What are the Covid rules in the four nations of the UK?

·5-min read
A couple wearing face masks by the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)
A couple wearing face masks by the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham (Jacob King/PA) (PA Wire)

Scotland’s First Minister has announced changes to the nation’s coronavirus restrictions following a slight fall in case numbers.

Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs on Tuesday there are signs Scotland is “starting to turn the corner” following the spread of Omicron.

As a result, she announced changes to the restrictions from next week, with a view to consider further restrictions being eased in the near future.

But how do the current rules compare across the four nations of the UK?

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arriving to deliver a Covid-19 update statement at the Scottish Parliament (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arriving to deliver a Covid-19 update statement at the Scottish Parliament (Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA) (PA Wire)

– What are the current rules in Scotland?

There have been caps on the number of people attending events since Christmas. They include having a one-metre social distancing gap between guests and events limited to 100 people standing indoors, 200 people sitting indoors and 500 people outdoors.

One-metre physical distancing is in place in all indoor hospitality and leisure settings.

Table service is also required where alcohol is being served.

Since December 14, people have been asked to reduce their social contacts as much as possible by meeting in groups of no more than three households.

Allowing staff to work from home where possible has become a legal duty on employers.

Care home visits have also been limited to two households.

Those coming into the country who are fully vaccinated are able to use a lateral flow test instead of a PCR as their post-arrival test, taken on or before the second day of their stay.

– What is changing from next week?

The 500-person cap on outdoor events in Scotland will be lifted from Monday, Ms Sturgeon has said.

It means that spectators can attend outdoor sporting events once again.

But the rules surrounding Covid passports will be tightened. Event organisers will now be asked to review 50% or 1,000 Covid passports of attendees, whichever figure is higher.

But limits on indoor events, table service in hospitality and social distancing in public places will remain in place until at least January 24.

The definition of what “fully vaccinated” means, for the purpose of Covid certificates, will also change from Monday.

Scots will have to have a booster to be considered to be fully vaccinated – and they will need to have a booster if their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine was more than four months ago.

– What are the rules in England?

People walk through Embankment Station in London (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)
People walk through Embankment Station in London (James Manning/PA) (PA Wire)

From Tuesday, confirmatory PCR tests for asymptomatic people who test positive using a lateral flow device are no longer needed.

Face coverings are also compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport, and people have been told to work from home if they can.

Secondary school pupils also must wear masks in classrooms.

Covid passes are still required for entry into nightclubs and other venues, a rule which has been in place since December 15.

If a person in England has tested positive or has symptoms, they can stop self-isolating after seven days instead of 10 if they receive two negative lateral flow test results on days six and seven.

Those who are unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases must still isolate for 10 days.

New rules have recently come into force for fully vaccinated travellers as well. They are required to take a lateral flow test, rather than a PCR, no later than the end of day two after their arrival.

The restrictions in place have been dubbed as “Plan B” by the UK Government.

– What are the rules in Wales?

Groups of no more than six people are allowed to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants.

Licensed premises can offer table service only, face masks will have to be worn and contact tracing details collected, and two-metre social distancing rules are in place.

Nightclubs have been closed since Boxing Day and there is a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

A maximum of 30 people can attend indoor events and a maximum of 50 people are allowed at outdoor events.

People attending weddings or civil partnership receptions or wakes are also being told to take a lateral flow test before attending.

Wales has reduced the mandatory isolation period for people who test positive with Covid-19 from 10 days to seven, subject to two negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven.

A man wearing a face mask leaves a branch of O’Neill’s in Cardiff (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)
A man wearing a face mask leaves a branch of O’Neill’s in Cardiff (Ben Birchall/PA) (PA Wire)

And similarly to England, confirmatory PCR tests for asymptomatic people who test positive on a lateral flow device are no longer needed.

Rules around travelling are also similar to England, with fully vaccinated travellers needing to take a lateral flow test (LFD) on day two and, if positive, a follow-up PCR test to enable genomic sequencing to be carried out. A pre-departure test and a day two PCR test when arriving in the UK is no longer needed for fully vaccinated travellers.

– What about Northern Ireland?

The self-isolation period for confirmed Covid-19 cases has been reduced in Northern Ireland from 10 days to seven.

The rule is subject to negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven.

Nightclubs are closed and dancing has been prohibited in hospitality venues.

But the rule does not apply to weddings.

People must remain seated for table service while table numbers are limited to six and two-metre social distancing rules are in place in all businesses.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann (Peter Morrison/PA) (PA Wire)
Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann (Peter Morrison/PA) (PA Wire)

Ministers have also agreed that sporting events can continue with no limits on capacity, while the work-from-home message is being bolstered and legislation introduced to require social distancing in offices and similar workplaces.

The guidance for mixing in a domestic setting is limited to three households.

Northern Ireland also dropped the requirement for people who test positive on a lateral flow device to take a confirmatory PCR test, with the change coming in immediately after the announcement on Wednesday.

Face masks must be worn in shops, indoor-seated venues and visitor attractions, public transport and some other settings. Pupils who are post primary school and teachers must also wear them inside buildings.

Fully vaccinated travellers can also do a lateral flow test rather than a PCR on day two or before day two after their arrival in Northern Ireland.

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