Coronavirus remains a serious threat across the country. Find out what you can and cannot do.
How the rules will change on 12 April
Some of the rules on what you can and cannot do will change on 12 April. You can read the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ (the roadmap out of lockdown) for more information on how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in England. You can also read the law that underpins these changes and the ongoing restrictions.
From 12 April:
- non-essential retail will be able to reopen
- personal care premises such as hairdressers and nail salons will be able to reopen
- public buildings such as libraries and community centres will be able to reopen
- outdoor hospitality venues will be able to reopen, with table service only
- most outdoor attractions including zoos, theme parks, and drive-in performances (such as cinemas and concerts) will be able to reopen
- some smaller outdoor events such as fetes, literary fairs, and fairgrounds will be able to take place
- indoor leisure and sports facilities will be able to reopen for individual exercise, or exercise with your household or support bubble
- all childcare and supervised activities will be allowed indoors (as well as outdoors) for all children. Parent and child groups can take place indoors (as well as outdoors) for up to 15 people (children under 5 will not be counted in this number)
- weddings, civil partnership ceremonies, wakes and other commemorative events will be able to take place for up to 15 people (anyone working is not included in this limit), including in indoor venues that are permitted to open or where an exemption applies. Wedding receptions can also take place for up to 15 people, but must take place outdoors, not including private gardens
- self-contained accommodation will be able to open for overnight stays in England with your household or support bubble
- you should continue to minimise the amount that you travel where possible
- care home residents will be able to nominate two named individuals for regular indoor visits (following a rapid lateral flow test)
Keeping yourself and others safe
You should stay 2 metres apart from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings) if you cannot stay 2 metres apart.
You should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times, including if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
You should follow this guidance in full to limit the transmission of COVID-19. It is underpinned by law.
You must wear a face covering in many indoor settings, such as shops and places of worship, and on public transport, unless you are exempt. This is the law. Read guidance on face coverings.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you are no longer advised to shield. However, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are advised to take additional precautions to protect yourself. It is important that you continue to keep the number of social interactions that you have low and try to limit the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing.
If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19
To help protect yourself and your friends, family, and community you should continue to follow all of the guidance on this page even if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness in most people. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so those who have received the vaccine should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection.
We do not know by how much the vaccine stops COVID-19 from spreading. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread COVID-19 to others.
Meeting family and friends indoors
You must not meet indoors with anybody you do not live with, unless they are part of your support bubble (if you are eligible), or another legal exemption applies.
Meeting friends and family outdoors (rule of 6)
You can meet up outdoors with friends and family you do not live with, either:
- in a group of up to 6 from any number of households (children of all ages count towards the limit of 6)
- in a group of any size from up to two households (each household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)
If you’re in a support bubble
If you are eligible to form a support bubble, you and your support bubble count as one household towards the limit of 2 households when meeting others outdoors. This means, for example, that you and your support bubble can meet with another household, even if the group is more than 6 people.
Where you can meet
You can meet in a group of 6 or a larger group of any size from up to 2 households (including their support bubbles) outdoors. This includes private outdoor spaces, such as gardens, and other outdoor public places and venues that remain open. These include the following:
- parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
- public and botanical gardens
- the grounds of a heritage site
- outdoor sculpture parks
- public playgrounds
- outdoor sports venues and facilities
If you need to enter through a house to get to a garden or other outside space and there is no alternative access, you should wear a face covering, wash or sanitise your hands when entering, and then go straight to the outside space. If you need to use the bathroom, wash your hands thoroughly and go back outside immediately. You should maintain social distancing from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble.
When you can meet with more people or meet indoors
Gatherings above the limit of 6 people or 2 households, or gatherings indoors, can only take place if they are permitted by an exception. These exceptions are listed on this page.
Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaking the limit if they are there for work, and the officiant at a wedding would not count towards the limit.
