special childcare arrangements if you're a key worker but your child's other parent isn't.

If you need to take time off to look after your children

You might be able to get paid while you’re off work looking after your children. Check your options if you’re off work caring for someone.

There are tips and resources for home learning on Parentzone Scotland. 

Free school meals

Check your council's website for information on how free school meals are affected by school closures in your area.

Children in primary one to three won't automatically get free meals while schools are closed.

In some areas only those families on low incomes or getting certain benefits will be eligible for free meals while schools are closed. Check if your child is now eligible if you've recently started getting benefits. 

If you're eligible you might collect meals from hubs, get direct payments or get vouchers for shops.

Find your local council on mygov.scot.

SQA exams and higher education

Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) exams

SQA exams aren't going ahead in 2020. Schools and colleges will contact learners with more information.

Schools and colleges should arrange for S4-S6 pupils to complete coursework or prelims remotely, if possible. They won't be allowed to attend school to do this.

You should also check the Scottish Qualifications Authority website for updates

Colleges and universities

Each college and university is responsible for making decisions about its higher education courses and exams. Check their website for information for students.

For further and higher education, check Student Information Scotland’s coronavirus update and information on hardship payments for students.

If you're planning to travel abroad

Government advice is not to travel right now unless you really have to - you can read the latest travel guidance on GOV.UK.

If you’ve booked a holiday

If you already have a holiday booked it’s worth checking guidance from your travel agent, airline or other holiday provider. 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 find out more about getting a refund because of coronavirus.

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 you think shops are acting unfairly 

Shops and businesses can put up their prices if they want to. If you’ve noticed that things cost more than usual, you’ll need to decide if you want to pay for the item or not. 

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. 

If you think a shop is open when it shouldn’t be, you can check which businesses should be closed on GOV.UK.

Advice for businesses

Most businesses and premises in the UK have been told to close. You can find more information about which businesses must stay closed, and which ones can open, on the Scottish government website.

Advice for employers and employees affected by coronavirus is available on the ACAS website. 

Financial support for businesses and self-employed people

There are details of financial support for businesses from the UK government on GOV.UK.

You can check the Find Business Support website for the latest updates from the Scottish government.

You can also call the Scottish government helpline on 0300 303 0660. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm.

You might also be able to get financial help if you're self-employed.

If you applied for the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund or the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund

If you have applied for either of these Scottish government funds, you can check the status of your application on the Find Business Support website.

These schemes are now closed for new applications.

Check if you can claim back statutory sick pay

If you're an employer with fewer than 250 employees, you might be able to reclaim coronavirus-related statutory sick pay (SSP) from the UK government.

Find out if you can use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme on the GOV.UK website.

If rent for a business hasn’t been paid

If rent hasn’t been paid on a commercial lease, the notice period required before the lease can be ended has been extended from 14 days to 14 weeks.

The landlord must give the tenant written notice and 14 weeks to pay the arrears.

The change applies to all commercial property leases. This includes cases where a warning notice has already been issued but hasn’t expired.

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