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Lockdown latest: ‘rule of six’ returns to Scotland early

Find out what the rules are in your area

Lockdown latest: ‘rule of six’ returns to Scotland early

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has relaxed rules on socialising outdoors earlier than planned to allow six people from up to six households to meet up outdoors.

Meanwhile, in England and Wales, non-essential shops have reopened, and restaurants and pubs have reopened outdoors in England.

Overdue haircuts and lapsed workout routines are also back in swing, with hairdressers and gyms now open in England.

Here, Which? explains the current rules and upcoming changes under each UK nation’s roadmap out of lockdown, and reveals whether children count towards the rule of six (or four, or 10) where you are. Click the links for the rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

England’s lockdown rules explained

Shops now open: what are the rules?

Non-essential retail has now reopened in England, with thousands of stores opening their doors for the first time in 2021.

Shops are allowed to stay open until 10pm from Monday to Saturday in a bid to spread out shoppers and avoid congestion.

Primark is opening almost all of its stores in England and Wales for an extra two hours, with times varying by store. And some clothes stores, including John Lewis and M&S, will be reopening fitting rooms for the first time since the first lockdown.

Pubs and restaurants partially reopened: what are the rules?

Pubs and restaurants are now open in England, although punters must sit outside and it’s table service only – so no popping inside to order a pint from the bar.

According to a report in The Telegraph, some pubs will require customers to wear masks when walking around beer gardens, even though national guidance only requires indoor mask wearing.

What are the rules at hairdressers and barbers?

People in England can finally get their lockdown hair fixed by a professional. Hairdressers and barbers are open once again, although if you haven’t booked an appointment already you may have to wait a while for one.

What else is now open?

  • Public buildings such as libraries and community centres
  • Personal care services such as beauty salons and nail bars
  • Outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks
  • Small outdoor events such as fetes
  • Indoor leisure and sports facilities for individual activities or exercise within your household or support bubble
  • Parent and child groups for up to 15 people (children under the age of five don’t count towards the 15)
  • Weddings, civil partnerships, wakes and other commemorative events for up to 15 people (not including staff) at indoor venues that are permitted to open
  • Outdoor wedding receptions for up to 15 people
  • Self-contained holiday accommodation, provided you’re with your household or support bubble (but the government still advises minimising travel as much as possible)
  • Care home residents can nominate up to two people who can visit them indoors

You can find the full details of the rules and upcoming changes on the government’s national lockdown page.

What are the rules for meeting friends and family?

Limited outdoor socialising is now allowed under the ‘rule of six’ – but the ways this rule works are slightly different from before.

First, you can actually either have up to six people from any number of households, or any number of people from two households meeting outdoors.

And second, unlike the previous version of the rule of six, children of all ages now count towards the six-person limit.

Indoor socialising is not allowed yet. According to the government’s roadmap, this could be allowed from 17 May at the earliest.

Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions

Scotland’s ‘stay at home’ guidance has now changed to ‘stay local’, meaning you’re advised not to leave your local authority.

When will shops reopen?

Garden centres and some other types of shops including those selling baby equipment and homeware are now open.

Other non-essential retailers will be allowed to reopen from 26 April at the earliest.

What about pubs and restaurants?

Pubs and restaurants will reopen in a restricted capacity alongside non-essential shops on 26 April. The link below has more detail.

Can I get a haircut?

Hairdressers and barbers are now back up and running by appointment.

What are the rules around meeting friends and family?

In an early rule relaxation, six people from up to six different households can now meet up outside in Scotland. Children under the age of 12 don’t count towards this ‘rule of six’.

People in Scotland can now travel anywhere else within Scotland, as the previous ‘stay local’ advice has been relaxed. However, you cannot stay overnight outside of your local area and you are still advised to shop within your own council area.

What are the rules in Wales?

Shops and hairdressers now open

Wales’ non-essential retailers are now open.

You can also go to the hairdressers or barber shop, as well as other close-contact services such as beauty salons.

When will pubs and restaurants reopen?

Outdoor hospitality is due to reopen in Wales from 26 April, if the data allows.

What are the rules around meeting friends and family?

The ‘stay local’ rule ended on 29 March, meaning residents can now travel anywhere in Wales.

Six people from up to two households are allowed to meet outdoors with social distancing.

Children under the age of 11 and carers don’t count towards the six.

Northern Ireland’s restrictions explained

Northern Ireland’s ‘stay at home’ rule has now changed to ‘stay local’ and ‘work from home’.

When will shops reopen?

Outdoor non-essential retail, such as car garages and garden centres, can now open.

Other non-essential shops can resume click-and-collect services, but they can’t open for in-store browsing.

There’s no confirmed date for non-essential shops to reopen fully, but a formal review, which could set a date, is due to take place this week.

What about pubs and restaurants?

Pubs and restaurants remain closed in Northern Ireland. The formal review of the coronavirus restrictions this week may bring news of when they will reopen.

When can I get a haircut?

Hairdressers and barbers also remain closed at the moment, but a reopening date could be decided soon.

When can I meet friends and family?

Up to 10 people from two households can now meet outdoors. Children do count towards this limit.

What about travel and holidays?

Currently, England and Wales are the only nations that allow residents to go on holiday – as long as they stay in self-catered accommodation and only travel with their own household.

Scotland and Northern Ireland still only allow essential travel, which doesn’t include holidays, although this is set to change as rules are relaxed in each nation.

International holidays are still banned in every UK nation, and travelling for essential reasons is very difficult right now. Many countries have banned incoming travellers from the UK due to the new variant present here.

The UK has now closed all its ‘travel corridors’, so you need a negative Covid-19 test to be allowed into the UK and have to quarantine when you return home, and quarantine in a hotel if you’re arriving from a ‘red list’ country.

All of this means that people who have booked holidays should be offered refunds if their flights are cancelled or hotels are closed. But if your flight goes ahead, you may not be able to get your money back.

While many insurers now offer ‘coronavirus cancellation cover’, this often only covers you if you or someone you’re travelling with catches the virus. Only a handful of insurers will cover you for cancelling due to a new lockdown.

A new ‘traffic light’ system for international travel, which will apply to England from 17 May at earliest, has been announced by the UK government. But so far, the full details have not been revealed.


This story was first published on 23 June 2020 and has been regularly updated since to reflect changes to the guidelines. The latest update was on 12 April 2021. A previous version of this story erroneously reported that non-essential retail in Northern Ireland would reopen in full on 16 April. But, in fact, it only opened for click-and-collect services.

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