Coronavirus: What people can and can't do in the UK under current restrictions

Ellen Manning
·5-min read
BRIGHTON - MARCH 20: A sign on a screen inside McDonalds telling customers they are open for takeaway orders only on March 20, 2020 in Brighton, England. Coronavirus (COVID-19) has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting almost 250,000. There have now been 3,269 diagnosed cases in the UK and 144 deaths. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
What can you still do, or not do, in the UK amid the coronavirus outbreak? (Picture: Mike Hewitt/Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

As part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, the government has now ordered all cafes, pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas to close.

The move is hoped to achieve the 75% reduction in “unnecessary” social contacts that is needed to reduce the spread of the virus.

Supermarkets remain open, as do some shops, although some businesses have closed voluntarily.

From travel to visiting relatives in care homes, here is the latest on what you can and can’t do.

Can I go abroad?

In short, no. The Foreign Office is currently advising Brits against all but essential international travel.

On its website, the FCO says: “As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel.

“Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.”

Can I go to sporting events?

The 2020 sporting calendar has been decimated by the coronavirus outbreak, with some of the year’s biggest planned events cancelled.

The Euro 2020 tournament has been put on hold for 12 months and domestic football in England and Scotland has been suspended until at least the end of April.

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In Formula One, the Monaco Grand Prix has been cancelled, and other major events affected include the London Marathon, the Boat Race, the Guinness Six Nations and the World Snooker Championship.

Can I go to the supermarket?

At the moment you can still go shopping but you’ll be lucky if you find anything.

Major supermarkets have been pictured with long queues outside their doors from the early hours, while panic buyers have left shelves empty.

People shop in aisles with empty shelves in a Sainsbury's supermarket in Walthamstow, east London on March 20, 2020. - The British prime minister urged people in his daily press conference on March 19 to be reasonable in their shopping as supermarkets emptied out of crucial items -- notably toilet roll -- across Britain. The government said it was temporarily relaxing elements of competition law to allow supermarkets to work together to maintain supplies. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
You can still go shopping, but many supermarkets' shelves have been emptied by panic buyers. (Picture: Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

One critical care nurse pleaded with people to stop stockpiling as she was left unable to buy food following a 48-hour shift.

Some supermarkets have put strict measures in place to stop panic-buying, while others have assigned dedicated hours to key workers and the elderly to ensure they can get what they need.

Can I go out for dinner?

No. On Friday, the government ordered all cafes, pubs, bars, clubs, restaurants, gyms, leisure centres, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas to close.

The move, along with the announcement of a support package, was welcomed by many as previously the government had advised customers to stay away but not actually ordered venues to close.

Takeaway services are still allowed, so many restaurants have begun changing their offering to offer takeaways to customers.

Coronavirus cases in England ,how the map has changed in a week. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics
Coronavirus cases in England ,how the map has changed in a week. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics

Can I go to the cinema?

Friday’s ramping up of measures saw cinemas also told to close, though major cinema chains had already shut their UK screens, including Odeon, Cineworld, Vue and Picturehouse.

Following Monday’s government advice for people to avoid crowded places Cinema UK, which represents the industry, said “most UK cinema sites” were closing.

Can I go outside for walks?

Yes you can. While Public Health England advises people to practice social distancing, it says you can go for a walk - providing you keep your distance.

The suggestion of a walk falls under the organisation’s website section on how to look after your mental wellbeing despite practising social distancing.

As well as advising people to exercise, to eat healthily and to get some fresh air and natural light, it adds: “You can also go for a walk outdoors if you stay more than 2 metres from others.”

Jack Russell Terrier walking through forest by path
It's still okay to go outside for a walk (Picture: Getty)

Can I go to the gym?

No, they’re closed too as they’re among the list Boris Johnson told to close on Friday.

One expert previously warned that gyms could be “high risk” locations for coronavirus.

Dr Norman Swan told ABC’s Coronacast that the humid environment in a gym creates the perfect environment to spread disease.

He said: “Dampness is a bad thing for spreading germs. You've got these big blokes pumping away and you never know, one of them might be a super spreader.”

Can I go to a gig?

With advice clear on social distancing, going to a gig isn’t going to be on the cards for you.

Many concerts had already been cancelled, especially those in the near future, as concerns rose about the spread of COVID-19.

They include, The Who, who cancelled their UK tour due to coronavirus just four days before they were due to take to the stage in Manchester, as well as Glastonbury Festival has been cancelled and Radio 1’s Big Weekend.

Glastonbury,Uk- .June 26,2010:Giant Wording Sculpture spelling out GLASTONBURY in bright patchwork material.
Glastonbury has been cancelled this year, along with other concerts, festivals and gigs (Picture: Getty)

Earlier this week Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan criticised Lewis Capaldi for going ahead with a gig and appealed for the entertainment industry and the general public to practice social distancing, saying: “What the hell are you doing going to pop concerts?”

He added: “We’re in a war. No-one can tell me that with the rest of the world locking down and social-distancing to the extent that you can’t go to bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms, whatever, that thousands of people congregating at an event like this...”

I’m a student - can I go to uni or college?

Pretty much every university has cancelled its classes and is trying to move teaching online.

For many, assessments have also been moved online and term dates have also been changed.

Some students at some universities remain in halls, but each university is adopting its own approach.

Can I visit my relative in a care home?

Many care home providers across the country have put restrictions on visits to residents by families and friends in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus.

In guidance to care home operators published on March 13, the government advised that no-one “who has suspected COVID-19 or is generally unwell” should be allowed to visit someone in a care home, but that providers “should also consider the wellbeing of residents, and the positive impact of seeing friends and family”.