People in Northern Ireland and Scotland are no longer be allowed to socialise in their homes with people they don’t live with. The rules in England and Wales were also recently tightened.
What are the current rules on socialising?
In England, a maximum of six people from multiple households can meet up both indoors and outdoors – in private homes, pubs, restaurants and parks. All ages are included in the headcount. There are some exceptions – for example when a single household has more than six occupants.
In Scotland, people are being told not to visit other households or other private indoor spaces.
In public indoor spaces, where Covid-secure guidelines are observed, six people from two households can gather. The same rule of six applies in outdoor spaces, including private gardens.
Outdoors, children aged 11 or under will be exempt form the headcount. Young people aged 12 to 18 will also be exempt from the two household limit and allowed to meet together outdoors in groups of six.
Northern Ireland has also announced tougher rules. Social mixing of households is not allowed inside private homes – although there are some exemptions.
Up to six people from two households can meet in private gardens. In other places, both inside and outside, up to 15 can gather with social distancing – but venues, such as pubs, must carry out risk assessments.
In Wales, it is now illegal for more than six people to meet indoors – and even then, the six people must be from an “extended household”. However, people living alone in areas under local restrictions can now meet one other household indoors, Children aged 10 and under do not count in the total. Up to 30 people from different homes can still meet outside.
What are the rules on mingling?
The guidelines for England refer to times when “mingling” could break the rules. It says “there can be multiple groups of six people in a place, provided that those groups do not mingle”.
If you are at a pub, restaurant or other venue, you should “avoid mingling with anyone outside the group you are with, even if you see other people you know”.
People attending a protest, or other organised event, should also attend in groups no larger than six.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said two families of four stopping for a chat would be another example of mingling that broke the rules.
Will any gatherings of more than six be allowed?
Exceptions allowed in England include:
- If your household or support bubble is larger than six
- Education and training
- Protests and political events, if coronavirus rules are followed
- Jury duty or other legal commitments
- Children’s play groups and youth clubs
- Support groups, such as for addiction or abuse
Only 15 people are allowed to attend weddings or civil partnerships, in groups of six. Funerals will be able to take place with up to 30 people attending.
Can I still go to the pub, place of worship or an exercise class?
Yes. Pubs, restaurants, shops and other venues will remain open if they follow safety rules and allow for social distancing.
However, across England all pubs, restaurants and hospitality venues have to shut at 22:00. They will only be able to offer table service.
Each group can have no more than six people in it and venues should also allow for social distancing between groups.
In England, places of worship can have as many people in them as is safe to do so. Again, people can only attend in groups of six or less.
Group exercise classes are exempt from the rule of six, as long as they are organised under Covid-secure guidelines.
The UK government has listed 30 organised sports which are permitted with more than six participants. It says others will also be allowed if a sport’s organising body has published guidelines.
Can I be fined for breaking the rules?
The new measures mean police can break up groups larger than six.
Members of the group can be fined if they fail to follow the rules or wear a mask where specified. The fine for a first offence is now £200. Repeat offenders will have their fines doubled for successive offences, up to a maximum of £3,200.
What is the guidance on social distancing?
Each UK nation is advising people to stay 2m (6ft) away from anyone they don’t live with. However, there are some differences:
- In England, if you can’t stay 2m away, you can stay “1m plus” apart. The “plus” means doing something else to limit possible exposure – like wearing a face covering
- In Scotland, there are exemptions to the 2m rule in some places – like pubs and restaurants. Children aged 11 or under do not need to social distance
- In Wales, the 2m guidance reflects the fact it’s not realistic to stay that far apart somewhere like a hairdresser’s. Primary age children in Wales are also exempt
- Northern Ireland‘s guidance was 1m (3ft) for a time, but is now back at 2m
How long should I self-isolate?
Self-isolating means staying at home and not leaving it.
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
Other members of their household should isolate for 14 days and not leave their homes.
If you test positive you will be contacted by contact tracers, who will establish who else you might have passed on the infection to.
Anybody they deem to be at risk will have to isolate themselves for 14 days from the point of contact.