What are the rules of the new national Covid lockdown in England?

Mattha Busand Jedidajah Otte
·4-min read

Boris Johnson has announced a four-week lockdown in England, following weeks of pressure from his own scientific advisers and opposition parties to introduce tougher measures to tackle coronavirus. The full details of the restrictions will be published on Tuesday before a vote in parliament, but this is what we know so far.

When is England going into lockdown?

The measures will come into place at midnight on Thursday after MPs vote on them this coming week. While the lockdown will end on 2 December, it will be replaced with the current tier system and local restrictions will be introduced depending on an area’s infection rate.

Can different households mix indoors?

No, not unless they are part of an “exclusive” support bubble, which allows a single-person household to meet and socialise with another household.

However, people are allowed to meet one other person outside for “recreation” as well as exercise, and parents are allowed to form a childcare bubble with another household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under.

What can I leave home for?

People can only leave home for the following reasons:

  • Education.

  • To go to work unless it can be done from home.

  • Outdoor exercise either with household members or with one person from another household.

  • For all medical reasons and appointments.

  • To escape injury or harm.

  • To care for the vulnerable or volunteer.

  • To shop for food and essentials.

  • To see people in your support bubble.

  • Children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.

However, people could face fixed penalty notices from police for leaving their home without one of the above excuses.

Can I travel?

Most outbound international travel will be banned.

There is no exemption for staying away from home on holiday. This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions.

Overnight stays away from primary residences will not be allowed, except for specific exceptions including for work.

Which businesses will close?

Everything except essential shops and education settings, which include nurseries, schools and universities, will close.

Entertainment venues will also have to close. Pubs and restaurants will have to close their doors once more. Takeaway and delivery services will still be allowed, while construction and manufacturing will stay open.

Parents will still be able to access registered childcare and other childcare activities where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work.

Public services, such as job centres, courts, and civil registration offices will remain open.

There is no exemption for communal worship in places of worship (except funerals and individual prayer), for organised team sports, or for children’s activities.

Elite sports will be allowed to continue behind closed doors as currently, including Premier League football matches.

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Should some people be shielding?

The prime minister said that the clinically vulnerable or those aged over 60 should be especially careful and minimise contacts, but there would be no return to the shielding programme used in the first lockdown. Johnson said those in this category should work from home.

Will there be a return to the furlough scheme?

The furlough scheme was set to end on Saturday and be replaced by a less generous package of support for employers and businesses. But that was before the announcement of a second lockdown. The PM said on Saturday that the old scheme – which pays 80% of salaries – would now be extended throughout November. No further details were given.

Why has the decision been made?

Confirmed cases are rising steeply, with an estimated 568,100 people in households infected in the week ending 23 October. Scientists on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have warned that deaths could potentially hit 500 a day within weeks and that coronavirus could kill 85,000 people this winter.

The group has been concerned that the number of infections and hospital admissions is “exceeding the reasonable worst-case scenario planning levels at this time” and they first called for a national lockdown on 21 September.

“We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature,” said Johnson on Saturday. “The virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst-case scenario of our scientific advisers.

“Unless we act, we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day – a peak of mortality, alas, bigger than the one we saw in April.”

What difference could a lockdown make?

A lockdown can stem the spread of the virus and thus reduce the reinfection rate.

“The idea of a lockdown is to save lives primarily,” Prof John Edmunds, a member of Sage, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday. “I think the only real way that we have a relatively safe Christmas is to get the incidence right down.”

Johnson warned that “Christmas is going to be different this year” but
added that by taking action now, he hoped that families could be together.