Social distancing means keeping apart from people to restrict the spread of coronavirus.
What is social distancing?
The original rule across the UK was that you had to stay 2m (6ft) away from anybody who was not a member of your household.
Those rules have now been relaxed in England and Northern ireland.
You should still ideally stay 2m (6ft) apart. If that’s not possible, you can stay 1m (3ft) plus apart in England and 1m apart in Northern Ireland, with extra precautions such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face.
In Scotland the exemptions to the 2m rule are only in some premises such as pubs and restaurants, and face coverings are compulsory in shops.
And in Wales, while the 2m rule remains, the guidance is changing to reflect the fact that it is not realistic to stay that far apart in somewhere like a hairdresser’s shop.
The only people you do not have to distance yourself from are those you live with, and those you have linked to in a support bubble.
In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, single adults living alone – or single parents with children under 18 – can form a bubble with one other household of any size, and visit each other’s homes. In Wales, two households of any size can now join up in a similar “extended household”.
Also, in Scotland, children aged 11 or under no longer have to socially distance with others outside. This will also be the case in Wales from 3 August.
Who can I meet outside?
Outdoors in England, up to 30 people from two households can meet, or a maximum of six people can meet from multiple households.
People from different households must maintain social distancing throughout.
In Scotland, up to 15 people from five different households can meet outdoors.
In Northern Ireland, up to 30 people who are not in the same household can meet outdoors.
In Wales, up to 30 people can meet outdoors from 3 August.
What are the new restrictions in parts of England?
On 31 July, restrictions were reintroduced for Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire.
People from separate households in these areas are not allowed to mix with each other in their homes or gardens, or in pubs and restaurants.
People will only be able to visit such hospitality venues with members of their own household.
In Leicester, where a local lockdown has been in force for several weeks, restrictions are also in place on household visits.
However, from 3 August pubs and restaurants in the city will be allowed to reopen.
How do I safely host guests in my home?
In England, two households up to a maximum of 30 people can meet indoors and overnight stays are allowed.
In Scotland, up to eight people from three different households can meet indoors while social distancing. In Northern Ireland, groups of up to 10 people from four different households can meet indoors.
In Wales, indoor meetings are still not allowed, but with indoor bars and restaurants due to reopen in August that will presumably be relaxed.
The guidance encourages people to keep windows and doors open for ventilation.
If you have guests coming for a meal, put crockery and cutlery in a dishwasher or hot soapy water (and then rinse in cold water) immediately after use.
Experts recommend the following:
- Wash hands before and after preparing food, eating and washing up
- Put food straight on plates and don’t use large serving bowls
- Avoid serving cold food which needs “handling” before and during meals, like cold meats or salads
- Use detergent or soapy water to regularly wipe down tables and chairs where people put hands, fingers and elbows – then wash the cloth.
What about a socially-distanced meal out?
Pubs, restaurants and cafes have been able to reopen indoors in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as long as they follow safety guidelines.
In Wales, beer gardens and outdoor restaurants are open, and can open indoors from 3 August.
You should expect to:
- Book ahead
- Give contact details
- Follow a one-way system
- Be offered table service only
Staff should practise good hand hygiene and social distancing, but they don’t have to wear face coverings.
The government advice to employers includes:
- avoiding face-to-face seating
- monitoring crowd density, and reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces
- improving ventilation
- changing shift patterns so staff work in set teams
Indoor parts of pubs and restaurants will reopen in Scotland on 15 July, while in Wales they can open outdoors from 13 July and indoors from 3 August.
How long should I self-isolate?
Self-isolating means staying at home and not leaving it.
- a new continuous cough
- a high temperature
- a loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
Other members of their household should isolate for 14 days and not leave their homes.
If you test positive you will be contacted by contact tracers, who will establish who else you might have passed on the infection to.
Anybody they deem to be at risk will have to isolate themselves for 14 days from the point of contact.
Shielding is being paused in Northern Ireland from 31 July and in England and Scotland from 1 August. Wales is expected to follow suit in mid-August.