United Kingdom

What lockdown rules are easing today? Latest on reopenings and new coronavirus guidelines

Boris Johnson has taken the brakes off the easing of lockdown as he announced that plans for wedding receptions, sporting events and indoor performances will resume.

The Prime Minister had postponed the changes, which were meant to come in on August 1, amid concerns over a second wave of coronavirus.

However, some areas of England are still in local lockdowns and have not had restrictions lifted.

Here is the lay of the land following an update to the rules.

What restrictions have been lifted?

All the measures that were put on hold two weeks ago by the Prime Minister will now be reinstated from August 15.

This will apply across England, except for areas under local lockdown.

Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will now be allowed from Saturday, as will the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks.

Beauty salons, tattoo studios and spas will be able to offer all close “ services and treatments”.

Plans to start indoor performances with socially-distanced audiences and pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres will also resume.

The final of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield will be the first pilot event. Allowing spectators at sporting events is planned for October 1.

Pilots at the Goodwood races, the world snooker final and county cricket games earlier this month were suspended after Mr Johnson put the brakes on easing lockdown measures after concerns over a second wave.

In addition, indoor play and soft play centres will reopen, provided they introduce coronavirus-secure measures.

Will there be a second UK lockdown? 

The Government is keen to avoid a second UK lockdown. In an interview with The Telegraph in July, Boris Johnson insisted there would not be another national lockdown, saying the option is now akin to a "nuclear deterrent".

The Prime Minister said he "certainly" does not want another blanket shutdown "and nor do I think we will be in that position again".

However, he appears to have contradicted his chief scientific adviser, who suggested that a national lockdown could be necessary.

Testing is key to avoiding another lockdown. The Government is targeting having the capacity to carry out 500,000 antigen tests per day (the tests that determine if someone currently has the virus).

It would mean blanket testing of local populations could be carried out following outbreaks, regardless of whether people have symptoms or not.

Mr Johnson said: "It's not just that we're getting much better at spotting the disease and isolating it locally, but we understand far more which groups it affects, how it works, how it's transmitted, so the possibility of different types of segmentation, of enhanced shielding for particular groups, is now there."

However, preventing a national lockdown will depend on whether or not there is a second wave of the virus and how effectively the Government can respond if the infection rate rises quickly in multiple areas of the UK.

Local lockdowns

People from different households in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire are banned from meeting each other indoors.

In a late-night announcement on July 30, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said "households gathering and not abiding by the social distancing rules "was a reason for the stricter rules and it was in order to "keep the country safe".

The new restrictions apply to the whole of Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire including Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and Preston, and parts of West Yorkshire including Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees. Cases have also surged in Oldham.

The new rules, which came into effect from July 31, also ban members of two different households from mixing in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues, but these businesses will remain open for those visiting individually or from the same household.

Restrictions are also in place in Aberdeen and will continue until at least August 19, Nicola Sturgeon said. Bars and restaurants are closed, and there is a five-mile travel limit from homes.

Bedford and Swindon have been added to the Government’s watchlist of areas where cases are on the rise.

Read more: North of England lockdown: what are the rules for Greater Manchester, Bradford and Blackburn?

Going to work and using public transport

People are still being encouraged to get back to the office environment from Aug 1, and Mr Johnson did not row back on this when he postponed the next step in the roadmap out of lockdown.

"Instead of the Government telling people to work from home, we're going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely," he said on July 24.

He said that this could mean continuing to work from home if safest, or "it could mean making workplaces safe by following Covid-secure guidelines".

"Whatever employers decide, they should consult closely with their employees, and only ask people to return to their place of work if it is safe," he added.

The Prime Minister also made clear that anybody could now use public transport, which people were previously only encouraged to do if their journey was "necessary". He emphasised that the Government will continue to "encourage people to consider alternative means of transport".

In depth: Your rights if your employer asks you to go back to work

Face masks

Face coverings are mandatory in shops, supermarkets, banks and building societies, with fines of up to £100 for anyone who fails to adhere to the new rules. 

On August 13, introduced tougher penalties for repeatedly failing to wear face masks in public places. Fines will double each time someone is found in breach of the rules, up until a maximum of £3,200. Hairdressers will also now be required to wear surgical face masks.

Initially, people did not have to wear face coverings in museums, cinemas, concert halls and theatres when the Government's rules that came into place on July 24.

