The importance of staying at home and not making unnecessary journeys, including to older relatives, has been hammered home since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
The government’s instructions were: “Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (but only if you cannot work from home); if you go out, stay two metres away from other people at all times; wash your hands as soon as you get home.”
Crucially, they added: “Do not meet others, even friends or family. You can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.”
Announcing school closures at a Downing Street briefing on 18 March, Boris Johnson urged families not to turn to older relatives to look after children.
He said: “Children should not be left with older grandparents or older relatives who may be particularly vulnerable. I know that’s going to be difficult too and I want to thank families for their sacrifice at this difficult time.”
At a No 10 briefing on 27 April, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We understand the impact of not being able to hug your closest family. It affects us all too. We just hope we can get back to that as soon as possible. The best way we can get there, the fastest way, is for people to follow the rules.”
Even now that lockdown rules have been eased slightly, visiting friends or family in their own homes is still off-limits. The current guidance states: “As with before, you cannot visit friends and family in their homes.”
It also says: “We are advising those who are at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (Covid-19) to be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. This group includes those who are aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions).
“If you are showing coronavirus symptoms, or if you or any of your household are self-isolating, you should stay at home – this is critical to staying safe and saving lives.”