Support and childcare bubbles
You have to meet certain eligibility rules to form a support or childcare bubble. This means not everyone will be able to form a bubble. See the separate guidance on support bubbles and childcare bubbles.
You can only use a childcare bubble for childcare. You cannot use a childcare bubble to mix with another household for any other reason. This means you cannot use a childcare bubble to meet socially with another household.
Going to work
You should continue to work from home where you can.
If you cannot work from home you should continue to travel to your workplace. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work in:
- critical national infrastructure
- childcare or education
- essential public services
- essential retail, such as supermarkets and pharmacies
You do not need to be classed as a critical worker to go to work if you cannot work from home.
Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Where people cannot work from home, employers should take steps to make their workplaces COVID-19 secure and help employees avoid busy times and routes on public transport. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
COVID-secure guidelines are available for sectors across the economy to substantially reduce the risk of transmission.
Meeting others for work
You can gather in larger groups or meet indoors where it is necessary for your work. This does not include social gatherings.
Working in other people’s homes
Where it is reasonably necessary for you to work in other people’s homes you can continue to do so, for example if you’re a:
- social care worker providing support to children and families
You must follow the guidance on working in other people’s homes.
Where a work meeting does not need to take place in a private home or garden, it should not.
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable or live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable
If you have been identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable you should continue to work from home where possible. If you cannot work from home, you should go to work. Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and should be able to explain to you the measures they have put in place to keep you safe at work. Some employers may introduce regular testing of employees as part of these measures. You may also want to consider how you get to and from work, for example, if it is possible to avoid using public transport during rush hour.
If you live with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable then you can continue to attend work if you are unable to work from home.
You should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus, including what to do to reduce your risk of catching or passing on the virus at home.
If you are worried about going in to work or you cannot work
Citizens Advice has advice if you’re worried about working, including what to do if you think your workplace is not safe, or if you live with someone vulnerable.
Support is available if you cannot work, for example if you need to care for someone or you have less work.
There is further advice for employers and employees from ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).
Going to school or college
School pupils and students in further education should attend school and college.
All schools, colleges and other further education settings are open for face-to-face teaching during term time. It remains very important for children and young people to attend, to support their wellbeing and education and to help working parents and guardians.
Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should attend school or college.
There is further guidance on what parents need to know about early years providers, schools and colleges during COVID-19.
The following people in England will have access to regular rapid lateral flow testing now schools and colleges are open to all students:
- secondary school pupils and college students
- primary and secondary school staff and college staff
- households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary-age pupils and college students
- households, childcare and support bubbles of primary and secondary school and college staff
Universities and higher education
Students in university and other higher education settings undertaking practical and practice based courses who require specialist equipment and facilities can attend in-person teaching and learning where reasonably necessary. Providers should not ask students to return if their course can reasonably be continued online.
All other students should continue to learn remotely. They should remain at their current accommodation until they return to in-person teaching.
Students who have returned to higher education settings, including university, should not move back and forward between their permanent home and student home during term time, unless they meet one of the exemptions.
Higher education students who have moved to university accommodation and returned to face-to-face learning will be able to return to a non-term residence before 29 April 2021, if they wish to. This will allow university students to return to a family or other address for the holidays. However, in order to minimise the risk of transmission, students should remain in their term time accommodation where possible, especially those students who returned to campus from 8 March. Students should take a test before they travel.
Students should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times.
Children over 5 can use registered childcare, childminders, wraparound care and other supervised children’s activities indoors where it is reasonably necessary to enable parents or carers to:
- seek work
- attend education
- seek medical care or attend a support group
Vulnerable children can attend these settings regardless of circumstance as can those eligible for Free School Meals so that they can attend those that are part of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) running over the Easter holidays.
Children under 5 can continue to access childcare in all circumstances.
All children can now access outdoor supervised activities for children regardless of need.
Parent and child groups are permitted outdoors, with restrictions on numbers attending. See the parent and child groups section of this guidance.