But on July 31, Mr Johnson announced that face masks had to be worn in museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship and this will be written into law in England on August 8.

Visitors to hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres, dentists and opticians will also not be required to wear face coverings.

The Government has indicated that the policy could be extended to offices too, but there has been no official announcement relating to that so far. Face coverings are already compulsory on public transport.

Social distancing

The two-metre rule has been replaced by a "one-metre plus" rule. Mr Johnson told MPs in June that the rate of infection in the community – as opposed to hospitals and care homes – was now low enough to relax the social distancing rule as long as steps were taken to mitigate the risk of people being closer together.

Face coverings will be needed in some indoor locations, perspex screens could be used between tables in restaurants and al fresco dining will be encouraged to minimise the risk of transmission. 

There is also hope that at least some social distancing restrictions could be lifted by the end of the year, after the Prime Minister said that he "hopes we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions from November at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas".

He also told a press conference on July 17 that the one-metre-plus social distancing rule could be scrapped by November, saying that the Government is "hoping for the best and planning for the worst".

Social bubbles

Families can now meet groups of relations or friends indoors – but there is a ban on hugging or touching.

Since July 4, any two households can meet together under the same roof, and even stay overnight, as long as they observe social distancing. This means families can now invite one set of grandparents over for lunch and then see the other set of grandparents for dinner, as long as they are not there at the same time.

The new rule also allows any two households to meet up in a pub, restaurant, museum or cinema, or even go on holiday together. There is no limit on how many people can gather, as long as no more than two households are meeting at the same time.

Existing rules allowing up to six people from up to six different households to meet outdoors remain in place, as does the rule that allows someone living alone to join a "support bubble" (see the 'Shielding' section below) with another household and be treated as if they live in the same home.

Boris Johnson has now said that the Government "will look to allow more close contact between friends and family where we can", from October onwards and subject to the sustained decline of the virus.

Families will be told to choose one member to visit elderly relatives in care homes.

New Government guidance for the care sector – which bans flowers and hugs – says homes can begin allowing visitors shortly after they have undergone risk assessments of safety protocols. 

The advice recommends "limiting the numbers of visitors to a single constant visitor per resident, wherever possible". It says: "This, for example, means the same family member visiting each time to limit the number of different individuals coming into contact." 

Relatives will be told to wear face coverings and follow advice on social distancing as much as possible, keeping at least one metre away and avoiding handshakes, kisses or hugs. 

Self-isolating

Individuals who test positive for coronavirus or show symptoms must self-isolate for 10 days.

The UK Chief Medical Officers extended the time period from seven to 10 days on July 30. They said that evidence - although limited - has strengthened, suggesting that individuals who are mildly ill with Covid-19 and are recovering have a real possibility of infectiousness between 7 and 9 days after illness onset.

In a statement published online, they said: "We have considered how best to target interventions to reduce risk to the general population and consider that at this point in the epidemic, with widespread and rapid testing available and considering the relaxation of other measures, it is now the correct balance of risk to extend the self-isolation period from 7 to 10 days for those in the community who have symptoms or a positive test result.

"This will help provide additional protection to others in the community. This is particularly important to protect those who have been shielding and in advance of the autumn and winter when we may see increased community transmission."

The shielding programme, which was designed to protect the most medically vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, is due to end completely at the end of July. The Prime Minister said that the Government will "be sure to restart shielding at any point" if it is required at a regional or national level.

In depth: Coronavirus vs flu and cold symptoms

Foreign travel

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has published a list of countries and territories where the Government has abandoned its 14 day quarantine policy. However countries including Portugal, Canada and the US have been excluded from the list at present.

China, Brazil, Sweden and Russia have also been left off the list under a “traffic light” system that allows holidaymakers to travel abroad without having to self-isolate for two weeks when back in England.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said it is that  "quite likely" that more countries will be added to the red list in the near future. 

On July 26, it was announced that travellers arriving from Spain will have to self isolate for 14 days upon their return. The following day, the Foreign Office updated its travel advice and warned against all non essential travel to mainland Spain and its surrounding islands including Ibiza and the Canary Islands. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on July 30, Mr Hancock said that scientists were looking into ways to reduce the quarantine period. 

In recent days, the Telegraph has learnt that under plans being finalised by ministers, quarantine for people arriving from Spain and other countries with high levels of coronavirus will be cut to 10 days.

