The UK Government is regularly releasing updated guidance for people in England about restrictions to help deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

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

National lockdown

As of 4 January, the government has replaced local restrictions with a national lockdown. This means that everyone must now stay at home, except for certain reasons. These include shopping for food and other essentials, accessing medical services and exercise.

What you can and cannot do

You can leave your home to:

  • shop for essentials, such as food and medicine, for you or someone who needs support
  • provide care or respite care to someone else
  • meet your support bubble if you have one
  • exercise on your own or with people you live with (or your support bubble) or one other person. You should only do this once a day and you should stay close to home
  • get medical help or to avoid the risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • go to work or do voluntary or charity work, if you can’t do this from home
  • attend a support group (of up to 15 people)
  • visit someone who is dying.

There are other circumstances when you can go out. The government website has a more detailed summary of the latest guidance. There is separate guidance for people who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you do go out, you should stay in your local area and avoid using public transport if possible.

The government will review the restrictions in mid-February.

You should always 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.

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

If you’re in the clinically extremely vulnerable group

The government has updated its guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19. This is the group of people who were advised to shield earlier in the year.

On 16 February, the government increased the number of people in this group because of new evidence about who is at risk. If you’re affected by this, you will receive a letter from the government with more information about why you are now included and advising you to shield.

If you are in the clinically extremely vulnerable group, you should now shield. This means you should only go out for medical appointments, to exercise or if it’s essential.

It’s important that you continue to keep a strict distance from anyone not in your household or support bubble, because you're still at risk of getting severely ill if you catch coronavirus. You can protect yourself by limiting the number of people you meet, and by going to shops at quieter times of the day or shopping online, for example. There is some general advice for people in this group on the government guidance page.

If you are shielding and you need help to access food or essentials, you can call your local council. 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.

There are some other circumstances which mean you can form a support bubble, such as if you care for someone with a serious disability – see the government guidance on who can make a support bubble.

If anyone in your bubble has symptoms of coronavirus, then everyone in your bubble will need to self-isolate for 10 days.

Protecting people in care homes

The government has published detailed guidance for care home managers about how to keep their staff and residents safe, and deal with any outbreaks of coronavirus. 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 before moving. You should also be tested when coming 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.

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, such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by staff. Care home providers should restrict the movement of staff between their different care homes wherever possible, to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The government have said that care home staff should now be tested for coronavirus twice a week, and residents should be tested once a week. Care home visitors should also have access to a test.

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

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.