There are several ways that parents and carers can continue to access childcare:
- early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) are open
- parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. This must not be used to enable socialising between adults
- some households will also be able to benefit from being in a support bubble, including all those with a child under the age of one
- nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home
Meeting others for childcare
People can continue to gather indoors or in larger groups outdoors where this is reasonably necessary:
- for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children, see further information on education and childcare
- for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
- to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
- for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
- to place or facilitate the placing of a child or children in the care of another by social services
Parent and child groups
The rules on whether you can meet indoors depend on the main purpose of the meeting.
Parent and child groups
Parent and child groups can take place outdoors if they are for the benefit of children aged under 5 and organised by a business, charity or public body. This includes groups that are primarily focused on social and developmental activities (such as art classes).
Parent and child groups can only take place in outdoor spaces, and must not take place in private gardens or homes, or in venues that are otherwise required to close.
Parent and child groups must be limited to no more than 15 attendees. Children under five and anyone working as part of the group are not counted in this number.
Support groups which provide support functions for parents, carers, or their children
Support groups which provide support functions for parents, carers, or their children, such as breastfeeding, postnatal, and baby and toddler groups which have to be delivered in person may continue to meet indoors, but must follow the same rules as other support groups. See the support groups section of this guidance.
Providing care or assistance
People can continue to gather in larger groups or meet indoors where this is reasonably necessary:
- to visit people in your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
- to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work, not to enable socialising between adults)
- to provide emergency assistance
- to attend a support group of up to 15 participants, the limit of 15 does not include children under 5 who are accompanying a parent or guardian
- for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a disabled person, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child
- to provide care or assistance for disabled or vulnerable people, including shopping for essential items and accessing services on their behalf
You can also provide care or assistance for disabled or vulnerable people inside someone’s home, where necessary. However, you must only meet indoors or in a larger group where it is reasonably necessary to provide care or assistance. This means you cannot meet socially indoors with someone who is vulnerable unless they are in your household or support bubble, or another exemption applies.
You should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times. There is further guidance for those who provide unpaid care to friends or family.
Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. Support groups must be organised by a business, charity or public body and must not take place in a private home. All participants should maintain social distancing. Examples of support groups include those that provide support to:
- victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
- those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
- those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness or terminal condition or who are vulnerable (including those with a mental health condition)
- those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity (including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender)
- those who have suffered bereavement
- vulnerable young people (including to enable them to meet youth workers)
- disabled people and their carers
Some parent and child groups may also take place indoors. See the parent and child groups section of this guidance.
The limit of 15 does not include children under 5 who are accompanying a parent or guardian. Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the limit, if they are there for work, and the officiant at a wedding would not count towards the limit.
Exercise, sport and physical activity
You can exercise outdoors in a group of 6 or a larger group of any size from up to 2 households (including their support bubbles, if eligible).
You can also take part in formally organised outdoor sports or licensed physical activity with any number of people. This must be organised by a business, charity or public body and the organiser must take the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment. You should avoid contact in training and, for some sports, avoid contact in all activities. Read the guidance on what avoiding contact means for your sport.
Outdoor sport and leisure facilities may open. Indoor gyms and other sports facilities, including changing rooms, will remain closed.
You must not meet indoors for sport, except for:
- disability sport
- sports as part of the curriculum in education
- supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s (including those who were under 18 on 31 August 2020), this should be limited to 15 participants
You should follow the guidance:
- on recreational team sport
- on outdoor sport and recreation in England
- for providers of grassroots sports and gym and leisure facilities
Elite sportspeople (or those on an official elite sports pathway) can meet in larger groups or meet indoors to compete and train. They can be joined by their coaches if necessary, or their parents and guardians if they’re under 18.
Funerals and linked commemorative events
Funerals are allowed with limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-secure venues or in public outdoor places. The venue manager or event organiser must take the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment.
Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people and may take place indoors. Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as wakes, stone settings and ash scatterings can also continue with up to 6 people in attendance.
Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions
Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not counted in this limit. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.
Wedding or civil partnership ceremonies can take place in licensed venues that are not expressly required to close under the COVID-19 regulations, in some venues that are only partially closed, and in venues that are permitted to open for the purposes of providing unrestricted services. Indoor hospitality venues must remain closed. There is guidance for small marriages and civil partnerships.
Any wedding reception or civil partnership celebration following the event must adhere to social contact limits. This means you cannot socialise indoors with anyone you do not live with, unless they are part of your support bubble. However, small gatherings can take place outdoors in a group of six, or 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible).
Places of worship
You can attend places of worship for a service. When a service is taking place indoors you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain social distancing at all times, staying 2 metres apart from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble.
When a service is taking place outdoors, you must not mingle in groups larger than 6, except for groups from up to 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible). You should maintain strict social distancing from other groups and households at all times.
You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.
Volunteering and charitable services
You can gather above the limit of 6 people or 2 households, or gather indoors, where this is reasonably necessary in order to provide voluntary or charitable services.
You should follow the guidance on how to help safely.
Other circumstances where you can gather in groups of more than six people or two households
You can meet indoors to be with someone who is giving birth or receiving treatment in hospital. You should check the relevant hospital’s visiting policies. There is further NHS guidance on pregnancy and coronavirus.
Avoiding injury or harm
You can gather in larger groups or indoors to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
You can gather in larger groups or indoors, with people outside your household or support bubble, to:
- visit someone who is dying
- visit someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospital or hospice
- to accompany a family member or close friend to a medical appointment.
There are further reasonable excuses. For example, you may gather in larger groups or meet indoors:
- to fulfil legal obligations
- to carry out activities related to buying, selling or moving house
- for the purpose of COVID-Secure protests or picketing where the organiser has taken the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment
- where it is reasonably necessary to support voting in an election or referendum (such as vote counting or for legal observers).
Those who are campaigning for a specific outcome in elections or referendums can carry out door to door campaigning activity in accordance with guidance on elections and referendums during COVID-19.
You can gather in larger groups or meet indoors for gatherings within criminal justice accommodation or immigration detention centres.
Care home visits
You should check the guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents must follow the national restrictions if they are having a visit out of the care home.
If you break the rules
The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).
You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.
You can be fined £800 if you attend a private indoor gathering such as a house party of over 15 people from outside your household, which will double for each repeat offence to a maximum level of £6,400.
If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.
Staying away from home overnight
You should not stay overnight in a second home, caravan or boat, if that is not your primary residence, unless it is necessary to do so. For example, for work, moving home, to attend a medical appointment, or to avoid injury, illness or harm (including domestic abuse). You should not be going on holiday at this stage.
You must not stay overnight with anyone you do not live with, unless they are part of your support bubble (where eligible) unless a legal exemption applies.
Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may only remain open for the specific reasons set out in law.
You must not stay overnight away from your home in holiday accommodation such as a hotel unless you:
- are unable to return to your main residence
- need accommodation while moving house
- need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event, or following a bereavement of a close family member or friend
- need accommodation to attend a medical appointment or receive treatment
- need accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services, or attend education
- are a child requiring accommodation for school or care
- are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if escaping harm (including domestic abuse)
- are an elite athlete or their support staff or parent provided the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home in order to take part in training or a competition
A full list of reasons can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England.
Travelling within England
You should minimise travel where possible. This means you should:
- avoid making unnecessary trips
- combine trips where possible
You should not stay away from home overnight for a holiday.
If you need to travel:
- walk or cycle where possible
- avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble
- plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport
- regularly wash or sanitise your hands
- wear a face covering on public transport, unless exempt
- stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors)
There is additional guidance on safer travel, including on the safe use of public transport.
