Scotland's Coronavirus Levels System and How it Actually Works

Last Updated on 24/11/2020 at 18:53

Scotland is using a new system for tackling COVID-19 by allocating a 'level' between 0 and 4. These levels may apply nationally (across all of Scotland) or they may differ in areas depending on the rates of COVID-19 transmission locally.

Depending on the level in your area, you'll have to follow certain rules and restrictions to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. Level 0 has the least restrictions, whilst Level 4 has the most, although is not a full lockdown like we experienced during Spring.

What is happening in my local area?

With this new framework, local authority areas where transmission rates of coronavirus are higher or lower than other areas may be assigned a different level to reflect this. In Scotland, there are 32 local authorities, if you're not sure what local authority you live in, you can use the Scottish Government Postcode Checker to find out.

Map of Scotland's local authorities and their assigned level

There are currently no local authorities in level zero. Find out what area your local authority is in below:

Level 1

Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles. 

Level 2 

Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Argyll & Bute, Dumfries & Galloway, East Lothian, and Scottish Borders.

Level 3

Angus, City of Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, Falkirk, Fife, Inverclyde, Midlothian, North Ayrshire and Perth & Kinross.

Level 4

These areas will remain in Level 4 until 11th of December, when they will be reviewed again.

East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Lothian and West Dunbartonshire.

How long will a local authority stay in a level?

The level that your area is in is likely to go up or down over time as the situation changes. That's why it's important to keep an eye on what the rules are locally so that you can make sure you follow them and protect yourself and others.

The level that is assigned will be reviewed on a weekly basis where it will either stay the same, go up or go down. However, it is likely that once a level is set it will stay the same for between two to four weeks at least to allow new restrictions to take effect.

What about Christmas?

On 24th November, it was announced that between 23rd December and 27th December three households would be able to meet indoors, in outdoor spaces or in places of worship. This means you will be able to form a new temporary bubble with two other households. That bubble will stay the same for the five day period and can't change.

Travel restrictions will also be eased over this period, so you can visit family or friends in other parts of the UK.

What can I do at each level?

We've summarised some of the key information from each level below that will impact young people's lives. Throughout all levels, public health advice should be followed, this includes using face coverings and enhanced hygiene measures like washing your hands regularly. 

Although Highland and Moray are in Level 1 indoor meetings are still banned in these areas.

Level 0

  • Socialising: Indoors up to 8 people from 3 households and outdoors up to 15 people from 5 households can socialise with physical distancing.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, opening time restrictions may be in place. 
  • Travel: No non-essential travel to areas level 3 or higher. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household. 
  • Shops: Open with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing. Colleges & universities will use a blended learning model.
  • Sport: All allowed.
  • Entertainment: Open with physical distancing and restricted numbers, except nightclubs. 
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 1

  • Socialising: Indoors, in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles only, up to six people can meet from two households with physical distancing. Outdoors, in all Level 1 areas, up to eight people can meet from three households including your own.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, last entry is 21:30 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 22:30. 
  • Travel: No non-essential travel to areas level 3 or higher. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household. 
  • Shops: Open with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing. Colleges & universities will use a blended learning model.
  • Sport: All allowed except indoor contact sports for people aged 18+.
  • Entertainment: Open with physical distancing and restricted numbers, except nightclubs.
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 2

  • Socialising: No in-home socialising. Up to six people from two households can meet outdoors and in public places like restaurants and cafes, with physical distancing.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, alcohol sales indoors are only allowed with a main meal. Last entry is 19:00 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 20:00.
  • Travel: No non-essential travel to areas level 3 or higher. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended households.
  • Shops: Open with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing and enhanced protective measures. Colleges & universities will use a blended learning model.
  • Sport: All allowed except indoor contact sports for people aged 18+.
  • Entertainment: Cinemas and amusement arcades can open, but other leisure businesses can't, for example theatres and bowling alleys. 
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 3

  • Socialising: No in-home socialising. Up to six people from two households can meet outdoors and in public places that can open, with physical distancing.
  • Hospitality: Open with physical distancing, no alcohol sales indoors or outdoors. Last entry is 17:00 and all venues must be closed and all customers off the premises by 18:00. 
  • Travel: Avoid non-essential use of public transport. No non-essential travel into or out of your local area. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended households. Avoid non-essential use of public transport. 
  • ShopsOpen with physical distancing.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing and enhanced protective measures. S4-S6 pupils, as well as their teachers, should wear face coverings in classrooms. Colleges & universities will move to restricted blended learning. 
  • Sport: Indoor individual exercise only (except under 18s) and outdoor all allowed except contact sport for people aged 18+. 
  • Entertainment: Closed.
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 50 people)
  • Driving lessons: Allowed.

