What are the latest UK lockdown rules and guidelines on work, pubs, schools and exercise?

Olivia Petter,Louise Hall and Sabrina Barr
·9-min read

On Tuesday 23 June, Boris Johnson delivered an update on easing lockdown restrictions in England, confirming that businesses including pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers can start reopening from 4 July.

Workplaces that are allowed to open must be made Covid-secure, while members of the public are still being encouraged to follow social distancing guidelines.

Changes have also been made to rules regarding socialising, with up to two households now allowed to meet indoors, albeit without any physical contact if not in a “support bubble”.

However, just as before, outdoor gatherings with other households should exceed no more than six people.

In addition, the previous social distancing guideline of staying two metres apart has now been reduced to “one metre plus”, which means “staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission”, the government states.

The prime minister‘s previous update on lifting lockdown measures came on Thursday 28 May, during which he stated that “limited and cautious” changes were being made in England.

The changes came after Britons spent more than two months being told to stay in their homes with limited exceptions, such as exercise, shopping for essential items or going to work as a key worker.

Mr Johnson has said that the government’s five tests for easing lockdown measures are being met. These include making sure the NHS can cope with the number of coronavirus cases and ensuring that the death rate from Covid-19 remains low.

Here’s everything we know so far about what people can and cannot do in light of the guidance Mr Johnson issued.

Sunbathing and picnicking

During a previous update on lockdown restrictions, Mr Johnson said that people in England could sunbathe and sit down in public spaces as long as they continue to abide by social distancing guidelines.

“You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports,” he said. This means people can drive to open spaces irrespective of distance.

However, this rule differs in Wales, where people are only allowed to drive to the coast or countryside if they can do so in their “local area”.

“Travelling to parks, beaches and attractions outside your local area is not allowed,” the government says, adding that ministers will “lift the stay local requirement on 6 July, if the conditions permit”.

People in Scotland have also been allowed to sunbathe and picnic since 28 May.

The website for the government in Northern Ireland features a page with safety advice for those planning barbecues or picnics.

Exercise and outdoor sport

There is no restriction for how far members of the public can travel to exercise outside in England, during which they do not need to follow a time restriction.

However, in accordance with the latest lockdown update, people are still not permitted to exercise at a gym or leisure centre, at an indoor sports court or go swimming in an indoor pool.

People in Scotland are permitted to meet with members of up to two households for outdoor exercise.

Likewise in Wales, “outdoor exercise is unlimited, as long as individuals strictly follow social distancing rules and hand washing and respiratory hygiene practices”.

In Northern Ireland, people can run, walk and cycle, while outdoor activities and sports that do not involve shared contact with hard surfaces, such as golf, water sports and tennis, can restart again.

Visiting friends and family members

From 1 June in England, groups of up to six people from different households could meet outside in parks and private gardens “provided those from different households continue to stick to strict social distancing rules.”

While that rule remains in place, a new rule announced by Mr Johnson on 23 June outlined that up to two households can meet indoors, as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.

As part of the guideline, which comes into force on 4 July, up to two households can also stay overnight together in “self-contained accommodation”, which includes hotels, bed and breakfasts and campsites.

The government previously introduced “support bubbles”, which meant that people who live on their own or are single parents with dependent children could create a bubble with one other household, in which they did not need to follow social distancing guidelines.

In Scotland, people can also form an “extended household”, which follows the same guidelines as a “support bubble” in England.

The Scottish government states that when socialising with others, “you can meet with up to two other households at a time outdoors” in groups of up to eight people.

In Northern Ireland, indoor meetings of up to six people have been allowed to take place since Tuesday 23 June. However, the government recommends socialising outdoors, as being indoors “carries a higher risk” of spreading Covid-19.

In Wales, socialising indoors “is not allowed under the rules, as it significant increases the risk of spreading the virus”, the government states.

The Welsh government adds that people in the country should only exercise on their own or with members of their own family.

