Coronavirus FAQs: What can/can’t I do?

Blog post updated 14/09/20

On 9th September, the government announced upcoming changes to lockdown restrictions to help control the spread of coronavirus. These new restrictions took effect from 14th September.

They are set out in the law, and the police and other enforcement officers are able to issue penalties to those that don’t comply.

Coronavirus FAQs: What can/can’t I do?

  • How many people can I visit or socialise with indoors?
    6. There is a legal limit on the number of people you don’t live with you are able to meet. When meeting with people you don’t live with you can socialise in groups of up to 6. This is being nicknamed “the rule of six”.
  • Are children counted in the group of 6?
  • How many people can I visit or socialise with outdoors? 
    6. When meeting with people you don’t live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you can socialise in groups of up to 6. If it is not physically possible to social distance within 2 metres because of a small room or premises the Government advises that you should move outdoors, where it is safer and there is more space (i.e you stand in the garden or on the doorstep).
  • What are the exceptions to the “Rule of Six”? 
    There are exceptions where groups can be larger than 6 people. These include:

    • for work, or the provision of voluntary or charitable services
    • registered childcare, education or training
    • supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
    • providing support to a vulnerable person
    • providing emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm
    • to continue existing arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents
    • fulfilling a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
    • elite sporting competition and training
    • wedding and civil partnership ceremonies and receptions – up to 30 people, in a public place
    • funerals – up to 30 people. This does not include wakes, other than for religious ceremonial purposes
    • other religious and belief-based life cycle ceremonies – up to 30 people, in a public place. This only covers the ceremonies, and does not include celebrations of these events
    • organised sport or exercises classes or licensed outdoor physical activity. This does not include informal sport or fitness activity with family or friends – this must be limited to a group of 6
    • support groups – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support. This includes support to victims of crime, recovering addicts, new parents, people with long-term illnesses, those facing issues relating to their sexuality or gender, and those who have suffered bereavement.
    • protests – if organised in compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance

    Where a group includes someone covered by such an exception (for example, someone who is working), they are not counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means – for example – a tradesperson can go into a household of six without breaching the limit, if they are there for work.

  • When can I gather in groups of more than 6?
    If you live in a household with more than 6 people, you can continue to gather in and attend all settings together. This same applies for your support bubbles. All venues should continue to accommodate groups larger than 6 who live together or are in the same support bubble to gather in and use their services and venues.
  • Can I gather in a group of more than 6 for childcare?
    There is an exemption to the legal gatherings limit which comes into force on 14 September for the purposes of education, training, formal registered childcare, and supervised activities for children (including before and after school clubs, or other out-of-school setting provision for children. Youth groups and other children’s groups will also be exempt from the gatherings limit. Family and friends can continue to provide informal childcare as long as groups from different households don’t exceed 6 people.
  • Can I go to my support group?
    Some types of support group are exempt from the legal gatherings limit.Support groups can can take place in gatherings of any number in a public place, if the support group is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support to its members or those who attend its meetings. This includes, but is not limited to, providing support:

    to victims of crime (including domestic abuse)
    to those with, or recovering from, addictions (including alcohol, narcotics or other substance addictions) or addictive patterns of behaviour
    to new and expectant parents
    to those with, or caring for persons with, any long-term illness, disability or terminal condition or who are vulnerable
    to those facing issues related to their sexuality or identity including those living as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender
    to those who have suffered bereavement
    This is an exemption to the legal gatherings limit of six people.

  • When/where do I have to maintain social distancing?
    You should continue to maintain social distancing with anyone you do not live with. This could be with family members at a BBQ or in their home, at the supermarket, in the pub or a coffee shop for example. There are exemptions from this limit, including for larger households and support bubbles. Where you cannot stay 2 metres apart you should stay more than 1 metre apart, as well as taking extra steps to stay safe. For example: wear a face covering on public transport and in many indoor spaces, unless you are exempt.

    • follow the limits on the number of other people you should meet with as a group – no more than six people unless you all live together (or are in the same support bubble)
    • avoid social interaction with anyone outside the group you are with, even if you see other people you know
    • provide your contact details to the organiser so that you can be contacted if needed by the NHS Test and Trace programmeHow should we socialise with family or friends indoors safely?
      If indoors, make sure rooms are well ventilated by keeping windows and doors open. It may not always be possible or practical to maintain social distancing when providing care to a young child, or person with a disability or health condition. You should still limit close contact as much as possible when providing these types of care, and take other precautions such as washing hands and opening windows for ventilation.Government guidance states that no one should mix in a group of greater than 6. This includes places like a pub, shop, leisure venue, restaurant or place of worship. When you visit one of these places you should:
  • How is guidance to those shielding (clinically extremely vulnerable) being relaxed?
    The guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable is that shielding has been paused from 1 August. This means:you do not need to follow previous shielding advice
    you can go to work as long as the workplace is COVID-Secure but should carry on working from home wherever possible
    clinically extremely vulnerable children should attend education settings in line with the wider guidance on reopening of schools and guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings
    you can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low and keep to the new gathering limit of 6
    you can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, whilst keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre plus other precautions • you should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and that you maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace • you will no longer receive free food parcels, medicine deliveries and basic care from the National Shielding Service
    For practical tips on staying safe see the meeting with others safely guidance.

