If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus, or want to know about testing and tracing programmes, see this article.

This article gives an overview of official guidance and rules on lockdown, categories of vulnerable patients, and how to get help. There are links to the full documents at the bottom of this page.

There are five sections to the advice below:

Requirements for everyone – England
Requirements for everyone – Scotland
Requirements for everyone – Wales
Requirements for everyone – Northern Ireland
If you need support.

While the rules and guidance are broadly similar throughout the United Kingdom, there are detailed differences between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Links to rules and guidance in the devolved nations are included below.

General resources

NHS advice on what to do if you are unwell - UK
Working safely during coronavirus (contains links to equivalent advice for each devolved nation).

Requirements for everyone - England

In order to slow and reduce the spread of coronavirus, the Government has placed restrictions on when and how people can move around outside their homes and meet others. This includes ongoing advice to work from home if you can, and restrictions such as limits on how and when public transport may be used.

It remains a general rule that you should remain two metres (six and a half feet) or more away from anyone who does not live in your household. However, there are exceptions to this.

If you cannot maintain a two metre distance, but can take an extra precaution such as wearing a face mask or avoiding face-to-face contact, it is acceptable to keep a one metre distance.

A single person household (containing one adult, with or without children) may form a 'bubble' with another household (which can be of any size). Members of a 'bubble' can visit each other's homes, including staying overnight and not observing social distancing. However, if one person in the bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, all members of both households must follow the rules on testing and self-isolation.

Members of two households or bubbles may meet indoors, but you should maintain social distancing when doing so from anyone not in your own household or bubble. Households or bubbles can meet with other groups in succession, but not at once. So, for instance, if you visit a restaurant with members of another household and run into a friend from a third household, you should not expand your group to include this extra person. You are advised to limit the number of different households you interact with, as more social contact, even when done carefully, increases the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Gatherings outdoors are permitted up to a total of six people from more than one houeshold. This can be in a public space such as a park, or a private space such as a garden.

Gatherings of over 30 people are criminal offences and can be dispersed by the police. Groups ‘slightly’ larger than 30 are permitted for ‘major life events’ such as weddings.

If you are asked to provide your contact details to a venue you are visiting, so that you can be contacted if there is a coronavirus outbreak, you should do so.

Guidance on hand-washing and hygiene remains in place:

  • Wash your hands more often, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, blow your nose, sneeze, cough, eat, or handle food
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • If you can, wear a cloth face mask when you are indoors with people outside your household, and it is not possible to maintain social distancing (eg in some shops)
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

There may be localised variations on these rules in particular areas. Links are provided below for areas where we are aware of different rules and guidance being in force.

Resources for England

Staying alert and safe (social distancing)
Meeting people from outside your household (including forming 'bubbles')
Staying safe outside your home 
Guidance on staying at home for households with possible coronavirus – Public Health England
Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can't do
Guidance for people receiving direct payments

Back to top

Requirements for everyone - Scotland

In order to slow and reduce the spread of coronavirus, the Scottish Government is instructing everyone to remain at home, other than for a few specific purposes:

  • Visiting shops that are allowed to open - but you must wear a face mask when you do so
  • Exercise or taking part in an outdoor recreation activity (see below)
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, if you cannot work from home.

There are restrictions on when and how you can meet other people. Members of up to three households may meet indoors, up to a maximum of eight people in total. Members of up to five households may meet outdoors, up to a maximum of 15 people in total. Across all meetings, members of one household should meet members of no more than four other households in a day. Social distancing must be observed between members of different households at all times.

Even when doing these things, you should remain two metres (six and a half feet) or more away from anyone who does not live in your household, and maintain good hand hygiene.

If you are asked to provide your contact details to a venue you are visiting, so that you can be contacted if there is a coronavirus outbreak, you should do so.

People who live alone (that is, with no other adults, and with or without children) may form an 'extended household group' with one other household of any size. The two households may visit each other's homes, including staying overnight, and do not need to follow social distancing rules. No other gathering of more than two people from different households is permitted, except where they are for essential work purposes or to meet a legal obligation.

