Covid: What are the lockdown rules across the UK?

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A woman wearing a face mask walks on the street in London, 26/12/20

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England has gone into lockdown again to try to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed by a surge in coronavirus cases.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are also under lockdown.

What are England’s new rules?

People in England must stay at home and only go out for essential reasons. Primary and secondary schools have moved to online learning for all pupils apart from vulnerable and keyworker children.

Reasons to leave home include:

  • Work or volunteering where it is “unreasonable” to work from home. This includes work in someone else’s home, such as that carried out by social workers, nannies, cleaners and tradespeople
  • Education, training, childcare, medical appointments and emergencies
  • Exercise outdoors (limited to once a day). You can meet one other person from another household in an open public space to exercise
  • Shopping for essentials such as food and medicine
  • Communal religious worship
  • Meeting your support or childcare bubble. Children can also move between separated parents
  • Activities related to moving house

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to limit the time they spend outside their home. They should only go out for medical appointments, exercise, or if it is otherwise essential, but not for work or education purposes.

Graphic spelling out main restrictions for England lockdown

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International travel, or travel around the UK is only permitted for essential reasons.

Hospitality businesses such as pubs and restaurants and non-essential shops have closed, as have indoor and outdoor sports facilities including gyms and tennis courts.

Essential businesses and services can stay open to the public. These include:

  • Supermarkets, food shops, pharmacies and garden centres
  • Places of worship
  • Petrol stations and MOT services
  • Laundrettes
  • Banks and post offices
  • Doctors and dentists’ surgeries and vets
  • Car parks, public toilets and playgrounds

What are the restrictions in Scotland?

People in a street in Scotland alongside a sign on Covid protection rules

Scotland has its own restriction levels – from zero to four.

At midnight on 4 January, mainland Scotland (and the isles of Skye, Arran, Bute and Gigha) moved to “enhanced level four” until at least the end of the month. Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and other island communities remained in level three.

Covid Scotland level 4 banner

“Enhanced” level four rules

  • Nursery, primary and secondary schools close to all but vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers until February – learning moves online
  • People should only leave home for essential reasons such as caring responsibilities, essential shopping, exercise or seeing their extended household
  • Those who are shielding should not go into work, even if they cannot work from home
  • A maximum of two people from up to two households can meet outdoors (under-11s are not included in the limit and can play together outside)
  • Places of worship are closed except for weddings (up to five people) and funeral services (up to 20 people) – wakes are not allowed.
  • The definition of an essential business has tightened with premises such as ski centres, large retail showrooms and cosmetic clinics required to close
  • People should not travel outside their own local authority area for anything other than “essential” reasons
  • It is illegal to travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK unless the journey is essential

Covid Scotland level 3 banner

Level three (very high) rules

  • Pubs and restaurants can open until 18:00, but alcohol can’t be served
  • Leisure and entertainment venues must close
  • Non-essential travel in or out of the area is not allowed
  • Indoor gym use is restricted to individuals
  • Hairdressers and barbers can open

Levels two, one and zero

None of these levels currently apply to any area in Scotland.

What are Northern Ireland’s rules?

People in Belfast

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A six-week lockdown began in Northern Ireland on Boxing Day. From 8 January this becomes legally enforceable, meaning police can order people to return home.

The new rules include:

  • Closure of all non-essential shops, including garden centres and homeware stores
  • No click-and-collect services, apart from supermarkets
  • Closure of hair and beauty salons
  • Hospitality businesses open only for takeaway and delivery
  • Leisure and entertainment venues must close
  • Off-licences must close by 20:00
  • Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals limited to 25 people – wedding receptions not allowed
  • Churches can open for communal service (this is under review)
  • Elite sport allowed behind closed doors

What are the rules in Wales?

Shoppers in Wales

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Wales has a national lockdown. The new level four measures mean that:

  • You must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • You must not visit other households, or meet other people you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble
  • Wedding receptions and wakes are not allowed

You should also:

  • Work from home if you can
  • Not travel without reasonable excuse

The following must close:

  • Entertainment venues including theatres and concert halls
  • Indoor and outdoor visitor attractions
  • Sport, leisure and fitness facilities
  • Pubs, bars and cafes (except for takeaway and delivery)
  • Hairdressers and nail salons
  • Non-essential shops (click and collect allowed)

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