Rules will be changing from 17th May

From 17th May 2021 some rules on what you can and cannot do will be changing. Read this article to find out what this means for you, what you can and can't do, and important information you need to know.
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Summary of what will be changing from May 17th onwards

  • gatherings of up to 30 people outdoors and 6 people indoors will be allowed
  • you can stay overnight with another household or up to 6 people from different households
  • you can go to indoor hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums and children’s indoor play areas 
  • people will be able to attend indoor and outdoor events, including live performances, sporting events and business events
  • organised indoor sports, including gym classes will be allowed 
  • all holiday accommodation will be open
  • limits to weddings and other life events will be increased to 30 people. There will no longer be an attendance limit at funerals
  • care homes can now allow up to 5 visitors, two at any time
  • holidays to Green list countries are allowed

Until 17th May you must continue to follow the existing guidance

Protecting yourself and others 

Face coverings

You must wear a face covering in many indoor settings, such as shops and places of worship, and on public transport, unless you are exempt. This is the law and you must continue to wear face coverings from May 17th onwards. Read guidance on face coverings.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable

From 1 April, if you have been identified as clinically extremely vulnerable you will no longer be advised to shield. However, you should continue to take extra precautions to protect yourself. It is important that you continue to keep the number of social interactions that you have low and try to limit the amount of time you spend in settings where you are unable to maintain social distancing. If you are in this group, you will previously have received a letter from the NHS or from your GP telling you this. Contact your local authority or speak to your GP if you have any concerns.

If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19

To help protect yourself and your friends, family, and community you should continue to follow all of the guidance on this page even if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness in most people. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective, so those who have received the vaccine should continue to take recommended precautions to avoid infection.

We do not know by how much the vaccine stops COVID-19 from spreading. Even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread COVID-19 to others.

If you break the rules

The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

You can be fined £800 if you attend a private indoor gathering such as a house party of over 15 people from outside your household, which will double for each repeat offence to a maximum level of £6,400.

If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

Meeting with others

You must NOT meet indoors with anybody you do not live with or have formed a support bubble with (if you are eligible), or another legal exemption applies.

You can meet up outdoors with friends and family you do not live with in groups of up to six people or two households. You can meet in private outdoor spaces, such as gardens, and other outdoor public places and venues that remain open. These include the following:

  • hospitality venues such as pubs and restaurants 
  • parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
  • public and botanical gardens
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • outdoor sculpture parks
  • allotments
  • public playgrounds
  • outdoor sports venues and facilities

Everyone who visits a restaurant or pub will have to check in on the NHS’s Test-and-trace app and groups are limited to six people or two households.

Support bubbles

If you are eligible to form a support bubble, you and your support bubble count as one household towards the limit of 2 households when meeting others outdoors. This means, for example, that you and your support bubble can meet with another household, even if the group is more than 6 people.

Going to school, college or university

School pupils and students in further education should attend school and college.

All schools, colleges and other further education settings are open for face-to-face teaching during term time. It remains very important for children and young people to attend, to support their wellbeing and education and to help working parents and guardians.

Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should return to school or other educational settings from 1 April 2021.

Students in university and other higher education settings undertaking practical and practice based courses who require specialist equipment and facilities can attend in-person teaching and learning where reasonably necessary. Providers should not ask students to return if their course can reasonably be continued online.

All other students should continue to learn remotely. They should remain at their current accommodation until they return to in-person teaching.

Students who have returned to higher education settings, including university, should not move back and forward between their permanent home and student home during term time, unless they meet one of the exemptions.

For information on childcare, read our article.

Businesses and venues

The following venues can remain open:

  • non-essential retail shops 
  • public buildings such as libraries and community centres
  • accommodations such as hotels, B&Bs, hostels, guest houses, campsites 
  • animal attractions
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and salons, spas, tattoo parlors, massage parlous
  • outdoor attractions such as outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks, and drive-in cinemas
  • Self-contained accommodation such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households
  • essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
  • market stalls selling essential retail 
  • businesses providing repair services
  • petrol stations, automatic car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses
  • banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
  • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • medical and dental services
  • vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
  • animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers
  • agricultural supplies shops
  • mobility and disability support shops
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
  • outdoor playgrounds
  • outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
  • places of worship
  • crematoriums and burial grounds
  • leisure and sports facilities

Care home visits

You should check the guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents must follow the national restrictions if they are having a visit out of the care home.

There is separate guidance for those in supported living.

Exercise, sport and physical activity

You can exercise outdoors in a group of 6 or a larger group of any size from up to 2 households (including their support bubbles, if eligible).

You can also take part in formally organised outdoor sports or licensed physical activity with any number of people. This must be organised by a business, charity or public body and the organiser must take the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment. You should avoid contact in training and, for some sports, avoid contact in all activities. Read the guidance on what avoiding contact means for your sport.

Outdoor sport and leisure facilities can remain open. Indoor sport and leisure facilities such as gyms, including changing rooms, can now open, but only for use by people on their own or in household groups. 

What to do if your contacted by Test & Trace

If you are contacted and told to self-isolate, read the government guidance on what to do and what to expect here

Going to work

You should continue to work from home where you can.

If you cannot work from home you should continue to travel to your workplace. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work in:

  • critical national infrastructure
  • construction
  • manufacturing
  • childcare or education
  • essential public services
  • essential retail, such as supermarkets and pharmacies

You do not need to be classed as a critical worker to go to work if you cannot work from home.

Further information


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