Travelling within the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Channel Islands
Travelling to England
Across the different parts of the Common Travel Area (the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), there may be rules in place that restrict travel to England. For example, if you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, there may be a requirement to stay at home or “Stay Local” where you live, which means you cannot travel to England except in specific circumstances.
You should check the restrictions in place where you intend to travel from before making arrangements to travel.
Provided you are permitted to travel from another part of the Common Travel Area (the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), you may enter England and are not required to quarantine on arrival. If you do travel to England, you must follow the restrictions on what you can and cannot do.
Travelling from England
Across the different parts of the Common Travel Area (the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), there may be rules in place that restrict travel from England. You may only be able to travel for certain reasons, such as work. You should check the restrictions in place at your intended destination before making arrangements to travel.
Travelling to or from Northern Ireland
Currently in Northern Ireland it is against the law to leave home without a reasonable excuse. Those arriving into Northern Ireland from another part of the Common Travel Area are asked to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. There are a number of exemptions to this request.
Travelling to or from Scotland
Non-essential travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK, and the wider Common Travel Area, remains restricted. This means it is illegal to enter or leave Scotland unless you have a reasonable excuse. Travelling for a holiday is not a reasonable excuse. The guidance provides advice on reasonable excuses to travel to and from Scotland.
Travelling to or from Wales
Non-essential travel between Wales and the rest of the UK, and the wider Common Travel Area, remains restricted. This means it is illegal to enter or leave Wales unless you have a reasonable excuse. Travelling for a holiday is not a reasonable excuse. The guidance provides advice on reasonable excuses to travel to and from Wales.
Travelling internationally from England
You can only travel internationally from England where you have a reasonable excuse to leave the UK, such as work. International holidays are not permitted.
Some jobs qualify for exemptions for certain travel related requirements, such as self isolation and testing. See guidance on which jobs and circumstances qualify for travel exemptions.
If you do need to travel overseas (and have a reasonable excuse to do so), you are required to complete a new mandatory outbound ‘Declaration to Travel’ form from 29 March unless an exemption applies to you. You must state your reasons for travel on the form before leaving the UK.
In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting. You should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice. You should do this even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before.
Travelling to England from outside the UK
All visitors to England are subject to the coronavirus restriction rules.
All those planning to travel to England should follow the guidance on entering the UK. Before travelling to the UK, you must complete a passenger locator form and have proof of a negative COVID-19 test, unless you are exempt.
All arrivals will need to take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on day 2 and day 8 of quarantining. Arrivals must book a travel test package. See the guidance on how to quarantine when you arrive in England.
You cannot travel to the UK if you’ve visited or passed through a country where travel to the UK is banned in the last 10 days, unless you’re:
- a British national
- an Irish national
- anyone with residence rights in the UK
Everyone allowed to enter England who has visited or passed through a country where travel to the UK is banned in the last 10 days must:
- quarantine for 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel
- take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 of quarantining, the tests are included in the hotel package
- follow the guidance on this page
Advice for visitors and foreign nationals in England
Foreign nationals are subject to the national restrictions.
If you are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination.
You can still move home. People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.
Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work. If you are looking to move, you can go to property viewings.
Wherever you live, you may be able to get financial help.
See further information on business support and financial support if you’re off work because of coronavirus.
Businesses and venues
To reduce social contact, some businesses must remain closed or follow restrictions on how they provide goods and services. The full list of businesses required to remain closed can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England.
There is further guidance on reopening businesses and venues which explains which business will be permitted to open at each step of the roadmap.
Healthcare and public services
The NHS and medical services remain open, including:
- dental services
- audiology services
- other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health
The NHS continues to carry out urgent and non-urgent services safely. It is vital anyone who thinks they need any kind of medical care comes forward and seeks help.
The majority of public services will continue. These include:
- Jobcentre Plus sites
- courts and probation services
- civil registrations offices
- passport and visa services
- services provided to victims of crime
- waste or recycling centres
- getting an MOT