Almost all legal coronavirus restrictions have been removed in England, as the country embarks on the final step of the government’s lockdown lifting roadmap.
Nightclubs, closed since the start of the pandemic, have now reopened, along with all other venues that had to close during the lockdown.
Social distancing measures have been scrapped, meaning there are no legal limits to the number of people you can meet in any setting, nor on numbers that can attend a venue or event, indoors or outdoors.
Although no longer legally required, mask-wearing is still advised in crowded indoor places, with some travel operators and retailers still recommending it to their customers.
Some restrictions have also been lifted today in Wales and Scotland, although these nations have taken a more cautious approach, with masks and social distancing still required by law in some settings.
What are the rules in England?
From tMonday 19 July, almost all legal restrictions on social contact have been removed. Here’s what that means.
Rules have been dropped completely, meaning no more ‘rule of six’ for meeting inside and no ‘one-metre plus’ requirement for spacing between patrons at pubs, restaurants and other venues.
Some establishments may choose to keep these rules in place for the safety of customers and staff.
Masks and face coverings
The law no longer requires people to wear face coverings in shops or on public transport, but government guidance says people are still ‘expected’ to wear them in crowded indoor spaces.
This has caused confusion, and it means people will have to check themselves whether businesses and service providers are continuing to require masks.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said masks will still be required on TfL services, including the underground. Some supermarkets and retailers have said they will encourage customers to continue wearing masks.
Nightclubs, which have been closed since March 2020, can now reopen.
The Prime Minister has said that nightclubs and other venues hosting crowds should encourage visitors to show so-called ‘vaccine passports’ when they arrive, but there is no legal requirement for them to do this at present.
Venues can now operate at full capacity and measures such as table service are no longer required.
Working from home
The previous requirement to work from home where possible has been removed. However, ministers are encouraging the return to offices to be gradual.
One of the only legal restrictions left is the requirement to self-isolate if you contract Covid-19. You’ll also have to self-isolate if you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
From 16 August, this second requirement will be dropped for children under the age of 18 and for people who have been double vaccinated.
This rule has so far led to mass disruption of peoples’ social plans and problems for many businesses, with up to 1.6 million people being told to self-isolate last week alone.
As has already been announced, holidays to amber list countries are allowed for people who have had two vaccine shots. Whether your holiday can actually go ahead will still depend on a number of factors, including whether your destination allows visitors from the UK.
Special rules have been put in place for people visiting France. Double-vaccinated people will still be required to isolate upon return, even though the country is on the amber list. This arrangement has been dubbed the ‘amber plus’ list.
- Find out more: the rules for amber list holidays
Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions
All of Scotland has now moved to Level 0 restrictions. In contrast to England, there are still a number of legal measures in place at this tier to stop the spread of the virus.
As well as this, working from home where possible is still advised, and facemasks will still be legally mandatory ‘for some time to come’, says First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
What are the rules around meeting friends and family?
The biggest change in Scotland is that you can now meet people socially in larger groups.
- In your home, up to eight people can meet from up to four households.
- In an indoor public place, such as a pub or restaurant, up to 10 people from four households can meet.
- Anywhere outdoors up to 15 people from 15 households can meet.
Children under 12 don’t count towards the limits on the number of people, but they do count towards the number of households.
Pubs, restaurants and other venues
Nightclubs are still closed in Scotland, but most other businesses are open.
At pubs and restaurants, table service is still mandatory and face coverings are still needed when not seated. One metre social distancing has also remained in place.
People must still wear face masks in shops.
- The Scottish government’s full lockdown guidelines can be found here.
What are the rules in Wales?
Wales moved to alert Level 1 on 17 July. Further lockdown easing is expected on 7 August.
Key differences from England include face coverings still being mandatory in shops and other indoor settings, and working from home is still advised. These two measures are expected to continue beyond 7 August.
How many people can meet?
Up to six people can now meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation. Children under the age of 11 and carers don’t count towards the limit.
Outdoors, there are now no legal limits on the numbers who can meet.
Ice rinks are the latest establishments given the green light to open. Now, almost every business is able to open in Wales. Nightclubs are still closed.
Northern Ireland’s restrictions explained
Northern Ireland’s most recent round of lockdown easing came on 5 July and more is expected on 26 July. The current rules are below.
Shops and hairdressers now open
Non-essential shops, hairdressers and barbers have now reopened, along with other close-contact services such as beauty and nail salons.
Pubs and restaurants reopen inside
Up to six people (not including children under the age of 12) from any number of households can sit together.
What are the rules around socialising?
Up to six people from up to two households can meet inside a private home. This limit rises to 10 if one household has six or more members. Children under the age of 12 don’t count towards these limits.
Up to 15 people (including children) from up to five households can meet outside in private gardens.
In outdoor public spaces such as parks, gatherings of up to 30 people are allowed. For a gathering of more than 30, a risk assessment is required.
- 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.
International travel has also resumed for every UK nation. You can visit countries on the government’s green list without having to quarantine upon return, although you will need to take Covid-19 tests.
If you have had two vaccine shots, you’re now able to visit amber list countries without quarantining upon return. Although, double-vaccinated people visiting amber list France will still have to do this.
Originally published 23 June 2020 and regularly updated since to reflect changes to the guidelines. Last updated 19 July 2021.