Resources for Scotland

Information for individuals and businesses in Scotland
Staying at home and away from others.

Back to top

Requirements for everyone - Wales

In order to slow and reduce the spread of coronavirus, the Welsh Government is requiring people to move around outside their home only for particular reasons, which include:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • Exercise or taking part in an outdoor recreation activity 
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, if you cannot work from home
  • Numerous other specific exemptions, including giving blood and using waste disposal facilities.

Even when doing these things, you should remain two metres (six and a half feet) or more away from anyone who does not live in your household.

Two households may join together to form an 'extended household'. This means they can meet as normal withour observing social distancing. There is no limit to the number of people who can be in an extended household, but each household can only join with one other, and once that arrangement has been put in place it should not be changed. 

Public gatherings of more than two people are limited. People from two different households may meet, provided this is outdoors. This can be in a public space such as a park, or a private space such as a garden. Even when doing this, you should remain two metres (six and a half feet) or more away from anyone who does not live in your household, and maintain good hand hygiene. Previous exemptions for gatherings of two or more people remain in place: 

  • For people from the same household or extended household
  • For essential work purposes
  • To attend a funeral, if invited to do so
  • To move house
  • To help a vulnerable person
  • To help someone in an emergency
  • To meet a legal obligation or take part in legal proceedings.

Resources for Wales

Coronavirus regulations FAQs
Staying at home and away from others
Guidance on extended households.

Back to top

Requirements for everyone – Northern Ireland

In order to slow and reduce the spread of coronavirus, the Northern Ireland Executive is instructing everyone to remain at home, other than for a few specific purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
  • Exercise or taking part in an outdoor recreation activity with members of your household, or outdoor gatherings of up to nine people from different households, provided they maintain social distancing
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, if you cannot work from home
  • Attending a funeral of a family member.

Even when doing these things, you should remain two metres (six and a half feet) or more away from anyone who does not live in your household.

Gatherings indoors of up to six people are permitted, provided that social distancing is maintained at all times. Good ventilation, good hand hygiene and the use of face masks are all recommended. Staying overnight is not permitted, and people who are shielding are advised not to meet others in this way. 

Additionally, a single person household (containing one adult, with or without children) can form a 'bubble' with another household (which can be of any size). Members of a 'bubble' can visit each other's homes, including staying overnight. However, if one person in the bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, all members of both households must follow the rules on testing and self-isolation.

Resources for Northern Ireland

Coronavirus rules and guidance 
Coronavirus (COVID-19): regulations, guidance and what they mean for you
Staying home and self-isolation.

Back to top 

If you need support

If you have received a letter saying that you are in the 'clinically extremely vulnerable', you can register to get help from volunteers while you are 'shielding' yourself. See our article on shielding for information on the guidance and services available in each of the home nations.

Many local voluntary groups have been formed to help people who cannot leave their homes. To find out if there is one in your area, visit covidmutualaid.org. The service On Hand can also match people who need help with vetted volunteers. In Scotland, Ready Scotland offered a portal for both volunteering and seeking assistance locally. In Wales, see Volunteering Wales

There is also support available for all patients and members of the public. The NHS has created a new service via the messaging app WhatsApp. Enter the number 07860 064422 into your contacts, then message it the word 'hi' to get started. This is a 'chatbot' service that can provide you with information.  In Scotland, Ready Scotland offers services for both obtaining help and volunteering to help others. 

If online information is not sufficient and you need to speak to someone, you can call NHS 111. Only do this if you cannot cope with your symptoms, or they are not getting better after seven days. 

You can of course also call the Patients Association helpline on 0800 3457115 for free information, advice and signposting, between 9:30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, or email at any time.

If you want to offer support

See our article for ways in which you can offer support to people in your area.

Back to top

Last updated: 10th July, 08:20.