    You will still be able to get:

    local volunteer support by contacting your local authority
    prescriptions, essential items and food you buy delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders
    priority slots for supermarket deliveries (if you previously registered for free food parcels).
    Further information can be found in the clinically extremely vulnerable guidance.

  • Do I have to socially distance from my own household if I think I have coronavirus? 
    Yes, it is advised to avoid risk of contamination. You do not need to socially distance from anyone in your household if you are symptom free. You also do not need to socially distance from someone you’re in an established relationship with, or anyone in your legally-permitted support bubble if you are in one if you are symptom free.
  • Can I share a private vehicle with someone from another household?
    You should try not to share a vehicle with those outside your household or social bubble. If you need to, try to:

    • share the transport with the same people each time
    • keep to small groups of people of up to the legal limit of 6 people at any one time (this limit of 6 people will apply and have legal force from 14 September).
    • open windows for ventilation
    • travel side by side or behind other people, rather than facing them, where seating arrangements allow
    • face away from each other
    • consider seating arrangements to maximise distance between people in the vehicle
    • clean your car between journeys using standard cleaning products – make sure you clean door handles and other areas that people may touch
    • make sure the driver and passengers wear a face covering

    The Department for Transport has provided specific guidance on using private vehicles. Please see their guidance on private cars and other vehicles for more information on car sharing and traveling with people outside your household group.

  • Can I stay overnight in someone else’s home?
    Yes, you can stay overnight in someone else’s home, but only if you do not form a gathering of more than 6 people. This limit does not apply if you are in a support bubble with the person whose home you are staying in.You should ensure you maintain social distancing with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble. Take particular care to maintain excellent hygiene – washing hands and surfaces – especially when using shared facilities like bathrooms wherever possible.

    People in the same support bubble can stay overnight with each other in larger groups as they count as one household.

  • Can I look after my grandchildren/niece/nephew etc?
    Yes. People in groups of up to 6 can meet indoors or outdoors, which enables you to spend time with your grandchildren (although whole families may not be able to meet up at once).Although you should try to maintain social distance from people you do not live with wherever possible, it may not always be practicable to do so when providing care to a young child or infant. If this is this case – and where young children may struggle to keep social distance – you should still limit close contact as much as possible, and take other precautions such as washing hands and clothes regularly. If you have formed a support bubble with your grandchildren’s household, which is allowed if either you or they live in a ‘single adult household’, then there can be close contact and social distancing is not necessary.
  • Are there restrictions on how far I can travel?
    No. You can travel irrespective of distance, but you should take hygiene and safety precautions if using services on the way.You can use public transport but it is better to travel in other ways if possible. It is difficult to socially distance during car journeys and transmission of coronavirus can occur in this context. So avoid travelling with someone from outside your household or your support bubble unless you can practise social distancing.
  • What if I can’t travel home?
    If you feel so unwell that you cannot travel, or if you cannot avoid using public transport, (for example because you do not have the means to travel via private transport), you should call 111 and ask to discuss your circumstances with an appropriate health care professional.
  • What happens if I am on holiday in England and I am contacted by NHS Test and Trace?
    If NHS Test and Trace contacts you while you are on holiday to tell you that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you should tell your accommodation provider immediately and make arrangements to return home as quickly and directly as you can.In many cases it will not be possible to self-isolate at your holiday accommodation. In these cases, you should make arrangements to travel home as safely as possible, while minimising the risk to others. If this isn’t possible because you feel so unwell that you cannot travel, or if you cannot avoid using public transport, you should call 111 for advice.If you start to feel unwell during your self-isolation period, get a test either online at or by calling 119.People you have been travelling with, or people you live with, do not need to self-isolate if you do not have symptoms, unless contacted and asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
  • Will public toilets and playgrounds reopen?
    Councils are responsible for public toilets and this decision is up to them. If you need to use any of these facilities, you should practise social distancing and good hygiene (i.e. washing your hands thoroughly).Outdoor playgrounds are also able to reopen but the people responsible for them – for example, the local authority – should ensure they comply with COVID-19 Secure guidelines to help avoid risks of transmission. Anyone using playgrounds should take particular care to wash their hands after use and avoid touching their face. Children should be supervised carefully to maintain good hygiene and should not use playgrounds if they have any signs or symptoms of coronavirus.
  • My employer is asking me to come to work but I’m scared. What can I do? 
    Employers and staff should discuss and agree working arrangements.Employers should decide, in consultation with their employees, whether it is viable for them to continue working from home. Where it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance.

    It is at the discretion of employers as to how staff can continue working safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines. Your employer should consult with you on how you can work safely, and must ensure workplaces are safe if they are asking you to return, as above.

    If you remain concerned that your employer is not taking all practical steps to promote social distancing then you can report this to your local authority or the Health and Safety Executive who can take a range of action, including where appropriate requiring your employer to take additional steps.

If your question is not covered here, please contact us via email at, send us your question on Live Chat or call us on 0191 643 2298 and we’ll look into it as a matter of urgency for you.

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