Covid lockdown rules for England: what the latest restrictions mean for you

England has been plunged into its second lockdown, and people up and down the country now face tougher restrictions.

The lockdown came into effect this on Thursday November 5 at 12.01 am and will remain until Wednesday 2 December, but Cabinet Minister Michael Gove warned it may last longer.

Pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops have closed their doors and members of the public have been told to stay at home for the next four weeks in a bid to reverse the spread of Covid-19.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said law enforcement will continue the approach of "policing by consent" to try to get the public to comply with the new lockdown.

Boris Johnson announced the second national lockdown on Saturday, October 31, after a rapid rise in coronavirus cases. MPs voted in favour of the proposals on November 4.

The Prime Minister’s announcement came on the same day the UK surpassed 1 million lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus. 

Mr Johnson was forced to act after Tier 3 restrictions across much of England failed to stem the spread. 

Mr Johnson said there was "no alternative" to the latest nationwide lockdown. His chief scientific advisers, Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance, produced graphs which claimed deaths could exceed the first peak and the NHS could be overwhelmed during the winter months.

Although official projections which pushed the country into a second lockdown have been quietly revised to no longer suggest deaths could soon overtake those at the peak of the first wave.

Here is everything you need to know about what you can and cannot do in the new lockdown.

When will it start?

when will it starts

The measures began at midnight on November 5, and will end on Wednesday 2 December at the earliest. 

After 2 December, different parts of the country will adopt an exit strategy, which will continue to follow the restrictions from the previous tier system, depending on the severity of infection in the local area.  

What measures have been announced?

Measures

The key restrictions from the new lockdown are similar but not identical to the original lockdown in spring. 

They include:

  • Pubs, bars and restaurants must close, although food takeaways and deliveries will be permitted
  • All non-essential retail, leisure and entertainment venues must close
  • A ban on the mixing of households, except for support or childcare reasons. Exercising outdoors with one person from outside of your household is also permitted. 
  • A restriction on travel, including outbound international travel (except for work). Travel within the UK is also discouraged. 
  • Staying at home to be encouraged except for education, work (if impossible from home), medical reasons, shopping for good or essentials, caring for others or exercise.

Unlike the first lockdown, nurseries, schools, colleges and universities will remain open. 

Health minister, Nadine Dorries has also said children under school age who are with their parents will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside.

Children can also move between the homes of their parents if their parents are separated.

Coronavirus UKLA current

Why is a lockdown necessary?

Why are we doing it

Mr Johnson is understood to have been persuaded that a national lockdown is the only way to ‘save’ Christmas, after the UK surpassed 1 million confirmed cases on Saturday, October 31. 

Imposing it is a bitter blow for the Prime Minister, who insisted for months that he did not believe one would be necessary, describing it as a “nuclear option” and warning that it would be an economic “disaster”. Last month, he told MPs that restrictions would be “completely wrong for the country”.

However, Government scientific advisers told him that by October 14 deaths had already reached daily levels predicted in their worst case scenario planning and would exceed their most pessimistic predictions by the end of the month.

However the forecast has since been revised, reducing the upper end of the scale to around 1,000 deaths a day by December 8 – on a par with the peak of the pandemic in April.

Professor Calum Semple, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), told BBC Breakfast on Saturday 31 October that: "The tiered approach to restrictions hasn’t worked particularly well."

When asked what a national four-week lockdown could achieve, he said: "If that was applied nationally, and was adhered to, you would see a dramatic fall in hospital admissions and that’s in four weeks’ time."

He also warned that the virus was "running riot" across all age groups, with up to four times more women aged between 20 and 40 being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 than men in the same age bracket.

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Is this the same as a ‘circuit breaker’?

The measures announced by Downing Street will last until December 2 – which is similar to a short-term, ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown – but it is uncertain whether a longer lockdown will not be needed.

It was reported on October 30 that a senior scientist told the Government that it was already too late for a short circuit breaker lockdown, which had been demanded by scientific advisers and the Labour party.

“It’s definitely too late to think that the two-week circuit breaker on its own would sort us out. It almost certainly would need to go on for longer,” he told The Times.

“This is going in the wrong direction and it’s been going in the wrong direction for a while . . . If the trajectory doesn’t change, you end up with hospitals coming under very significant pressure as happened in the first wave.”

Will the tier system still apply?

Once the national lockdown eases on December 2, the country will adopt an exit strategy, and will continue to follow the restrictions from the existing tier system, depending on the severity of infection in the local area.

