The prime minister announced on Thursday that groups of up to six people could meet outdoors in England from Monday, permitting what he described as “a long-awaited and joyful moment” as family and friends reunite after 10 weeks in lockdown. He set out the next stage in the easing of restrictions with a caveat that “there may still be some anomalies, or apparent inconsistencies, in these rules”.
The UK government was yet to publish the promised guidance on the new rules on Friday afternoon but here is what has been announced so far.
Can I see my family and friends?
Yes. Whereas people in England were previously allowed to meet one person from another household outside while maintaining a two-metre distance, from Monday, groups of up to six will be allowed to meet. People will be permitted to congregate in gardens and other private outdoor spaces, instead of just in public spaces, as Johnson said “there is no difference in the health risk”.
The prime minister said people should try to avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession, “so that we can avoid the risk of quick transmission from lots of different families and continue to control the virus”.
The government also announced that from Monday, the 2.2 million people who have been “shielding” from Covid-19 in England because they are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable will be allowed to spend time outdoors for the first time in 10 weeks. They will be able to go outside with members of their household while continuing to follow physical distancing guidelines. Those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.
Reviews of the shielding guidance are expected to be made at regular points in the coming weeks.
In Scotland, people from one household will be able to meet with another household outdoors in public spaces or a private garden from Friday, providing they maintain physical distancing. The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said the maximum number of people in a group should be eight.
The approach in Wales is similar. People in a household will be able to meet with one other household outdoors from Monday. In Northern Ireland, groups of six are already allowed to meet outdoors. The Stormont executive plans to confirm the further easing of lockdown regulations after a meeting on 4 June but it is expected to allow small outdoor wedding ceremonies, attended by no more than 10 people.
Does that mean we can have a barbecue?
Yes. “You can even have a barbecue providing you do it in a socially distanced way, provided everybody washes their hands, provided everybody exercises common sense,” said the prime minister. . The chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, added that those having a barbecue should remember they can spread the virus by passing things from one person to another.
Can we go into other people’s homes?
Yes and no. The UK government has said the science makes it clear the chances of spreading coronavirus is much smaller outside so socialising inside is not allowed.
However, the prime minister said people could go through houses to access back gardens. Whitty also confirmed it was acceptable for people to use their host’s toilet, as long as they washed their hands thoroughly and wiped down surfaces afterwards.
The Welsh government has also said it is OK for people to walk through someone’s home to get to their garden but they would be publishing guidance on how to do this safely.
In Scotland, Sturgeon said: “If the distance [from your own home] is so far that you would have to use someone else’s bathroom, then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it.”
How far can we travel?
While people in England can travel as far as they want to take exercise and spend time outside, they cannot stay over at people’s houses. “We don’t want people to go to other households and stay there. I’m afraid we are not at that stage,” said Johnson.
In Wales people are being asked to stay local, which is defined as about 8km (five miles) from their homes. Sturgeon said there would be no legal limit on how far people in Scotland could travel but she said the strong advice was to stay within five miles.
Can I do non-essential shopping?
Yes. Outdoor retail such as markets and car showrooms in England will be allowed to open in England from Monday. Other non-essential shops can open a fortnight later, as long as they abide by the guidelines.
In Scotland, garden centres and plant nurseries will be able to open from Friday. The Welsh government will decide whether non-essential retail will reopen at their next lockdown review on 18 June, though they said such businesses, which could comply with the physical distancing duty, should prepare to reopen.
Can children go to school?
The UK government confirmed it was pushing ahead with plans to open primary schools in England to some pupils from Monday, giving headteachers three days of half-term holiday to make final preparations. Nurseries and childcare providers in England are also being told they can reopen from 1 June. However, some local authorities have insisted schools in their area will not be opening.
In Scotland, teachers can return to schools from Monday to prepare for the start of the new school year on 11 August, when pupils will do a mixture of at-home and in-school learning. The governments in Wales and Northern Ireland have said schools will not reopen on Monday.