Protecting Yourself and Social Distancing

Page updated: 6 July 2021

Each of the UK Governments have introduced new easing of national lockdown restrictions.

England Step 4 update

In England. The Government has announced more details about step 4, the final stage of the roadmap, which is expected to start on 19 July. There are also 5 principles for managing COVID-19 as we learn to live with the virus. Find out what will change following a move to step 4.

The government had previously announced a 4-week pause at Step 3. Step 3 restrictions remain in place until 19 July, and you should follow the guidance on this page, which explains what you can and cannot do.

It is expected that England will move to Step 4 on 19 July, though the data will be reviewed after 2 weeks in case the risks have reduced. The government will continue to monitor the data and the move to Step 4 will be confirmed one week in advance.

In England there is national restrictions, you can read the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ (the roadmap) for more information on how COVID-19 restrictions will be eased in England. It is underpinned by law

For example, at the moment, groups of 6 people or 2 households can meet outside. You should follow the usual guidance on distance, hygiene and face coverings when around people not in your household. Hairdressers and shops are open, and restaurants can serve outside.

From the 19th July, restrictions ease even more, including:

  • Social distancing to end, facemasks no longer mandatory, and no limits on gatherings
  • All venues currently closed can safely reopen with no capacity limits.

If you’re considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, government advice to shield paused after 31 March. Everyone on the shielding list should get a letter with details of the new advice. 

From 17 May, restrictions ease even more, including: 

  • Up to 6 people from different households can meet inside (or 2 households of any size)
  • Up to 30 people from different households can meet outside
  • Pubs, restaurants and cinemas can open for indoor use 

To find out more information about what you can and cannot do during lockdown and read the government's guidance about what will change from 17 May. You should continue to work from home if you can and minimise the number of journeys you make where possible. You should get a test and follow the stay at home guidance if you have COVID-19 symptoms. 

This is national guidance that applies to England - there is different guidance in place for Scotland, Wales  and Northern Ireland


In Wales, there are 4 different levels of alert (level 4 has the strongest restrictions). 

From 7 June

  • Regulated events allowed outdoors with up to 10,000 people seated or up to 4,000 people standing (subject to risk assessment)
  • Extended households can be formed between 3 households
  • Up to 30 people can meet in any outdoor area, including private gardens, public spaces and outdoor regulated premises such as cafes, restaurants and bars

From Monday 17 May, the whole of Wales is moving into level 2.

Changes in the rules and guidance from 17 May include:

  • Pubs and restaurants can open indoors for bookings 
  • Indoor play centres, cinemas, theatres and museums can open indoors

Read the current rules for Wales on GOV.WALES.


In Scotland, there are 5 levels of alert for different areas of the country, from 0 to 4. 

From 17 May stay local rules have been eased for most of mainland Scotland moving down from Level 3 to Level 2. Some areas including Glasgow and Moray are at level 3, and some of the islands move to level 1. For most of the country this means restrictions continue to ease, including: 

  • Indoors - up to 6 people from no more than 3 households can meet 
  • Outdoors - up to 8 people from 8 households can meet

Read more about what's changed from 17 May on the Gov Scot website.

From 5 June, some parts of the country move down a level to level 1. For those places moving to Level 1 check the Scottish government website for your area for further information about the rules in your area. 

The full guidance has extra rules about under 12s and large households, which mean you might be able to meet up with larger groups. 

For all levels of alert, the government says people should still work from home where possible

The government says people should still work from home where possible. Read the timetable for easing restrictions in Scotland on GOV.SCOT.

Northern Ireland
From 24 May there are changes to the social distancing rules in Northern Ireland. Read the current Northern Ireland Public Health Agency social distancing guidelines

    From 30 April, non-essential shops, hairdressers and outdoor areas at pubs and restaurants can reopen. You can also stay overnight in self-contained accommodation but only with your household or bubble. You can read the guidance on current restrictions on nidirect.

    Stopping the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
    To help reduce the risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19) and passing it on to others read the government guidance. It is critical that everybody observes the following key behaviours of washing your hands, wear a face covering, stay two metres apart from people and let in fresh air (ventilation). By following these steps, you will help to protect yourself, your loved ones and those in your community.

