Boris Johnson has set out his roadmap for easing the coronavirus lockdown, and how the rules on social distancing are being relaxed gradually.
Yesterday Mr Johnson announced that single-adult households will be able to form ‘support bubbles’ with one other household.
Groups of up to six people from different households are also able to meet outdoors, or in a garden, while continuing to practise social distancing with those who do not live in the same household.
These measures should allow people to reunite with both of their parents or grandparents, provided that they are not shielding, or to see multiple friends from different households, while keeping a safe social distance.
Those who have been identified as clinically vulnerable and are currently shielding have been asked to continue to do so.
This offers hope to families who have struggled to be apart from their loved-ones while restrictions have been in place. Since May 13, people have only been able to meet with one person from outside of their household, outdoors. Before that they could not meet anyone from outside of their household.
Ministers could relax the two metre regulation if people get into the habit of wearing face masks in all public places.
What are the new social-distancing rules?
The new lockdown rules say, which were relaxed on Monday, June 1, allow up to six people to meet outside, provided that those from different households continue to strictly follow social distancing rules by staying two metres apart.
As well as in parks and other outdoor spaces, people can now meet in gardens and other private outdoor spaces, as well as in public outdoor spaces such as parks, while keeping a two-metre distance from those that they do not live with.
In a briefing on May 28, the Prime Minister acknowledged that many people will have questions about the new rules, and the Government is set to publish guidance in order to help people to make sense of them.
The Government’s strategy says that its scientific advisers – Sage – have said that “the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside”. This has meant that the lockdown rules have been updated on the basis of “continued compliance with social distancing guidelines”.
Can I see my family and friends?
People will be able to see their family and friends in groups of no more than six, as long as they have not been instructed to shield by the Government, and should remain outdoors.
It is still forbidden to meet friends and family inside a home. People should only enter a home that is not their own if they need to do this to get to the garden.
Mr Johnson said: “These changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones, perhaps seeing both parents at once or both grandparents at once, and I know that for many people this will be a long awaited and joyful moment.
“But I must stress that to control the virus everyone needs to stay alert, act responsibly, strictly observe social distancing rules and stay two metres apart from those you do not live with.”
Groups of six do not have to be from just two different households, but the Prime Minister said during the announcement that minimising contact with others is still the best way to avoid transmission.
He added: “You should avoid seeing too many people from different households in quick succession.”
People can now also see friends or family under limited circumstances as part of the newly introduced ‘support bubbles’.
What is a support bubble?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on June 10 announced that, from the weekend of June 13 and 14, single-adult households – adults living alone, or single parents who have children under the age of 18 – will be able to form ‘support bubbles’ with one other household.
“All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household, meaning they can spend time inside each other’s homes and do not need stay two metres apart,” Mr Johnson said.
He added that support bubbles must be exclusive, meaning that people cannot switch the house that they are in a bubble with, and cannot connect with multiple households. If one person in the bubble develops symptoms, all members will need to follow the advice on self-isolation for the following two weeks.
Anyone who is currently shielding due to medical vulnerability is not allowed to form or take part in a support bubble at this stage.
Can I hug my grandchildren?
Yes, provided you choose to form a “support bubble” with them. Once you do, you will collectively be treated as one household and will therefore not have to observe social distancing, making it possible for grandparents to hug their grandchildren even if they do not live together.
However, a family will only be allowed to form a bubble with one other household. So if there are two grandparents who live separately, a family would need to choose which of them to form a bubble with.
Also, one of the households in a bubble must only have one adult living in it – so if two grandparents live together, they would only be allowed to form a bubble with a household with a single parent.
Can I stay overnight?
Yes, the “support bubbles” allow people to stay overnight in each other’s homes.
Anyone who forms a support bubble will be treated as if they are one household. That means they can visit each other indoors in their homes – staying overnight if they choose to – and will not have to follow the two-metre rule.
Can I swap which households are in a bubble?
No. Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that bubbles “must be exclusive – meaning you can’t switch the household you are in a bubble with, or connect with multiple households.”
Can shielded people take part? No. Mr Johnson said: “Unfortunately, we cannot advise anyone who is shielding to form a support bubble at this stage, given their particular vulnerability to the virus.
“However, I want to say I know how hard it is for those of you who are shielding, and we will say more next week about the arrangements that will be in place for you beyond the end of June.”
Can I go into my friend or relative’s house?
Only if they are part of your chosen “support bubble” of two households.
How does this apply to the children of divorced parents?
Parents who are separated were already allowed to move children between their two households to be able to share their caring responsibilities.
Each parent, provided they live alone with their children who are aged under 18 and not with another adult partner, can form a support bubble with another household. This means the children of separated parents could potentially be in two “support bubbles” – one bubble for each parent.
What if someone in a bubble develops coronavirus symptoms?
If anyone in a bubble comes down with symptoms of the virus, all members of both households in the bubble must follow the guidance and self-isolate for 14 days.
Might there be more changes to come – and what will be affected?
The rules are set to be relaxed further in line with coronavirus infections across the country continuing to fall.
Mr Johnson said that the new changes that came into effect from June 1 are “limited and cautious”, adding that he “cannot and will not throw away” the progress that has so far been made in limiting the spread of the virus.