What are the Covid-19 rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

A myriad of different rules are in place depending on where in the UK you live.

People wearing face coverings
People wearing face coverings

Rules about what you can and cannot do during the Covid-19 pandemic vary between the different parts of the UK.

This is because policy areas like public health and education are devolved matters for the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so they can decide rules for themselves.

With different sets of guidelines coming from Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont, this can lead to a somewhat confusing picture.

Here is a summary of some of the different rules in place as of July 31.

Social distancing
People sunbathe in a marked out square in the sand, indicating two metres, on Barry Island beach (Ben Birchall/PA)

Face coverings

UK-wide – Advised where social distancing is not possible.

England – Compulsory on public transport from June 15 and in shops and supermarkets from July 24. From August 8 they will also be required in places you come into “contact with people you do not normally meet, such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship”, the Prime Minister said on Friday.

Scotland – Compulsory on public transport from June 22 and compulsory in shops from July 10.

Wales – Compulsory on public transport from July 27.

Northern Ireland – Compulsory on public transport from July 10.

People wearing face coverings
A woman wearing a face mask walks through the centre of Bradford, West Yorkshire (Danny Lawson/PA)

Social distancing

England – Two metres where possible, including workplaces. If not possible then one metre with “mitigations” such as face masks and more frequent hand washing.

Scotland – Two metres, but one-metre in some locations with other mitigations in place. Under-12s are exempt entirely – indoors and out.

Wales – Two metres, including workplaces.

Northern Ireland – One metre (from June 29).

Work

England – Working from home advised. However, on Friday, the Prime Minister said: “If employers think, and employees think, that actually to get in, to be productive, you need to be at your place of work then that’s a very, very important consideration.”

Scotland – Currently the advice is that if you can work from home, you should.

Wales – Where not possible to work from home, employers must ensure two metre distances are maintained at work.

Northern Ireland – Working from home where possible.

Coronavirus testing
People pass through a Covid-19 testing centre at Bradford University in West Yorkshire (Danny Lawson/PA)

Seeing family and friends

UK-wide – Except where there are restrictions in place (ie. for the vulnerable or children) Social distancing should be maintained at all times when meeting people outside your household.

England – Two households can meet anywhere and groups of up to six people from different households can meet outdoors. Household mixing is banned from July 31 for those in Greater Manchester, parts of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire and also Leicester.

Scotland – Since July 10, limited indoor gatherings have been permitted. A maximum of eight people, from up to three different households, can meet indoors.

Wales – Two households can join together to form an extended household. This means all the people living in these two separate households will become part of one extended household for the purposes of the coronavirus restrictions. Members of two separate extended households (and any carers) are allowed to meet outdoors only while observing social distancing. From Monday, up to 30 people can meet outdoors, and children under 11 do not need to socially distance.

Northern Ireland – Since July 24, up to 10 people, from four households can meet indoors in private homes. Up to 30 people can meet up outdoors.

Leicester Market
Leicester Market (Joe Giddens/PA)

Shops, restaurants and pubs

England – Non-essential shops open since June 15. Pubs and restaurants from July 4 with table service indoors.

Scotland – Non-essential shops open since June 29 (indoor shopping centres on July 13). Pubs outdoors open from July 6 and indoor hospitality from July 15.

Wales – Non-essential shops since June 22. Pubs outdoors from July 13 and indoors from August 3.

Northern Ireland – Non-essential shops since June 8. Pubs from July 3, alcohol to be sold with food indoors.

A worker hanging up school bags in a shop
Caitlin Morrow from BE Schoolwear in Falkirk hangs school bags in their store (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Sports and leisure facilities

England – Outdoor sports from May 10 in small groups. Indoor gyms, pools and leisure centres from July 25. Planned re-opening of bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor live performances and piloting of sports audiences on August 1 postponed for at least a fortnight.

Scotland – Limited outdoor sports from June 29. Gyms and swimming pools have indicative reopening date of September 14.

Wales – Outdoor sports from June 22. Indoor sports facilities closed until “amber phase”. Swimming pools, gyms, leisure centres and children’s indoor play areas will be able to reopen from August 10.

Northern Ireland – Outdoor sports from June 8. Indoor gyms to open from July 10. Swimming pools to reopen from July 24. Other indoor sports courts to open from August 7.

Belfast International Airport
Passengers leaving Belfast International Airport (Liam McBurney/PA)

Schools

England – Primary and secondary schools to reopen with full attendance in September.

Scotland – To open from August 11, at the start of the new school year.

Wales – All year groups, a third of pupils at time, from June 29. Schools will fully reopen from September 1.

Northern Ireland – Pupils in years 7, 12 and 14 to return part-time on August 24.

People on a beach
First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, has announced that from Monday up to 30 people can meet outside while maintaining social distancing (Ben Birchall/PA)

Holidays and travel

UK-wide – From June 8, 14-day quarantine for travellers from outside a list of exempt countries. England and Wales share a list, while Scotland and Northern Ireland decide for themselves.

England – From July 4, people may only stay overnight in groups of up to two households in holiday accommodation.

Scotland – All holiday accommodation reopened by July 15. On Friday July 31, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon advised against travel from Scotland to parts of northern England affected by higher rates of Covid-19 transmission.

Wales – Tourist accommodation with shared facilities reopened on July 25.

Northern Ireland – Campsites and caravans from June 26. Hotels from July 25.

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