In depth:  Latest travel news and holiday advice

Pubs, restaurants and hospitality

Hotels, pubs and restaurants reopened on July 4. Customers are banned from propping up the bar and have to register their contact details before entering. 

As part of the easing of lockdown, the Government allowed hospitality businesses, including cafes and bars, to restart under the "one-metre plus" rule outlined above. 

This permits customers to sit closer together in venues in which it is not possible for them to be two metres apart, so long as there are additional "mitigating" measures in place. 

Waiters are required to wipe down surfaces more often and collect glasses and plates more frequently. People are discouraged from returning their glass or ordering from the bar, with more table service and mobile apps expected to be introduced. 

The changes also place limits on the number of people who can sit together indoors in pubs and restaurants, with just two households of any size permitted to drink or eat together. 

To assist the Test and Trace system, customers will be required to register their details with a venue before entry.

In depth: Restaurants and cafes are open - these are the new rules

Gyms, swimming pools and sports

Swimming pools have reopened, and grassroots sports has begun again, meaning people of different households can train and play together. Clubs have to submit an action plan to the Government explaining how they will follow the rules.

Gyms and sports facilities are now open again, with "enhanced cleaning", timed booking restrictions, reduced class sizes and spaced out equipment.

While face coverings remain obligatory on public transport, gym-goers are not be expected to wear theirs while working out. Some gyms might require them - so ask before you go.

The Prime Minister has announced that from Aug 15 the Government will pilot larger gatherings in sport stadiums, "with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn", noting that the "aim" is to bring audiences into stadiums from October onwards.

The final of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield will be the first pilot event. Allowing spectators at sporting events is planned for October 1.

Pilots at the Goodwood races, the world snooker final and county cricket games earlier this month were suspended after Mr Johnson put the brakes on easing lockdown measures after concerns over a second wave.

In depth: A Covid-safe gym workout – what you can, can't, and shouldn't do 

Schools

Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins a socially distanced lesson during a visit to Bovingdon Primary School in Bovingdon, Hemel Hempstead
Prime Minister Boris Johnson joins a socially distanced lesson during a visit to Bovingdon Primary School in Bovingdon, Hemel Hempstead Credit: PA

Schools, nurseries and colleges will all open "for all children and young people on a full-time basis" from September onwards, with schools in England told to keep classes or whole year groups apart in separate "bubbles".

Primary schools are encouraged to have bubbles that include a whole class, while secondary schools are likely to need bubbles that consist of an entire year group so the full range of subjects can be delivered.

Older children will also be encouraged to keep their distance within groups of students and from staff.

Schools have also been advised to stagger break and lunch times, as well as start and finish times, to keep groups apart and avoid creating busy corridors, entrances and exits.

Students have been advised to consider alternatives to public transport in the autumn.

Parents, staff and pupils will be encouraged to walk or cycle to school if at all possible - and schools have been told to consider using "walking buses" to reduce the use of public transport.

The Prime Minister has said that universities are "working to reopen as fully as possible" when the autumn term begins in September.

In addition, indoor play and soft play centres will reopen on August 15, provided they introduce coronavirus-secure measures.

In depth: Schools are reopening in September - what does the guidance say?

Hairdressers and salons

Hair salons have now reopened, but the experience of getting your hair cut is very different.

Hairdressers are required to wear a full-face plastic visor to reduce the risk of infection and also need to follow strict rules over the disinfecting of equipment. From August 15, hairdressers will also now be required to wear surgical face masks.

Customers must usually make appointments, and there are limits on the amount of people in salons. Customers are not obliged to wear a mask, but can if they wish to. 

Beauty salons, nail bars, tattooists, spas, tanning salons and other close contact services also reopened "subject to some restrictions on particularly high-risk services" from July 13. This "close contact" work at beauticians will also be able to restart from Aug  15.

In depth: What beauty treatments are allowed? 

Hotels and camping

Hotels, holiday apartments, caravan parks and campsites can now operate as long as shared facilities are kept clean. 

In government guidance released on June 24, establishments were advised to implement a series of measures to ensure the safety of guests and staff. 

Those checking in to hotels should expect to see social distancing stickers on the floor, perspex screens at the reception desk  and hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the premises during their stay.

The duration of activities such as check-in should now be kept as short as possible, and keys should be cleaned inbetween guest use.  Queues may form outside hotels like they have done outside supermarkets, and hotels have been asked to introduce queuing systems using barriers should they be needed.

