Lockdown rules: what is allowed in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The latest coronavirus rules, from Monday 1 June, are plentiful and complicated. This is your ultimate guide.


Q. Can I visit other people’s homes?

You can spend time in private gardens or other outdoor spaces in groups of six from different households if you live in England or Northern Ireland – but you must adhere to 2-metre distancing. Those considered clinically extremely vulnerable can meet one person from outside their household if they live alone.

Bring your own chairs and wipe them down carefully with household cleaner before and after use. You can go inside the property only for the purpose of accessing the garden or outdoor space.

In Scotland, two households can meet outdoors, in groups no larger than eight, or visit close family in their gardens, with people urged to stay local and distance at all times. In Wales, two households can meet but should avoid travelling more than five miles.

Q. Can I use the lavatory?

Yes, but avoid touching surfaces, wash your hands thoroughly, wipe down surfaces and use separate towels, or paper ones.

Q. Can I stay away from home?

You cannot stay overnight away from your home except for in a limited set of circumstances, such as for work.

Face coverings

Q. Should I wear a mask or visor and when?

The UK government advises people to wear a face covering in enclosed spaces, such as on public transport and in shops, or anywhere that physical distancing is not always possible. The Scottish government has urged people to wear face coverings in all shops.

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While evidence suggests that wearing a face covering does not entirely protect you, it is likely to prevent others from becoming infected – especially important if you have not yet developed symptoms and are not self-isolating.

Conversely, scientists say it is possible that visors protect the wearer but not those around them.

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Q. Who should not wear a face covering?

Face coverings should not be used by under-twos or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, such as unassisted primary-age children or those with respiratory conditions.

Q. Does it matter what type of mask I wear?

Different types of face covering offer different levels of protection, with surgical grade N95 respirators offering the highest, followed by surgical grade masks. However, these are costly, in limited supply and contribute to landfill waste. Even countries that have required the public to wear face masks have generally suggested surgical masks be reserved for health workers and those at high risk. You can make your own face covering, or use a scarf, shawl, or old T-shirt.

Shopping and retail

Q. What shops can I visit?

Essential outlets, which range from supermarkets to homeware shops, have remained open and car showrooms and outdoor markets opened on Monday in England.

High street shops in the non-essential category will reopen in England from 15 June if the government’s five tests for coping with the virus are met, and provided that the shops are “Covid-secure”. Shops that expect to open from 15 June include those selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios and indoor markets.

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Welsh high streets may open later than in England, while Scottish retailers will open on a phased basis, based on monitoring of the virus.

Q. What remains closed?

Hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons, cafes, pubs and other hospitality venues. While no dates have been given, the UK government has said they will reopen on a phased basis.

Q. When can I get my hair cut and go to a pub?

Ministers have an “ambition” to open at least some remaining businesses such as hairdressers and beauty salons, restaurants and pubs, but it will be no earlier than 4 July in England, and subject to the government’s five tests.


Q. Who can go to work?

Employers should make “every effort” to support working from home, according to the government in advice for England, but anyone who cannot do so is expected to return to work if it is safe.

Q. What provisions are in place in workplaces?

Government guidance emphasises that the risk of transmission can be lowered by reducing the number of people workers come into contact with and avoiding face-to-face meetings.

Employers can support this by changing shift patterns and rotas, and splitting people into smaller, contained teams. Workers should avoid sharing equipment.

children distancing at primary school

It is not easy for schools to keep children at a physical distance. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA


Q. What is open?

Primary schools in England have been asked to bring back reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, as well as nursery children, from 1 June. In secondary schools, year 10 and 12 pupils are due to have some face-to-face time with teachers before the end of the summer term.

The government’s “hope” is that all other primary children in England will return to school before the summer break. Secondary school pupils will not return before September.

In Scotland, teachers can return to prepare for the start of the new school year on 11 August, when pupils will begin a “blended” model of at-home and in-school learning. Childminding services and fully outdoor nurseries are reopening while some councils are allowing older primary school pupils to begin the transition to secondary school.

In Wales, education authorities are to announce plans on Wednesday. Some pupils in Northern Ireland will return to school in late August, with a phased return for the remainder.

Q. How can schools open safely?

Amid concerns from unions and some parents, the UK government’s guidance on reopening schools states that constant physical distancing of 2-metres is, in effect, impossible in schools.

Its recommendations emphasise the importance of regular handwashing and cleaning of surfaces, and maintaining distance as much as possible, for example with different classroom layouts and staggered break times. 

Transport and travel

Q. How far can I travel?

While people in England and Northern Ireland can travel as far as they want to take exercise and spend time outside, those in Wales are being asked to stay about 5 miles from their homes. Guidelines in Scotland require people to stay within 5 miles except when visiting close family.

Q. When, where and how can I travel?

Reduce demand on the public transport network by walking or cycling wherever possible, or driving, and by reducing trips. Use less busy routes where possible.

Q. Can I share a car with someone else?

Taxi services are operating, subject to advice such as passengers sitting in the back left-hand seat if travelling alone. Those who have to share private cars with people outside of their household group have been advised to keep to the same small groups.

Q. Can I travel within the UK and go abroad?

The UK government advises against all but essential travel abroad. People in England can now go as far as they want for exercise.

Despite an easing of lockdowns around the UK, people are advised not to travel between Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Q. What sports can I do and where?

Basketball and tennis courts, bowling greens and golf courses are open in England. Physical distancing must apply, with no more than five other people from outside one’s household allowed to take part.

In Scotland, outdoor activities such as golf, bowls, tennis and fishing have restarted, with distancing caveats, while in Northern Ireland outdoor activities and sports including golf, water sports, tennis and those that don’t involve shared contact with hard surfaces are permitted.

Outdoor gyms, playgrounds and outdoor and indoor swimming pools remain closed, though there are plans for pools to reopen, possibly without changing rooms.

Q. Are professional sports people treated differently?

Yes. Elite athletes, as defined by specific guidance, can train and compete using specified gyms, pools and sports facilities. In Wales, only golfers and professional footballers have been allowed to play again.

* Key workers and those needing access to childcare have not been subject to the same lockdown rules as others.


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