The UK’s lockdown rules have changed once again, but what does it all mean?
Life as we currently know it has become quite confusing again with the arrival of England’s third nationwide lockdown, currently scheduled to last until February 15 at least. There are once again a whole lot of lockdown rules in place for us to follow, and while they’ve been enforced to keep us all safe from the coronavirus outbreak, sometimes, they can seem difficult to digest. Here are all of the government’s latest guidelines to follow, laid out as simply as possible.
Do I need to stay at home?
With England’s return to strict lockdown measures, it is once again necessary to stay at home as much as possible. The general public is only permitted to leave their houses for the following reasons:
- for work, volunteering, or charity work, where you cannot do them from home.
- going to shops that are permitted to be open – to get things like food, medicine, and other basic necessities.
- to exercise, which must be limited to once per day and in your local area (more details on this can be found in the next section).
- any medical need, to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm (including domestic abuse), or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
- to attend education or childcare, for those who are eligible.
- to meet your support bubble (defined as “a support network which links two households”) or childcare bubble (which “allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare”), if you are allowed to form one.
If you leave home for any of the permitted reasons, the government is asking us to “stay local” – which means remaining in the village, town, or part of the city in which you live. You’re allowed to leave your local area for some permitted reasons, including commuting to work. The clinically vulnerable should only leave home for medical appointments, exercise, or essential reasons, and should not attend work. Additionally, the police will have powers to fine anybody leaving their home without a “reasonable excuse”.
How much can I exercise?
Answer: Once per day.
In a change to the November lockdown (and the later part of the initial spring lockdown), we’re being told to minimise the amount of time we spend outside our homes. That means that exercise should be limited to once per day, and we’re asked not to leave the local area to do so. Exercise can be done on your own, with the people in your household, your support bubble or childcare bubble (if you are allowed to form one), or with one person from another household.
As for where we can exercise, parks, beaches, public countryside, forests, public gardens, playgrounds, and the grounds of heritage sites are all options for you. However, other outdoor sports venues that had been open in Tier 4 – the likes of tennis courts, golf courses, and swimming pools – must now close under lockdown rules.
Can I see my friends and family?
Answer: In some cases.
There are a few scenarios in which you can see your family, and are as follows:
- if you live with them (duh).
- if they form part of your support or childcare bubble.
- if they live locally to you, and you are exercising together.
You should not be leaving the house to meet family or friends for a social visit, unfortunately – so for many of us, it’s back to Zoom for catchups during the lockdown.
Do I need to go to work?
Answer: If you cannot work from home, yes. If you can work from home, no.
The government has stated that those who are unable to work from home will be allowed to head into to work, but should avoid public transport unless absolutely necessary, and wear a mask when using public transport. Those who can work from home – for example, office workers – should continue to do so.
Do I still need to stay 2m away from others?
The two metre social distancing rule still applies, as we’ll need to remain at least two metres apart from anyone not in our household. In situations where this is not possible – such as public transport – you will need to stay one metre apart from others whilst taking extra precautions (i.e. wearing a face covering).
Do I need to wear a face covering?
Face coverings are still a legal requirement (unless you are exempt), and must be worn in indoor settings, such as shops, places of worships, and public transport. The police have the power to issue fines for anyone who refuses to wear a mask and is not exempt. You can find the government guidance on face coverings here.
Can I travel?
Answer: No (unless for essential journeys).
Since we’re only allowed to leave our homes for a handful of essential reasons, travel within England is now restricted by lockdown measures. Where travel is essential (i.e. heading to the shops), you will need to stay local, and reduce the number of journeys you make overall. Travel is permitted for the following reasons:
- work, where you cannot work from home.
- accessing education and caring responsibilities.
- visiting your support or childcare bubbles (where you are permitted to form them).
- to attend medical appointments.
- shopping for essential goods and services.
- outdoor exercise, where you cannot access an open space on foot.
- to attend to the care and exercise of an animal.
We’re asked to walk or cycle wherever possible, avoid busy times and routes on public transport, and should not share a car with anyone from outside your household or support bubble. International travel is still permitted for select reasons (including work), but it is highly advisable to check airline and local restrictions before travelling. UK and international holidays are not permitted with stay at home regulations in place.
When will pubs, restaurants and salons re-open?
Answer: Not yet.
Lockdown restriction has forced the closure of pubs, restaurants, and salons – and whilst restaurants can still offer takeaway and delivery services, takeaway pints are now banned under lockdown rules. With the lockdown currently set to last until February 15 (with the possibility of an extension if the R rate and cases remain high), it’ll likely be springtime before these establishments reopen.
Will the schools be open?
Answer: Yes, but only for vulnerable children and children of key workers.
There was much uncertainty about the prospect of schools returning after the Christmas break, but the arrival of the third lockdown has seen most of the UK’s schoolchildren remaining home. Colleges, primary schools, and secondary schools remain open for a handful of children, but the rest will be learning remotely until at least the February half term. Higher education courses remain online, except for critical worker courses (nursing, medicine, etc).
Can I be fined for breaking the rules?
Fines have been in place since the beginning of the spring lockdown to help police enforce the rules, and they’ve been increased as the pandemic has drawn on. Now, if you break the rules around meeting in groups, for instance, you can be given a £200 fine for the first offence – these double for further offences, up to a maximum of £6400. Illegal gatherings of over 30 people can lead to fines of £10,000.