The UK Government is regularly releasing updated guidance for people in England about restrictions to help deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The guidance affects many areas of daily life; from going outside and meeting friends, to taking a bus, or the health or social care services you may receive. 

On this page are some of the key points that you should be aware of.

National restrictions to replace local COVID alert levels

From Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December, the system of local COVID alert levels has been paused and national restrictions will be in place across England. The government intends to re-introduce the local COVID alert levels after this time.

This means that across England:

  • You must stay at home as much as possible. Only essential shops and services will be open, such as supermarkets and GP surgeries.
  • You cannot meet indoors with anyone outside of your household or support bubble
  • You can only meet outdoors with your household or support bubble, plus one other person. If you meet with someone outside of your household or support bubble, this cannot be in a private garden. There is no restriction on the length of time you can go out to exercise or visit an outdoor public place. 

There are some exceptions to these rules. See the government guidance page for full details.

If you live elsewhere in Britain, please check the guidance for Wales and Scotland.

If you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable group

While the national restrictions are in place in England, people in the clinically extremely vulnerable group (who were advised to shield earlier in the year) are being advised to stay at home as much as possible, aside from going out to exercise or attending essential health appointments. This includes not going shopping for groceries or going out to work – those who cannot work from home may be able to claim benefits to support them over this time. You can find more detail in the government’s guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. The government will write to people in this group with more advice while the national restrictions are in place. 

If you need help to access food or essentials while you are staying at home, you can call your local council or register for support on the government website to get access to priority phone and online supermarket delivery slots, and volunteer support. You can also ask for some support from the NHS Volunteer Responder scheme if you need it. 

If you live alone

If you live alone, you can form a ‘support bubble’ with another household.

A support bubble lets you choose one other household to connect with, so that you effectively become one household and can go into each other’s homes as normal, without having to stay 2 metres apart. It doesn’t matter how many people are in the other household. You cannot be in a ‘bubble’ with more than one household, or switch between households.

If anyone in your bubble has symptoms of coronavirus, then everyone in your bubble will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

Reducing the spread of coronavirus

If you go out to do essential shopping, or to meet with someone in an outdoor public space, for example, you should maintain a distance of 2m (or three steps) from those who are not in your household or support bubble wherever possible. This is particularly important for those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group. See more advice about safe social distancing on the NHS site.

In England, it's compulsory to wear a face covering when:

  • using any public transport in England, or private hire vehicles and taxis
  • visiting someone in hospital, or going to hospital yourself for an outpatient appointment
  • when visiting a funeral service provider
  • in a shop, supermarket or shopping centre.

For the full list of places where you must wear a face covering, see the government guidance on face coverings.

People should not use medical-grade face masks, as these are needed by health and social care professionals. Homemade cloth face-coverings may help stop the spread of the virus, if the wearer has the virus but does not have any symptoms.

Some people do not need to wear a face covering. See the government guidance for people who are exempt from wearing face coverings.

NHS Test and Trace

Anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus should start to self-isolate for 10 days and arrange to be tested as soon as possible. If the test is positive, the NHS Test and Trace service will ask you for details of people that you have recently been in close contact with, so that the NHS can contact them and they can begin to self-isolate for 14 days. There have been reports of test and trace scams, so remember that the official NHS Test and Trace service will never ask for your financial information. See Which’s guide on how to spot a ‘Test and Trace’ scam or contact Action Fraud if you think you’ve come across a scam.

Protecting people in care homes

The latest government guidance says that all new care home (or nursing home) residents should be isolated for 14 days when they arrive, unless they have already carried out part or all of this isolation in another setting.

If you’re moving (or returning) to a care home from hospital, you must be tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours before your move and have had the results of your test back. If you test positive, you must be discharged from hospital to a dedicated setting which meets certain infection prevention control standards put in place by the Care Quality Commission. This would be for the 14 day isolation period, and may be a different location to the care home you are moving to.

You should also be tested when coming to the care home from any other location.

If you have suspected COVID-19 symptoms and are living in a care home, you must be tested and isolated quickly. Residents who have been in contact with someone with possible or confirmed COVID-19 should also be isolated for 14 days.

Everyone living or working in a care home should now be tested regularly, whether they show symptoms of coronavirus or not. 

As some care home residents may not be able to report COVID-19 related symptoms, these residents should be checked twice daily for possible symptoms, such as a high temperature.

Care homes must make sure that social distancing is followed throughout the home, and that appropriate infection control measures are in place.

The government has updated its guidance about visiting people in care homes.

Help during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Visit our FAQs page for more practical advice on things like getting help with shopping, access to cash if you need to stay at home, and seeing your GP. You can also check our coronavirus hub for regular updates.