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Coronavirus: What are the current social distancing rules and guidelines?

The coronavirus pandemic is not yet behind us. Recent weeks have seen an increase in cases which led to the Government to introduce a new ‘rule of six’. What does the rule look like in action, and what else should you know about the current social distancing rules and guidelines?

Krista Lomu
· 5 min read

The coronavirus pandemic is not yet behind us. Recent weeks have seen an increase in cases which led to the Government to introduce a new ‘rule of six’. What does the rule look like in action, and what else should you know about the current social distancing rules and guidelines?

Introducing the ‘rule of six’

England, Scotland and Wales have introduced a ‘rule of six’ to socialising. The new guidelines limit the number of people allowed to meet socially to six, as coronavirus cases are on the rise.

The rule change applies to a wide range of situations, although there are regional and situational differences. But your gatherings in private homes and public venues are affected, and you could be fined for breaking the guidelines.

You should remember that social distancing rules don’t apply to people you live with or who are part of your support bubble. A support bubble allows single adults living alone to form a support group with one another household of any size. The group in the ‘bubble’ can then meet freely with no social distancing.

Regional differences in social distancing rules

As mentioned above, the rule works slightly differently in different regions. The current regulations and guidance on meeting up across the UK are:

  • England – six people from multiple households both indoors and outdoors.
  • Scotland – up to six aged 12+ people from two households both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wales – up to six people aged 11+ from an extended household indoors, and up to 30 people outdoors.
  • Northern Ireland – six people from two households indoors, and up to 15 people outdoors.

In terms of social distancing, the official guideline across the UK is to stay 2 metres (6ft) apart from anyone not part of your household. There are slight variations to the recommendation in different regions:

  • In England, if you can’t stay 2 metres apart, you can stay ‘1 metre plus’ apart. The plus is for doing something else to limit possible exposure, such as wearing a mask.
  • In Scotland, there are exemptions to 2 metres in places like restaurants and pubs. Children aged 11 or under are not required to socially distance.
  • In Wales, the 2 metres is guidance and children aged 11 or under don’t have to follow the rule.

Northern Ireland formerly had its guidance at 1 metre, but now recommends staying 2 metres apart.

What about public transport?

You are required to wear a face-covering on public transport across the UK. There are exemptions in place for people with certain medical conditions. Young children also don't have to wear a face covering.

What are the exceptions to the ‘rule of six’?

There are certain exceptions to the new guidelines in England. You can socialise with more than six people in the following situations:

  • Your household or support bubble is larger than six people.
  • You are attending an educational or training setting.
  • You are going to work and staying in the workplace.
  • You are attending a protest or a political event.
  • You are doing your jury duty or other legal commitment.
  • You are at a children’s playgroup or youth club.
  • You are attending a support group for things like addiction or abuse.
  • You are playing sports, either for fun or professionally.

It's important to note that the guidelines do state that you should avoid mingling with more than six people at specific events. For instance, if you are attending a protest outdoors, then you shouldn't mix outside of your designated group of six people. You are also allowed to visit the cinema as long as you don’t hang out with a group larger than six people.

What about weddings, funerals and other religious events?

You are allowed to attend weddings, funerals and other religious events. The guidelines limit weddings and funerals to 30 people, and people should be attending these events in groups of six or less. It’s also worth noting that celebrations after the events are limited to weddings or civil partnerships.

Places of worship can have as many people in them as possible as long as it is safe. You can't attend in groups larger than six people, and you should try to adhere to social distancing measures as much as possible.

Can you go to the pub or do sports?

Restaurants, pubs, shops and other such venues can remain open. There are no limits on how many people can enter these places as long as the venue complies with safety rules and allows for social distancing. You can’t, however, mingle with more than six people in it.

If you want to get your sports kick, then you are free to play organised indoor and outdoor sports. The sport’s governing body has to have safety guidance published that you must then follow. Group exercise classes are also exempt from the ‘rule of six’ if the event is following other safety guidelines.

If you’re thinking more in terms of kicking the ball with your friends, then you have to limit yourself to a group of six people.

What happens if you break the rules?

The new measures give police the power to break up groups larger than six. Any member in a bigger group could also receive a fine. The fine is £100 for a first offence, doubling on each further offence. The maximum penalty is £3,200.

Stay home if you get COVID-19 symptoms

If you have any symptoms and you suspect you might have the coronavirus, you need to stay home for ten days and get tested. The symptoms include:

  • Continuous cough
  • Fever
  • Loss, or change in, your sense of taste or smell

If you test positive, you need to stay home in self-isolation for ten days. Those living with you must also isolate for 14 days from the time you started showing symptoms. You should also keep a distance of at least 2 metres with other people in the house.

You can find more information on where to get tested on the NHS website.

Krista Lomu

Krista Lomu

Krista has been writing about finance for nearly a decade. Based in London, she hopes to turn even the most complicated topics to approachable and interesting for readers. When she's not writing and working with small businesses, she likes to read, watch football and play games - fuelled on by many cups of coffee!