Larger hotels can opt to stagger check-in and check-out times, or place markers on the floor to maintain social distancing.

Recommendations to stop coronavirus from spreading also include emptying mini bars, offering buffet-free breakfasts and regularly deep cleaning rooms, with 24 hours left between bookings.

All paperwork is likely to be removed from rooms, along with the telephone, while the plastic pouch containing tea and coffee sachets will either be removed or quarantined for up to 72 hours between guests.

It is thought campsites will ensure that tents are pitched further apart than normal so social distancing measures can be adhered to, along with frequent deep cleaning of facility blocks such as showers. 

Some campsites will be required to reduce the number of pitches to keep numbers down.

Campsites in Wales reopened on July 6, while those in Scotland reopened on July 15.  

Cinemas, museums, galleries and theatres

Plans to start indoor performances can resume from August 15.

Britain's theatres, galleries and music venues will receive a £1.57 billion rescue package, which Boris Johnson said will help them while their "doors remain closed and curtains remain down".

The Prime Minister described the arts as the "beating heart of this country" as he announced a package of grants in July amid warnings that many venues could fold without urgent government support.

Outdoor theatres have now reopened and other leisure venues, including cinemas, art galleries and museums have been allowed to reopen more fully from July 4, albeit with their own social distancing rules in place.

Suggested guidance in galleries and museums includes one-way systems, spaced queuing, increased ventilation and pre-booked tickets. Wearing a mask is not mandatory. Cinemas are expected to sell only a certain proportion of seats for each movie and face masks are now mandatory.

Both the Cineworld and Picturehouse cinema chains have said film screenings will have staggered start and end times, and customers are likely to be required to queue outside before entering to maintain social distancing.

Once inside, families and friends who book together will be allowed to sit with each other at screenings, but it is likely that seats will be kept free between different bookings. However, there will be no pick 'n' mix or other self-service snacks.

In depth: This is what the Covid cinema experience is actually like 

Bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos

The reopening of casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks can resume from August 15.

All of the above premises are expected to have 'Covid-secure' measures in place, which will most likely involve limitations on customer capacity.

Religion

Places of worship are reopening, but hymns will be forbidden due to the higher risk of the virus being transmitted through singing.  

Churches are being encouraged to implement a "booking system", meaning people may need to reserve their space ahead of services.

Worshippers are also advised to bring their own bible or holy book to their place of worship with them. Where worshippers are unable to do so, books should be cleaned and quarantined for 48 hours since their previous use. Muslims should also bring their own prayer mat to services.

Communion is allowed if it is deemed 'essential,' but worshippers should not drink from the same glass or share the same bread, which could come pre-wrapped. The priest distributing communion should wear gloves and all those involved in the practice should wash their hands before and after.

No hymns should be sung or wood instruments used as they create an “additional risk of infection”.

For Christenings and other water rituals, only “small volumes” should be splashed onto the body with full immersion avoided. Those present should stand “distant from any splashes” and all those involved should thoroughly wash their hands before and after such ceremonies. Parents should hold their children throughout the Christening service. 

Weddings

The socially-distanced wedding of Tom Hall and Heather McLaren, at St George's Church, Leeds, on July 4 
The socially-distanced wedding of Tom Hall and Heather McLaren, at St George's Church, Leeds, on July 4  Credit: PA

Small weddings and civil partnership ceremonies can now take place, with groups of less than 30. That number includes the couple, witnesses, officiants, guests. photographers, security or caterers. It does not include staff employed by the venue.

Those ceremonies will have to be staid affairs, as guests should avoid singing, shouting or raising their voices during the ceremonies, while the bride and groom must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings.

The guidelines also state that only one person is permitted to sing during the ceremony and they should do so from behind a perspex screen. 

"Spoken responses during marriages or civil partnerships should also not be in a raised voice," the guidance says. "This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission from aerosol and droplets."

Fathers may not be able to walk their daughters down the aisle unless they live under the same roof.

The orders of service will be disposable and cash donations will be discouraged, meaning those wanting to support the happy couple should do so online. 

Under the new rules, weddings and civil partnerships should be concluded in the “shortest possible time” and limited to the “legally binding” sections of the service.

Receptions or parties after weddings - which have so far not not been permitted - were set to be allowed for up to 30 people from August 15, provided that they take place in "a Covid-secure way".

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