Lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased across the UK, but the rules are different in each of the four nations. So, can you finally meet up with more family and friends?
How many people can I meet?
By Monday, all four UK nations are due to have guidelines in place allowing more than two people to meet outside. But there are differences:
In England, groups of up to six people can gather from Monday 1 June. The individuals can all be from different households, but they have to meet outside – such as in parks or private gardens.
In Scotland, two separate households – up to a maximum of eight people – can now meet outdoors, in a park or private garden.
In Wales, any number of people from two different households will be able to meet each other in private gardens only from Monday.
In Northern Ireland, groups of up to six people who do not share a household can meet outdoors.
Social distancing rules – with people from different households remaining 2m (6ft) apart from each other – still apply across the whole of the UK.
Can I host a barbecue?
The overall advice remains “stay at home” as much as possible, but if you do want to meet friends and family, then socially-distanced picnics and barbecues are now among the activities allowed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned people in England though, that “it remains the case that people should not spend time inside the homes of their friends and families, other than to access the garden or use the toilet.” He also said that people could not stay overnight in other people’s homes.
Hand washing and hygiene should remain a priority – and if you do use the toilet while visiting another home, you should take steps to clean any surfaces you have touched.
Who has to still stay home?
People with certain underlying health conditions, or who are pregnant or aged over 70, are deemed to be clinically vulnerable. If you are in this category, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.
There is another group of about 2.5 million people, categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable. These include people who have had organ transplants, cancer patients and those with severe respiratory conditions.
This group is being strongly advised to stay at home at all times until at least the end of June and avoid face-to-face contact – so called “shielding”.
What else is happening?
The way lockdown restrictions are being lifted varies across the UK.
Some primary schools will reopen from Monday 1 June, followed by secondary schools and non-essential shops two weeks later.
Some National Trust parks and gardens will re-open from Wednesday 3 June.
- All you need to know about the lockdown rules in England
Sunbathing in a public place is now also allowed in Scotland, as are activities where physical distancing can be maintained – including golf, tennis, bowls and fishing.
People can now visit garden centres – and councils are also due to reopen recycling centres starting Monday 1 June.
Rubbish tips have started to reopen – along with garden centres.
There are plans to ease some coronavirus restrictions from the second week in June – including the reopening of large retail stores.
National Trust parks and gardens will open from Wednesday 3 June.
- Outdoor weddings with 10 people present may also be allowed from Monday 8 June
Why is social distancing necessary?
Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions across the UK, scientists stress the need for people from different households to remain 2m (6ft) apart.
Social distancing is important because coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air.
These can be breathed in, or can cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, and then touch your face with unwashed hands.
This coronavirus appears to thrive in crowded, indoor spaces which is why pubs, restaurants and many workplaces remain closed and the public has been advised against using public transport.
But virus transmission is less likely when ”fresh” air is involved – usually when people are outside.
What is self-isolation and what if I have symptoms?
If you show symptoms of coronavirus – such as a dry cough, high temperature or loss of taste – you must take extra precautions.
You should stay at home and not leave it for any reason. This is known as self-isolation.
You should not leave your property even to buy food or medicine, and instead order these online, or ask someone to drop them off at your home.
If the NHS Test and Trace team in England gets in touch because you’ve been close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will have to self-isolate for up to 14 days – even if you feel fine.
The people you live with don’t have to self-isolate, but they must take extra care regarding social distancing and hand washing.