UK lockdown: Can I see my friends and family in a private space under the new rules?

Sarah Young
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From 1 June, England has officially moved into the second phase of lockdown, which first began on 23 March.

The new guidelines have been introduced as the government says all five key tests, including a reduction in daily coronavirus deaths and keeping the R-number (the average number of people infected for every coronavirus case) below one, have been met.

The transition into stage two means that new rules have now come into effect which enable some children to return to school and an increase in social and family contact.

However, while the government has begun loosening restrictions to help return life to as near normal as it can, it has also introduced new strict guidelines to make it explicitly clear what is and is not allowed, specifically when it comes to meeting others outside your own household.

So from Monday what are the new rules about seeing friends and family? Here is everything you need to know.

Can I see friends and family outside?

From Monday 1 June, there are a limited number of things you will be able to do in England that you could not do before, including spending time outdoors with loved ones.

Under the new rules, people can see friends and family from different households in groups of up to six people but this must take place in a private garden or other outdoor space and social distancing must be maintained.

If the visit is happening in a person’s private outdoor garden, all guests must remain vigilant when using the toilet in another household.

These are the same rules for people in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, first minister Nicola Sturgeon says it is safe for people to socialise in groups of eight rather than six.

Can I see friends and family inside their homes?

No. The latest amendment to The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 bill stipulates that “no person may participate in a gathering which takes place in a public or private place indoors, and consists of two or more persons”.

Previously, the rules that prohibited travelling unless for necessary reasons implied that people should not be travelling to other households but this was not specifically mentioned.

Now, under the new rules, both parties could technically be prosecuted under the law.

The government’s official guidelines for lockdown state: “Right now you are only allowed to gather outdoors with people you do not live with.

“Seeing people outside, rather than inside, while obeying the two metre rule, greatly reduces the risk of transmission.

“Close contact with people from other households means a much higher risk of transmission, and according to the scientific advice, we cannot safely allow people to see people they don’t live with indoors without the risk that the virus will spread.”

Can couples who live apart meet up to have sex?

No. Based on the amendment's definition of a gathering, couples meeting up to have sex does fall under this bracket.

It reads: “There is a gathering when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other.”

The guidelines also state that people should always stay alert and practise social distancing with people from outside of their household, keeping two metres apart.

It adds that no person “may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living.”

What will happen if you get caught?

Police can arrest or fine people for breaking the law, with the default penalty standing at £100 (halved to £50 if paid within 14 days) in England, but do not have the power to check for violations inside properties.

Are there any exceptions?

The guidelines do include some exceptions that will be accepted as a “reasonable excuse” for being inside a private space with two or more people.

These include attending a funeral; being an elite athlete or coach of an elite athlete in training; facilitating a house move; meeting for necessary work purposes; providing care for a vulnerable person; providing emergency assistance; to escape a risk of harm or providing childcare.

The previous regulation’s much tougher restrictions outlined reasonable excuses for leaving the house as obtaining basic necessities, taking exercise or seeking medical assistance.

When will I be able to invite others into my home?

Right now you are only allowed to gather outdoors with people you do not live with. The government states that it understands how difficult this is for people – particularly those who live alone and is therefore keeping the rules under constant review.

However, officials have not provided the public with a date as to when they will be allowed to enter another person’s household.

You can read more about how to stay safe when socialising here.

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UK lockdown: Can I see my family and friends under new rules?