Face masks

From 15 June, it has been compulsory to wear a face covering on public transport in England.

“If you can, you are advised to wear face coverings in enclosed public space where social distancing is not possible and where you are more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet,” the government states, citing shopping as an example.

The Scottish government explains that the evidence on the use of masks “remains limited”, although it “supports their use in certain circumstances”.

“When you enter enclosed spaces, where physical distancing is more difficult and where there is a risk of close contact with multiple people who are not members of your household, you should wear a face covering,” it states.

In Northern Ireland, the government is urging members of the public to think about wearing face coverings “in particular circumstances” where social distancing is more difficult, such as on public transport or in shops, while similar guidance currently stands in Wales.

Returning to work

From Wednesday 13 May, anyone who could not work from home in England, such as those in construction and manufacturing, was actively encouraged to return to work.

The government is advising people to avoid taking public transport if at all possible, not just because services are currently limited, but because doing so will make it easier for you to maintain social distancing.

Mr Johnson added that those with cars are encouraged to drive to work.

“So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home,” the prime minister said. “And to ensure you are safe at work we have been working to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces Covid-secure.”

The Scottish government states that “if you can work from home, you should”, while in Northern Ireland, the government states that “every effort” should be taken by employers to “help people to work from home where they can”.

In Wales, the government states that in accordance with the law, “you can’t leave your local area without a reasonable excuse”, encouraging people to consider working from home where possible.

Schools

From Monday 1 June, schools in England reopened to more pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

The Department of Education stated that secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges “will also work towards the possibility of providing some face-to-face contact with young people in Year 10 and Year 12 to help them prepare for exams next year”.

“Closing schools has deprived children of their education and as so often it is the most disadvantaged pupils who risk being hardest hit,” the prime minister previously said.

On Thursday 21 May, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that all schools in the country would be reopened from 11 August, with children returning to a “blended model of part-time in-school and part-time at-home learning”.

On Wednesday 10 June, the Welsh government published its guidance on the reopening of schools, stating that pupils are to return from Monday 29 June.

Meanwhile, the education minister for Northern Ireland recently said their aim was for schools to reopen from 24 August.

Read more: Which lockdown tier am I in? How to work out which tier your area falls under

Non-essential shops

Non-essential shops began reopening in England from 1 June, beginning with outdoor retail and car showrooms where social distancing measures are easier.

Other non-essential retail were allowed to reopen from 15 June on the condition that the five tests were still being met and shops have been made “Covid secure”.

In Wales, non-essential retail shops have been permitted to resume business since 22 June, while in Scotland, retail outlets that have an entrance to the outdoors were allowed to reopen from 29 June.

“Car showrooms, betting shops, and outdoor markets can also re-open and relevant guidance should be followed. Non-essential shops in shopping centres should remain closed,” the Scottish government said.

In Northern Ireland, where non-essential retail shops were allowed to reopen from early June, businesses including hairdressers, nail salons, tattoo parlours and spas can reopen from 6 July.

Pubs and restaurants

On 23 June, Mr Johnson finally announced – much to many people’s joy – that pubs and restaurants will be permitted to reopen in England from 4 July.

The establishments will need to abide by certain guidelines to ensure they are Covid-secure, including taking measures such as installing plastic screens between tables.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the reopening of pubs is “an important step for us but it is just the first step on what will be a very long road to recovery for our sector”.

The Scottish government states that there is “emerging evidence that places such as pubs, restaurants and gyms can be hotspots for transmission” of the coronavirus.

As such, an update on the reopening of pubs and restaurants in the country will be delivered on 2 July.

From 3 July, restaurants, cafes and coffee shops can reopen in Northern Ireland, in addition to the indoor spaces of pubs and bars on a table service basis.

Pubs and bars will also be able to serve alcohol in outdoor spaces, such as beer gardens, using a table service.

In Wales, pubs, cafes and restaurants are currently permitted to serve customers via takeaway.

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