Indoor socialising, larger outdoor gatherings and even hugging are permitted in England and Scotland from today.
In England groups of up to six, or two households, can meet indoors, while groups of up to 30 can meet outside. In most of Scotland, up to six people from three households can meet inside, and up to eight people from eight households can meet outdoors.
Social distancing is now optional between friends and family, meaning hugs and close contact are allowed once again. People are still required to social distance in shops, pubs, restaurants and other business or medical settings.
However, restrictions will remain unchanged in the Glasgow City and Moray areas due to concerns around local outbreaks of Covid-19.
Some rules are also being eased in Wales today, though the changes are smaller. In Northern Ireland, the next major relaxations are set for 24 May.
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 current lockdown rules explained
Pubs and restaurants open indoors: what are the rules?
Pubs and restaurants can now welcome patrons inside. The ‘rule of six’ (or two households) applies, as it does with indoor socialising in homes. Children do count towards this limit.
The ‘one metre plus’ rule is also still in effect, meaning tables need to be spaced out or separated with screens.
Non-essential shops, hairdressers and barbers open
Hairdressers, barbers and shops are also open.
Shops are allowed to stay open until 10pm from Monday to Saturday in a bid to spread out shoppers and avoid congestion.
- Find out more: the best and worst online and high street shops
What are the rules for meeting friends and family?
A maximum of six people, or any number of people from two households, are able to meet indoors. Experts are stressing that meeting outdoors is safer, and opening windows for ventilation is advised when meeting inside.
Groups of up to 30 people can now meet outside. When meeting friends and family, social distancing is optional. This means you don’t have to keep ‘one metre plus’ distance from each other.
Despite this, the Prime Minister has said that people should use ‘care and common sense’ when deciding whether to hug friends and family, and that factors like vaccination status should be taken into account.
What else changed on 17 May?
Cinemas, theatres, museums and soft play areas can once again reopen. Social distancing is required for audiences at most events in these venues, and larger theatres and concert halls may have capacity limits in place.
For holidays in England, hotels and B&Bs can reopen for groups of up to six (or two households).
As for international travel, people do not have to quarantine upon return if they visit one of the countries on the government’s ‘green list’. However, the green list countries themselves might not allow UK holidaymakers to enter.
- Find out more: green list countries revealed – where can I go on holiday?
Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions
Most of Scotland has moved to Level 2 lockdown restrictions, with some islands moving to Level 1.
However, the Glasgow City and Moray regions remain at Level 3, and people living there have been asked not to travel outside of these areas.
Pubs and restaurants reopen inside
Pubs and restaurants are now open inside and outside. Inside, six people from up to three different households can meet. Children under 12 don’t count towards the six, but they do count towards the household limit.
Outside, up to eight people from eight different households can meet. In this case, under 12s don’t count towards the number of people or households.
Shops, barbers and hairdressers reopen
Hairdressers and barbers are now back up and running, along with non-essential shops.
What are the rules around meeting friends and family?
You can now meet people from other households inside your home. Up to six people from three different households can meet.
As with pubs and restaurants, under 12s don’t count towards the six-person limit but they do count towards the three households. This means a group with children from four separate households would not be allowed.
You do not have to physically distance from family and friends, but you are advised to minimise the number of different meetings you have, keep rooms well ventilated and not to share food or utensils.
If you’re meeting outside, up to eight people from eight different households can meet. Children under 12 don’t count towards the total number of people or households.
What else has reopened?
All holiday accommodation, including hotels and B&Bs, can now open.
Cinemas, theatres, music venues and even stadia can all reopen, though larger venues will have capacity limits in place.
- The Scottish government’s full lockdown guidelines can be found here.
What are the rules in Wales?
Restrictions have been relaxed in Wales, but not as significantly as in England and Scotland.
Pubs and restaurants open inside
You can once again eat and drink inside at pubs and restaurants in Wales. Groups of up to six people from six households (not including children under 11) can meet together inside.
Shops and hairdressers now open
Wales’ non-essential retailers are now open, as are barbers, hairdressers and beauty salons.
What are the rules around meeting friends and family?
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.
What else is open?
Holiday accommodation, cinemas and theatres are now open, and international travel has resumed (see below for more).
Northern Ireland’s restrictions explained
Northern Ireland was the only UK nation not to relax restrictions on Monday 17 May. Changes to rules, allowing indoor pubs and socialising, are set to come into effect on 24 May, pending a final decision.
Shops and pubs now open
Northern Ireland’s non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants are now open.
When can I get a haircut?
Hairdressers and barbers have now reopened, along with other close-contact services such as beauty and nail salons.
When can I meet friends and family?
Northern Ireland’s current rules for socialising are as follows:
- There’s no indoor mixing of households allowed.
- In private gardens, up to 15 people from up to three households can meet.
- In public outdoor spaces such as parks, 10 people can meet from two households.
- In outdoor hospitality, six people from two households can meet.
Children do count towards these limits.
- You can find Northern Ireland’s full lockdown rules here.
What about travel and holidays?
Currently, ‘staycations’ in self-catered accommodation are allowed in every UK nation. England, Scotland and Wales have reopened hotels, hostels and B&Bs as well.
Only people who live in Glasgow City and Moray are not allowed to go on holiday at all, as they can’t leave the Level 3 area they live in.
International travel has also resumed for people in England, Scotland and Wales. You can visit countries on the government’s ‘green list’ without having to quarantine upon return, though you will need to take Covid-19 tests.
(Originally published 23 June 2020 and regularly updated since to reflect changes to the guidelines. Last updated 17 May 2021.)