COVID-19: Government instructions on staying at home and gatherings

The Government announced on 23 March new measures that require everyone to stay at home, except in a limited number of circumstances. This follows the requirement for businesses and other venues to close introduced on 20 March.

The measures are detailed in full below:

 

NEW RULES ON STAYING AT HOME AND AWAY FROM OTHERS

The single most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

When we reduce our day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government is now (23 March 2020) introducing three new measures.

  • Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  • Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

Every citizen must comply with these new measures. The relevant authorities, including the police, will be given the powers to enforce them – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

These measures are effective immediately. The Government will look again at these measures in three weeks, and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

1. STAYING AT HOME

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons.

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These four reasons are exceptions - even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household. 

These measures must be followed by everyone. Separate advice is available for individuals or households who are isolating, and for the most vulnerable who need to be shielded. 

If you work in a critical sector outlined in this guidance, or your child has been identified as vulnerable, you can continue to take your children to school.

2. CLOSING NON-ESSENTIAL SHOPS AND PUBLIC SPACES

Last week, the Government ordered certain businesses - including pubs, cinemas and theatres - to close.

The Government is now extending this requirement to a further set of businesses and other venues, including:

  • all non-essential retail stores - this will include clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets, excluding food markets.
  • libraries, community centres, and youth centres.
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
  • communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
  • places of worship, except for funerals attended by immediate families.
  • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use (excluding permanent residents and key workers).

3. STOPPING PUBLIC GATHERINGS

To make sure people are staying at home and apart from each other, the Government is also stopping all public gatherings of more than two people.

There are only two exceptions to this rule:

  • where the gathering is of a group of people who live together - this means that a parent can, for example, take their children to the shops if there is no option to leave them at home.
  • where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace.

In addition, the Government is stopping social events, including weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. This will exclude funerals, which can be attended by immediate family. 

DELIVERING THESE NEW MEASURES

These measures will reduce our day to day contact with other people. They are a vital part of our efforts to reduce the rate of transmission of coronavirus. 

Every citizen is instructed to comply with these new measures.

The Government will therefore be ensuring the police and other relevant authorities have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings where people do not comply. 

They will initially last for the three weeks from 23 March, at which point the Government will look at them again and relax them if the evidence shows this is possible.

 

BUSINESSES AND OTHER VENUES SUBJECT TO FURTHER SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES 

As a country, we all need to do what we can to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

That is why the government has given clear guidance on self-isolation, household isolation, social distancing, and asked that schools only remain open for those children who absolutely need to attend.

This guidance is helping reduce the spread of the virus and reduce the mounting pressure on our National Health Service, allowing those most acutely affected with COVID-19 to access the care they need. 

While the public has already made a huge effort to avoid unnecessary social contact, we are now at a stage where we need to go further.

The government is therefore asking the following businesses and other venues across the United Kingdom to close as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open for trade on Saturday 21 March:

  • Food and drink venues for consumption on-site, such as restaurants and cafes –noting the exception for takeaway and delivery services discussed below.
  • Drinking establishments, including pubs, bars and nightclubs – noting the exception for takeaway and delivery services discussed below.
  • Entertainment venues, including cinemas, theatres, concert halls and bingo halls.
  • Museums and galleries.
  • Spas, wellness centres and massage parlours.
  • Casinos and betting shops.

All indoor leisure and sports facilities, including gyms.

These businesses and other venues must close as they involve prolonged close social contact, which increases the chances of infection spreading. 

Takeaway and delivery facilities should remain open and operational. Planning regulation will be changed to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so. This will be clearly communicated by the government when in effect. 

Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their license does not already permit. Any forthcoming changes to licensing for delivery and takeaway will be clearly communicated by the government. 

Length of closure

We are asking the businesses and other venues outlined above to close as soon as they reasonably can and not to open for trade on Saturday 21 March 2020.   

These measures will be reviewed every 28 days to consider their necessity and effectiveness, in light of changing circumstances. The government will look for opportunities to phase out their application as the situation improves.  

Compliance

Everyone has a duty to comply with the advice provided by the government in relation to COVID-19, in order to protect both themselves and others. 

The government expects all businesses and other venues that are in the list above to comply with this request. The government will keep in close contact with local partners to understand what is happening in their areas to inform further decisions on this matter. 

Where necessary, the government will move to enforce compliance with these measures by law. 

Financial Support

Her Majesty’s Treasury also announced on 20 March 2020 a comprehensive series of measures supporting wages, cash-flow for businesses, and the welfare system.  

Business support

In England, under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) announced on Monday March 16, businesses in England in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will be eligible for cash grants of up to £25,000 per property. 

Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to

£15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. Businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000 are not included in this scheme. For more information please visit gov.uk.

Business rates

In England, as announced on Monday 16 March, the government will provide a business rates holiday for businesses in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector. This includes the businesses in scope for closure listed above. This will apply automatically to your next business rates bill in April 2020. For more information please visit gov.uk.  

Further information

This guidance will be updated regularly as the situation develops. For businesses and others who have further questions related to this guidance, or the measures outlined within the guidance, please visit gov.uk.