What are the new rules on shielding, social distancing and support bubbles?

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has announced further measures easing the coronavirus lockdown, including a greater relaxation of the social distancing rules from next month.

These include a new “one-metre-plus” rule for all venues, including shops, restaurants, schools, offices, and parks, in an overhaul designed to unlock large swathes of the economy.

The move, which will take effect from July 4, will allow people to remain a metre away from others if they take additional measures to protect themselves, such as wearing a mask or meeting outdoors.

The Prime Minister said: “Given the significant fall in the prevalence of the virus, we can change the two-metre social distancing rule, from 4th July.

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“But I must say to the House it will be all too easy for that frost to return. And that is why we will continue to trust in the common sense and the community spirit of the British people to follow this guidance, to carry us through, and to see us to victory over this virus.”

Wondering About Social Distancing? - The New York Times
Wondering About Social Distancing?


What are the new social-distancing rules?

Two households of any size will now be able to meet in any setting – indoors or outdoors. That does not mean they must always be the same household, although meetings of multiple households indoors are not recommended.

People will now be able to meet indoors as well as outdoors in gardens, plus in public outdoor spaces such as parks, while keeping a safe, one-metre-plus distance from those that they do not live with.

The two-metre rule has been reduced to one-metre social distancing, plus mitigation. The Prime Minister said that the risk at ‘one-metre-plus’ is “broadly equivalent to the risk at two metres”.

The new rule will also allow any two households to meet up in a pub, restaurant, museum, cinema or even go on holiday together. It does not always have to be the same two households that meet.

The Government’s strategy says that its scientific advisers – Sage – have said that “the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside”. This is why the lockdown rules been able to change.

“We cannot lift all the conditions at once and every step is scrupulously weighed against the evidence,” Mr Johnson told the House of Commons.

“Our appeal is to trust the British public to use their common sense in the full knowledge of the risks, remembering that the more we open up the more vigilant we will need to be.”

Can I see my family and friends?

Families will be allowed to meet groups of relations or friends indoors for the first time since lockdown began – but there will be a ban on hugging or touching.

From July 4 any two households can meet together under the same roof, and even stay overnight, as long as they observe social distancing.

It means families could invite one set of grandparents over for lunch and then see the other grandparents for dinner, as long as they are not there at the same time.

Up to two households will be able to stay overnight in self-contained accommodation, as long as shared facilities are kept clean and distancing is maintained.

Existing rules allowing up to six people from up to six different households to meet outdoors remain, as does the rule that allows someone living alone to join a “support bubble” with another household and be treated as if they live in the same home.

Downing Street admitted that people would need to show a lot of discipline and restraint to adhere to the new rules, but stressed that if the virus started to spread again the changes would be swiftly reversed.

What is a support bubble?

People can now also see friends or family in certain circumstances as part of the newly introduced ‘support bubbles’.

On June 10 the Prime Minister announced that single-adult households – adults living alone, or single parents who have children under the age of 18 – would be able to form ‘support bubbles’ with one other household.

“All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household, meaning they can spend time inside each other’s homes and do not need stay two metres apart,” Mr Johnson said.

He added that support bubbles must be exclusive, meaning that people cannot switch the house that they are in a bubble with, and cannot connect with multiple households. If one person in the bubble develops symptoms, all members will need to follow the advice on self-isolation for the following two weeks.

Anyone who is currently shielding due to medical vulnerability is not allowed to form or take part in a support bubble at this stage, but people who are currently shielding can meet in groups from July 6, the Health Secretary has said.

Shielding will come to a stop at the end of July. From this point onwards, those shielding can meet with people outside of their household outdoors in groups of six – as long as social distancing is maintained.

What has changed?

From July 4, any two households will be able to meet indoors, whether it be a home, pub, restaurant, museum, gallery or even a shared holiday. Until now, only six people at a time could meet, and it had to be outdoors. One person living alone was also allowed to join another household in a “support bubble” but this is the first time the rules have been relaxed for entire households, regardless of size.

Can my parents and grandparents come over for lunch and can they stay the night?

Yes. You can invite as many people as you like over for lunch as long as they live in the same household, and they can also stay overnight.

Can I hug my grandchildren?

No. Unless you live alone and have joined another household in a support bubble, you will have to observe social distancing, which means staying 2m apart or 1m apart where you can reduce the infection risk by opening windows, going outside, or wearing face coverings.

Can I stay overnight with my boyfriend or girlfriend?

Not if both of you live in a shared house or with your family. But two people who live alone can form a “support bubble” and if one of you lives alone they could join your household in a support bubble.

Can I take my parents on holiday?

Yes. The two households rule applies anywhere, even on holiday, but you have to maintain social distancing.

Do I have to choose which other household I can see?

No. There is no limit on how many households can spend time together, as long as it is only two households at a time.

Can I see two different sets of friends or relations on the same day?

Yes. As long as you exercise common sense and sanitise surfaces in shared areas such as bathrooms the guidance allows you to have lunch with one household and then have dinner with another household.

Is there any way I can see people from more than one household at the same time?

Yes. The six person rule still applies, meaning that an alternative to meeting another household is to meet up to five other people from up to five other households in an outdoor space, with social distancing in place, meaning you can have friends round for a barbecue or meet more than one set of relations, as long as there are no more than six of you.

Credit: The Telegraph

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