Level 4

  • Socialising: No in-home socialising. Up to six people from two households can meet outdoors and in public spaces that are open, with physical distancing.
  • Hospitality: Hospitality businesses closed.
  • Travel: No use of public transport, except for essential purposes. No non-essential travel into or out of your local area. If necessary, limits on travel distance, or a requirement to stay at home. Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household.
  • ShopsNon-essential retail will be closed.
  • Schools, colleges & university: Schools will be open with physical distancing and enhanced and targeted protective measures. S4-S6 pupils, as well as their teachers, should wear face coverings in classrooms. Colleges & universities will use a restricted blended learning.
  • Sport: Only non-contact sports allowed outside. Gyms will be closed. 
  • Entertainment: Closed.
  • Places of worship: Open (up to 20 people)
  • Driving lessons: Not allowed.

For a full list of what happens in each level, take a look at the Scottish Government's Strategic Framework document

What does each level mean?

Before introducing this new framework, the Scottish Government was using a Route-Map made up of four different 'phases' which aimed to take us out of lockdown by slowly easing restrictions. Scotland is currently in Phase 3, you can read more about what that means on the Scottish Government website.

However, this new system focuses more on tackling the local spread of the virus until there is an effective vaccine or treatment which would allow Scotland to move into 'Phase 4' of that Route-Map.

Level 0-1

Within these levels, a low incidence of the virus is expected with isolated clusters, and low community transmission (person to person).

These levels are the closest Scotland can get to 'normality', without a vaccine or effective treatment in place, before conditions will allow us to move to Phase 4 of the Route Map. They would be similar to the measures in place during the summer, once we reached Phase 3.

Levels 0 and 1 are designed to be sustainable for longer periods of time.

Levels 2-3

In these levels, it's expected that the virus is more common, with multiple clusters and increased community transmission (person to person).

There would be a gradual series of protective measures to tackle the virus, focusing on key areas of risk – broadly, indoor settings where household mixing takes place with less, or less well-observed, physical distancing and mitigations.

The measures would be intended to be in place for relatively short periods (2-4 weeks), and only for as long as required to get the virus down to a low, sustainable level.

Level 4

Within this level, virus cases would be at very high or rapidly increasing numbers, and there would be widespread community transmission which may pose a threat to the NHS to cope.

It is likely that this level would see the introduction of measures close to a return to full lockdown. Measures would be designed to be in place for a short period, to provide a short, sharp response to quickly suppress the virus.

What if I had to shield before?

The initial shielding advice brought in during the lockdown has since been paused in Scotland. However with this new system, there is updated advice that you should follow to stay safe.

To find out exactly what you need to do at each level, you can read the table on page 43 of the Scottish Government's newly published Strategic Framework. 

If your local area goes into Level 4, you should not go to school. If your local area goes to Level 3, you and your parents or guardians should chat to your GP or clinician about whether you should go to school. 

What if I stay in one area, but go to school or college/university in another?

If you go to university in one area, but wish to return home in another area for the winter holidays, you will be able to do so. On 11th November the Scottish Government announced that there will be various measures in place to help students return home for the holidays as safely as possible. Students will receive advice early about returning home for the holidays from student welfare, and those who choose to stay over the holidays will continue to receive support.

Universities have been asked to finish testing and assessments as early as possible. This is to allow students to reduce social contact for two weeks before returning home. Students are being asked only to make essential journeys, for example to the shops for food, for two weeks before they return home. This is to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) as much as possible.

This will also allow for staggered departures of students returning home. Students will be offered coronavirus tests before they return home. This includes 'lateral flow testing' that gives quick results in around 30 minutes, and tests for those who are asymptomatic (not showing any active symptoms but still might be carrying the infection).

For more information about what your university can do to help you during this time, contact student services.

More information from Young Scot on Coronavirus (COVID-19).