The current lockdown is similar to a fourth tier, however, Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said the Government was “striving” to avoid blanket restrictions.

When asked about a fourth tier, Mr Raab said: “We’re always ready for further measures that we can take, but I think the most important thing about further measures is that we continue on the track that we’re on of targeting the virus.”

Three-tier Covid lockdown map

 

Is Britain’s R rate increasing?

No. But another 24,405 people tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, October, 30th, with 274 deaths. The R rate of infection fell week-on-week from 1.2-1.4 to 1.1-1.3, but that still means infections are spreading exponentially, and the Office for National Statistics said cases “continue to rise steeply”. 

On Saturday, October 31, the same day the new lockdown measures were announced, it was confirmed that the UK has surpassed more than 1 million lab-confirmed cases since the outbreak of the virus. 

Where are the UK's coronavirus hotspots?

What shops will stay open?

SHOPS

From November 5, food shops, supermarkets, garden centres, hardware shops and certain other retailers providing essential goods and services can remain open.

Essential retail should follow Covid-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers. Unlike Wales, no aisles selling non-essential goods will be closed off.

All non-essential retail will close, meaning many shops will be closed during one of their most profitable months of the year. These include – but not limited to – clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, bookmakers, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vaping shops.​

These non-essential shops can remain open for delivery to customers, click-and-collect – if they can be Covid-secure – and online trading.

Why are shops closing?

As with pubs, restaurants and other places of social activity, the Government wants to stop any chance the virus has of spreading  between people, particularly people in groups.

Shops can help the virus to spread because it can live on surfaces for some time – so the items you pick up in the shop could be carrying the virus; you could then become infected yourself or pass it on to someone else. Scientists say that closing shops greatly reduces the risk of spreading the virus.

If fewer people get infected, there will be less strain on the NHS and more lives can be saved.

Will schools close?

will school close

For now, the Government insists it has no plans to close schools.

Unlike the previous lockdown, nurseries, schools, colleges and universities will remain open, although the Prime Minister is now facing a fresh battle with unions as a result.

Senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.

Every school has to draw up plans to ensure children continue to receive an education even if they have to stay at home.

According to the highest tier restrictions so-called ‘bubbles’ will be created so youngsters learn and mix with fellow pupils. Large assemblies or collective worship should not include more than one group. Break and lunch times can be staggered to keep bubbles apart. Ensuring these “distinct groups do not mix” makes it quicker and easier to identify contacts if a positive coronavirus case emerges or someone has symptoms.

The use of the staff room by teachers is also meant to be “minimised”. 

If a teacher or pupil has symptoms or a positive diagnosis, schools must contact local health protection teams immediately so those in close contact with the child can be traced. Pupils in a bubble, year group and very rarely the entire school could be asked to self-isolate. A mobile testing unit could be sent to a campus. 

Although guidelines do not recommend the universal use of face coverings, each school can decide whether pupils above Year 7, teachers and visitors should wear them when in corridors and communal areas, where passing briefly is deemed a “low risk”. They will not be worn in class. 

The guidance insists a “robust hand and respiratory hygiene” regime is in place, with children encouraged to clean their hands when they arrive at school, return from breaks, use bathrooms, change classrooms and before eating. Hand sanitiser “stations” should be commonplace, with possible supervision “given risks around ingestion”.

Mr Johnson has stressed the importance of schools and insists that exams will go ahead.  Most AS, A levels and GCSEs will be held 3 weeks later in order to address the disruption caused by the pandemic.

What about universities?

Universities are working to ensure they have safety measures in place to minimise the spread of the virus. This includes online teaching, one-way systems on campus and social distancing in classrooms at some universities. 

The government have advised that students who live at university must not move back and forward between their permanent home and student home during term time and should only return home at the end of term for Christmas.

The universities minister, Michelle Donelan (below), has said that students should not return home before the second lockdown begins as it will risk the lives of loved ones.

In a letter to students ahead of the second lockdown in England, Ms Donelan said: "I know and appreciate that a number of you may want to be back with your family during this difficult time, but I urge you to stay where you are in order to save lives."

Ms Donelan also called on institutions not to switch fully to online lessons during the lockdown as she warned it could jeopardise students’ learning and "risk their mental health".