    If you have symptoms, you should stay at home and arrange to have a test to see if you have coronavirus. From 28 September 2020, you could be fined if you do not stay at home and self-isolate following a positive test result for COVID-19 or if you are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and instructed to self-isolate.

    You can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about what you should and should not do during the coronavirus outbreak on our FAQs page.

    The UK Government has updated its guidance on self-isolation. You can find the latest information and advice on self-isolation and treating coronavirus symptoms.

    The Government has continued to update its guidance on the social distancing measures that will help us all to stay alert and remain as safe as possible. You can find the specific details for people living in England in the Stay Alert and Stay Safe (Social Distancing) document.

    People in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the specific rules for those parts of the UK.

    What is social distancing?

    Social distancing measures are designed to decrease our level of interaction to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. The Government is regularly updating these as they start to ease restrictions and these will differ across the UK.

    Social distancing means staying at home except for a few specific purposes. These include work (if you can't work at home), exercise, collecting food or medical supplies, receiving essential healthcare or providing care for someone who is vulnerable.

    In England, social distancing should still be observed, although the rules are changing from two metres to one metre plus. This also depends upon where you are; for example, in shops where there are screens or on public transport where people are wearing face masks.

    Each UK nation has its own detailed guidance and rules. There could also be differences at a more local level when they're needed and at the moment, certain areas are subject to local lockdowns. Find out what restrictions are in place if you live, work or travel in the Leicester area during the local outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

    If there's different advice for your city or county, your local council website should have details. Find your local council at

    You should follow the guidance on safe social distancing and meeting people who you do not live with.

    More businesses are opening, including restaurants, pubs, libraries, hairdressers and campsites. All will be expected to follow COVID-19 secure guidelines.

    While things are changing, we still need to follow the guidance on staying home as much as possible and limiting contact with others, social distancing and hygiene. Read the Gov UK information about what you can and cannot do.

    Please note, this guidance applies to England only. People in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should follow the information given below.

    Should I practice social distancing even if I do not have any symptoms?

    The Government has instructed everyone to reduce their social interactions in order to reduce the rate of transmission. This relates to people living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family or carers. People who are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 should be particularly stringent in following social distancing measures. These include anyone aged 70 or over, people with underlying health conditions, (i.e. those advised to have the annual flu jab on medical grounds) and pregnant women. You can find the full list here.

    Should I be self-isolating?

    The guidelines for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are the same as for the general population. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 you must self-isolate at home for ten days. The guidance will vary according to your living situation, the severity of your symptoms and those you live with: click here for full details on when and how to self-isolate.

    There are many resources available for managing self-isolation and social distancing, and we will continue to help our community as much as possible. Please call our Helpline on 0800 311 2756 if you are feeling anxious and want to talk; or the NHS 111 service for non-urgent medical enquiries.

    How can I protect myself?

    Always ensure that you are following the latest Government advice regarding social distancing and self-isolation.

    Practical measures that will help to protect against COVID-19 include all of the following:

    • Wash your hands: wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Lather your hands, including the backs, between your fingers and under your nails, and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the bin and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow
    • Face masks offer some protection as they block liquid droplets. However, they do not block smaller aerosol particles that can pass through the fabric of the mask. You can use a clean scarf to cover your nose and mouth in the same way. There is evidence that some viruses can infect people through their eyes, which will remain exposed even when you cover your face
    • Seek medical help if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19, and share your travel history with healthcare providers
    • Look after your own wellbeing and physical health during this time

    For more information, please click here

    Local Government Association – Click here for information about your local council:

    Scotland - for information about your local council click here:

    Northern Ireland- for information about your local council click here:

    Wales - for information about your local council click here:

    It is important to seek help with the delivery of food, medicines and essential supplies, as well as to access support for your physical and mental health and wellbeing. Let your family, friends and neighbours know how to support you, and register online for Government schemes.

    For all the latest information, please visit Public Health England. If you do have specific concerns surrounding medications or symptoms, you should speak to your GP, contact NHS 111 or get in touch with your consultant. Please do this by telephone; do not go in person to a hospital or your GP unless you have been directed to do so.