Guidance in England

What are the current rules in England?
This information was current at the time this page was last updated on: 14 October 2020, 3.28pm

Hands, face, space

The UK coronavirus alert level was raised to 4 on 21 September 2020. This means that transmission is high and cases are rising.

There are three simple actions the Government has told us we must do to keep on protecting each other:

Wash hands

keep washing your hands regularly

Cover face

wear a face covering in enclosed spaces

Make space

stay at least 2 metres apart – or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions


New alert levels in England

The Government has launched a new 3 tier alert system in England. It is effective from Wednesday 14 October 2020.

Depending where in the country you live, the rules might be different. The guidance on this page reflects areas that are in the medium alert category – following national guidance.

For information about what you can and can’t do if you live in a high or very high alert area, please see our local lockdowns guidance page or visit:


Social distancing

Why do we need to socially distance?

Coronavirus is more likely to spread when people are close together. An infected person can pass on the virus even if they don’t have any symptoms. To help stop the spread of the virus, the Government is advising us to keep at least 2 metres away from people we do not live with.

They also advise that people should avoid:

  • being close face-to-face
  • shouting or singing
  • crowded areas
  • touching things that other people have touched

Where it is not possible to stay 2 metres apart, for example in shops and other enclosed spaces, you should stay a minimum of 1 metre apart and take extra precautions such as wearing a face covering, opening windows and doors, and washing your hands frequently.

You do not need to socially distance from the people you live with. You also do not need to socially distance from someone you’re in an established relationship with, or anyone in your support bubble if you are in one.


Who has to socially distance?

Social distancing advice applies to everyone and those with increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) are being advised to be particularly stringent in following the measures.

Government are advising that we all:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID -19).
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible.
  • Work from home, where possible.
  • Use telephone or on-line services to contact GPs or other essential services.

For more information visit:


How are people with a learning disability affected by social distancing?

Everyone must follow the 2 metre social distancing rules, or 1 metre plus additional safety measures if that is not possible, even if they are not at high risk of severe illness. This will be incredibly difficult for some people to understand, accept and follow.

We have created accessible information, videos and tools to help. However, for many people, as in other aspects of their lives, will require the help of family, friends and the teams that know them well to help them cope day to day and make decisions in their best interests.


Face coverings

What is a face covering?

A face covering is something which safely covers the nose and mouth. You can buy reusable or single-use face coverings. You may also use a scarf, bandana, religious garment or hand-made cloth covering but these must securely fit round the side of the face.

Face coverings are used to protect other people from the spread of coronavirus, rather than the wearer, and do not classify as PPE.


When should I wear a face covering?

In England, you must wear a face covering in the following indoor settings:

  • public transport (eg: aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses)
  • taxis and private hire vehicles (eg: PHVs)
  • transport hubs (eg: airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals)
  • shops and supermarkets (eg: places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire)
  • shopping centres (eg: malls and indoor markets)
  • auction houses
  • premises providing hospitality (eg: bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink (see exemptions) from 24 September
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (eg: hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours)
  • premises providing veterinary services
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (eg: museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas)
  • libraries and public reading rooms
  • places of worship
  • funeral service providers (eg: funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels)
  • community centres, youth centres and social clubs
  • exhibition halls and conference centres
  • public areas in hotels and hostels
  • storage and distribution facilities

You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it.

You should also wear a face covering in indoor places not listed here where social distancing may be difficult and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

Face coverings are needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are also advised to be worn in care homes.


Are some people exempt from wearing a face covering?

Yes, some people will be exempt for reasons including medical conditions and their age. You are also permitted to remove your face covering in certain scenarios, such as to eat or drink or when you are asked to verify your identity e.g. at the bank or by a police officer.

See the Government’s website for full list of exemptions and scenarios when you can remove your face covering:



The “rule of six” applies in England from Monday 14 September 2020. This means it will be against the law to meet with people you do not live with, or who are not in your support bubble, in a group larger than 6 people.

There are some exemptions to this rule, which you can find on the UK Government’s website:

If you live in an area which has a high or very high alert, then there are further restrictions on meeting with other people.  See:

The police will have the powers to enforce these legal limits, including to issue fines (fixed penalty notices) of £200, doubling for further breaches up to a maximum of £6,400.


Travel and holidays

Are we allowed to take holidays now?

Yes. Current guidance in England for those living in medium alert areas says:

  • people are now allowed to stay overnight away from the place where they are living.
  • people can travel as far as they want, and sleep in a second home or self-contained holiday accommodation.
  • hotels and B&Bs are also open, as well as many caravan parks and campsites, hostels and boarding houses

The Government advises that you should not travel outside, within or to an area which has a high or very high alert unless it is for essential reasons.

If you live in, or plan to travel to, a high or very high alert area, then this may be restricted by current rules. Please check the Government website before you travel for more guidance:

Can I travel abroad?

If you are planning to travel abroad, make sure you understand the following:

Also read the following guidance:

Check specific plans with the airline, ferry, train operator and accommodation provider. During the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover. See the FCO’s guidance on foreign travel insurance.

The transport provider may put measures in place to help people follow the public health guidance of the destination country.

Foreign travel checklist.

What it covers:

  • Things to check and make sure are in place before you go
  • Entry requirements, Visas and passports
  • Insurance
  • Health
  • Things to think about when you are abroad

Will I have to quarantine on my return?

Guidance is constantly changing around travel corridors and you should check restrictions on re-entering the UK.

When should I not travel?

You should not travel if you:

  • are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms
  • are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms or sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms
  • are clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot shield during your journey
  • have been advised by the NHS test and trace/ test and protect service that they should self-isolate

Face coverings

It is a legal requirement for all passengers to wear face coverings when using public transport, including trains, planes and buses.

The Police can issue fines (fixed penalty notices) to people who do not comply with these rules. Fines start at £200 for a first offence, doubling for repeated offences up to a maximum of £6,400.


Support bubbles

Single adult households – adults who live alone – can form a support bubble with one other household of any size. They will be allowed to see each other outside of social distancing rules and will be able to visit each other in their homes.

You are classed as a single-adult household if you live alone – even if you receive support from carers, or if you are a single parent living with your children who are under 18.

From 14 September if you form or continue in a support bubble, you cannot then change your support bubble. It does not have to be the same support bubble you may have been in previously.