Credit: Will Wintercross/Will Wintercross

In a separate letter to vice-chancellors, the minister said she wants all students to have "some form of face-to-face learning" where possible, as they had not seen evidence of increased transmission within teaching environments on university campuses.

It comes after guidance from the Cabinet Office said universities and adult education settings "should consider moving to increased levels of online learning where possible" during the four-week lockdown.

The University and College Union (UCU) is calling on vice-chancellors to move all non-essential activities online now to keep students and staff safe and to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

But new Department for Education (DfE) guidance on what universities and students in England should do during the second lockdown says face-to-face teaching should continue where it can be done safely.

The guidance says "commuter students" – those who live at their family home and travel to the university campus for lessons – will still be allowed to attend the university for educational purposes during the lockdown.

It also advises that face coverings should be worn in all university learning environments, providing that they do "not impact teaching and learning."

The new guidelines say libraries and study spaces on campus should remain open during the new national restrictions, but students must not gather in these spaces unless it is part of a scheduled in-person seminar or tutorial.

Once the national lockdown eases on December 2nd, the country will adopt an exit strategy, and will continue to follow the restrictions from the existing tier system, depending on the severity of infection in the local area.

Are gyms closing?

All gyms in England will close on 5 November in accordance to the new lockdown restrictions.

Gyms will only reopen under the rules of the previous tier system, with some gyms only opening under the approval of the local authority. 

If the tier system resumes in early December, it is expected that gyms will follow the same strict regulations as before the lockdown. This included the debate of whether gym goers need to wear a mask. 

Can I play sport outdoors? What about golf, tennis and fishing? 

All organised sport is banned under the new rules, including community events like Sunday league football.

Sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls, archery and shooting ranges are all closed.

As in the first lockdown, two people from different households are allowed to meet outdoors to exercise together, such as by going for a run or playing with a football in a park.

The Lawn Tennis Association has said indoor tennis will cease, but it is “making the case to Government for outdoor tennis activity for two individuals from different households to continue”.

More guidance on outdoor tennis courts is expected this week.  

Angling, on your own, with members of your own household or with one other individual is allowed. 

People may exercise more than once per day, providing their exercise is within the rules and does not involve household mixing beyond the limited exceptions.

Officially there is no advice requiring people who are exercising in a wide open space to wear a mask. As long as you are practising social distancing, it shouldn’t be necessary to wear a face covering while exercising.

Can I visit a relative in a care home?

Close family and friends of care home residents will be allowed to continue visiting them during England’s second national lockdown the government has announced.

Families of elderly care home residents had called for visits to be permitted, describing them as "essential" for mental health, while more than 60 organisations and experts had also called on the Government to enable visits to continue.

The regulations, published on November 3, state that the exception comes under medical need, and that it is reasonably necessary for someone to leave their home to visit a person staying in a care home where they are a member of that person’s household, a close family member, or a friend

Visits to care homes were banned during the first lockdown in March, as it became clear they had become hotspots for the spread of the disease. Visits to homes were only allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Under the Tier system, in Tiers 2 and 3 visits are only allowed in circumstances such as end-of-life care, and care home staff should facilitate visits over video call instead.

Can I still use a childminder, and can children travel between parents’ houses?

Parents can continue to use childcare services where “reasonably necessary to enable parents to work”.

That includes childcare centres and in-home childminders.

There is also additional flexibility in the rules allowing parents and children to travel for childcare purposes, and childcare bubbles can be used to allow one other friend or relative to help, even if they are in a different household.

As under the original lockdown in March, children under the age of 18 are allowed to travel between their parents’ homes if they are separated, enabling both parents to see their children and split childcare duties.

The Government’s guidance says “most youth clubs and groups will need to cease for this period”, so informal childcare through clubs will not be allowed.

Who can come into my house?

The latest rules ban households from mixing, except in specific circumstances.

People in the same household can see each other indoors, plus anyone in the same support bubble. Support bubbles are formed of one household of any number of people, plus one other person who lives alone.

The rules permit people who work in other people’s homes to enter – including cleaners, carers and tradespeople. Most food delivery services are offering socially-distanced drop-offs, so drivers do not have to enter other households.

Overnight stays in another household are not allowed except for support bubbles, and nor is visiting second homes elsewhere in the UK.

Can I go to the optician, dentist or vet?

The Government has said opticians and dentists will remain open when the next lockdown begins.

A spokesman said “medically necessary care and treatment may continue,” including from mental health services.

In the first lockdown, routine procedures and check ups for optical and dental care were delayed, while emergency treatment was still allowed.

