Mainland Scotland has woken to the toughest coronavirus restrictions in an effort to prevent the spread of a new variant of Covid-19. 

From a minute past midnight on Boxing Day, most of Scotland entered level four restrictions, while the islands entered level three. 

Glasgow's non-essential retail, including homeware store and garden centres, as well as hospitality, will remain closed for the next three weeks. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move last Saturday in response to a more transmissible mutant of Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon said delivering the news “makes me want to cry”, and said: “I share that sense of fatigue and demoralisation about this.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Glasgow: Every secondary and additional needs school begun contact tracing

“If it wasn’t for this new strain, I wouldn’t be standing here right now announcing this because our case levels right now – because of the levels approach we’ve taken – are actually quite stable.

“This is preventative action because we know there is a more rapidly transmitting strain out there and so we’re acting preventatively.

“Everything we’ve learned about this virus says that you do that – you act quickly and don’t have regrets later, and that’s what we’re seeking to do.”

The First Minister said she intends the measures to be in place for three weeks from Boxing Day, but opposition politicians questioned the timescale.

National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch also told a Holyrood committee this week that more may need to be done to suppress the new strain.

He said it would be “really, really difficult” to keep the reproductive number below 1, adding: “It would be back to March rather than November.”

The return of in-person schooling has been delayed – except for the children of key workers – with teaching starting online on January 11 and all schools expected to return to physical teaching on January 18.

COVID-19 Protection Level 4 rules


  • No in-home socialising
  • 6/2 outdoors and in public places i.e. max 6 people from 2 households
  • Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards the total number of people counted in a gathering.
  • Young people aged between 12 and 17 can meet up in groups of up to 6 at a time outdoors and are not subject to the 2 household limit. Physical distancing is required.

​​When you meet people from another household indoors you should:

Young people aged between 12 and 17 can meet up in groups of up to 6 at a time outdoors and are not subject to the 2 household limit. Physical distancing is required.

  • Minimise the number of meetings you have with people from other households each day
  • Stay at least 2 metres apart from anyone who is not part of your household, unless in a public venue that is operating 1 metre distancing with additional measures being in place to avoid transmission.
  • Maintain hand and cough hygiene
  • Avoid touching hard surfaces with your hands
  • Wash your hands when you arrive, when you leave, when you get home and especially before eating or after touching surfaces
  • Not share food or utensils – if eating, each household should bring, prepare and eat its own food separately
  • If possible, keep rooms well ventilated – consider opening windows or a door

Hospitality (food and drink)

Hospitality (alcohol on sale outdoors)

  • Closed

Hospitality (alcohol on sale indoors)

  • Closed

Hospitality (food for consumption on premises)

  • Closed
  • Hotels and other accommodation providers can still serve food to qualifying guests i.e. key or exempt workers, staying in their premises up to 22:00. Room service, including alcohol, is allowed as normal.


  • Takeaways permitted for alcohol and food as per existing arrangements

Accommodation (hotels, B&Bs, self-catering, caravan and camp sites)

  • All holiday accommodation is closed to tourism.  Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering can remain open for essential customers only:


  • No non-essential travel into or out of the level 4 area. If necessary, limits on travel distance, or a requirement to stay at home
  • Exemptions for essential travel for work, education, shopping health etc; outdoor exercise; weddings and funerals; and transit through restricted areas
  • International quarantine regulations apply


  • Active travel (walk, run, cycle, wheel) where possible
  • Avoid car sharing with people outside extended household wherever possible
  • No use of public transport, except for essential purposes.
  • Face coverings compulsory


  • Only essential retail
  • Click and collect and on-line services

Close contact services (e.g. hairdressers, barbers, tailors and beauticians)

  • Closed
  • Mobile close contact services not permitted

Public buildings – e.g. libraries

  • Closed

Stadia and events

  • Stadia must be closed to spectators.
  • No live events are permitted


  • Open with restricted numbers (20 people)

Life events (weddings, and civil partnerships, funerals) ceremonies and receptions/wakes

  • Weddings/civil partnerships – maximum 15 people
  • Funerals and wakes – 20 person limit
  • No receptions

Early learning and childcare (ELC)(formal childcare)

  • Early learning and childcare can remain open. Enhanced and targeted protective measures are in place.

Informal childcare

  • Informal childcare is only permitted for essential workers.
  • You should follow the rules for socialising.
  • Only children should enter the home of another household.


  • Open, with enhanced and targeted protective measures

Universities and Colleges

  • Colleges and universities can operate using a more restricted mix of face to face and distance learning.

Driving lessons

  • Not permitted

Sports and exercise

  • You are permitted to meet others outdoors, following the rules around meeting other households, for informal exercise or sport.
  • Indoor sports facilities are closed.
  • Outdoor gyms can remain open.
  • Outdoor non-contact sports are permitted for all age groups.

Leisure and entertainment

  • Closed

Visitor attractions

  • All indoor visitor attractions such as museums, galleries, heritage attractions, indoor areas of zoos and aquariums are closed
  • Outdoor visitor attractions, such as parks, gardens and the outdoor areas of zoos may remain open, to enable exercise and recreation to be undertaken with appropriate physical distancing in place, but should only be visited in line with travel restrictions.
  • Visitor attraction’s retail and hospitality facilities will be closed.

Public services (health following NHS remobilisation plan)

  • Essential face-to-face services only (online where possible)

Unregulated children's activities (incl. youth clubs, children's groups)

  • No activities are permitted with the exception of youth work where it is delivered as part of the school day/curriculum.

Support services (mental health, counselling, day services, respite care)

  • Essential only/online where possible

Offices, call centres and other workplaces

  • Essential only/working from home
  • Businesses which provide essential services can continue to operate, such as those in the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sector, courts and tribunals


This is advice, consider which level of protection is right for you.

All levels: We will not ask you to distance from people within your own homes or to stop taking outdoor exercise.

Level 4 shielding

  • Minimise: Contact with people outside your own household if you can. You should not take public transport.
  • Shopping: Strictly follow the guidelines when shopping and limiting the number of times you go to a shop. Shop at quieter times.
  • If you cannot work from home: 

    The majority of workplaces can be made safe. If you have any concerns you should discuss these with your employer.

    However, at this level the Chief Medical Officer will issue a letter which is similar to a fit note and which will last for as long as your area is under Level 4 restrictions. This letter can be used in the few cases where it is not possible to make your workplace safe.

    Please note that this does not automatically mean you should not attend work. You should discuss this further with your employer, and if this results in adequate protection, you can continue to work.

  • School/formal childcare: Children on the shielding list should not attend in person.