Dentists initially avoided conducting procedures that generated aerosols, although that restriction has since been lifted.

The Government has confirmed vets will be allowed to stay open after the new rules come into force, providing they follow Covid-secure guidelines.

Do I have to shield again?

People who were told to formally shield during the first lockdown will be advised again that they should not leave their homes unnecessarily, as they are vulnerable to more serious effects from Covid-19.

But they will not be told to shield in the same way as they were in March – when vulnerable people were told not to leave their homes for any reason.

In addition, Boris Johnson has said people who are over 60 or who are clinically vulnerable should be especially careful mixing with other people in public spaces or in the workplace.

Professor Chris Whitty said there were “downsides” to the first shielding programme, including “significant problems with loneliness and feeling completely cut off from society”.

People who are most at risk will instead be told to minimise their contact with others as much as possible.

Can I meet relatives outside for a dog walk?

Yes, under the rules you may meet one other person from another household for exercise outdoors, including a dog walk.

People from the same household cannot go together to meet someone in another household, meaning the maximum number of people who can meet is always two, apart from people in the same support bubble.

Can I take my child with me to meet one other person outside? 

Nadine Dorries, a health minister, said children under school age who are with their parents will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside – so “a parent can see a friend or family member with their baby or young children”.

The exemption also applies to children and adults who are dependent on round-the-clock care, such as those with severe disabilities, she said.

However, households cannot mix in private gardens – they must meet in a public space such as a park.

Can I still go on holiday?

CAN I STILL GO ON HOLIDAY

No, overnight stays outside of your home are not allowed, and nor is travelling to visit a second home.

The rules also apply to people planning to travel anywhere else in the UK, or abroad – so holidays in less risky countries are also not permitted.

People who are in the same support bubble may visit each other overnight, but the Government has advised people to bubble with nearby friends or relatives to prevent unnecessary travel and the spread of the virus between different regions of the UK.

There are exemptions on international travel and staying in hotels for people who must stay overnight to fulfill work, educational or caring responsibilities.

Can I still get married?

No, weddings are now banned at least until the new regulations are reviewed on December 2.

The restrictions apply regardless of whether the ceremony happens in a place of worship.

An exceptions to the rules on weddings, is "where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover (‘deathbed wedding’)".

These weddings or ceremonies have been limited to 6 people.

Churches, mosques and other places of worship have been told to close apart from in specific circumstances such as funerals, broadcast sermons, individual prayer and formal childcare.

Funerals will be limited to a maximum of 30 people, although it is advised that only close family members attend. Stone settings and scatterings should have no more than 15 people.

Can pantomime rehearsals still happen?

Under the latest guidance, theatres have been ordered to close again, along with concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries.

Experts have warned that if pantomime actors are banned from rehearsing for the next month, the shows will not be able to take place if the restrictions are lifted on December 2.

The Telegraph understands discussions between the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and theatre groups are ongoing, but the current regulations do give scope for people who cannot work from home – like actors – to go to their workplace.

A source said figures in Government are “pushing strongly” for rehearsals in the arts sector to be exempt since they cannot be conducted remotely.

Can I move house? 

Yes, renters and homeowners can move house. Removal firms and estate agents can also operate.

Covid safety guidelines should be followed, such as social distancing and wearing facemasks. 

The government has previously recommended that people do as much or their own packing as they can, and that house viewings are conducted virtually where possible. 

Can I attend my partner’s baby scan or birth?

Under the first coronavirus lockdown, partners of pregnant women were often not allowed to attend prenatal scans or births.

After backlash against the rules, which many said made difficult births harder for new parents, the NHS has been issued with guidance that partners should now be allowed to attend.

But the guidance released by the Government after Saturday evening’s announcement does not refer to the issue.

The Department of Health and Social Care would not confirm whether partners would be allowed to attend appointments but said further regulations on medical care will be published soon.

Can my children play sport?

The latest lockdown regulations say “most” youth clubs will be closed unless they have a formal childcare function, and grassroots outdoor sport for adults has already been banned.

No exceptions are expected to be granted for children’s sports clubs, such as Saturday football leagues, as they involve children mixing in large numbers.

But children can still exercise with others in their PE lessons at school.

An online petition has been created to lobby the Government to make a formal exception for under-18s sport.

Mark Ing, who started the campaign, said sport was “important for the kids’ health” and could be run without adult spectators.