On Saturday 4 July, lockdown restrictions are lifting in England to allow people to visit pubs, restaurants, hotels, and reunite with friends and family members outside of their household for the first time in almost four months.
In a speech delivered in the House of Commons on Tuesday 23 June, the prime minister also confirmed that a review of social distancing has concluded that the two-metre rule in place since March can be reduced to "one metre plus" and that households could finally mix indoors so long as they abide by certain guidelines.
Here’s everything you need to know about what you can and can’t do with regards to seeing friends and family from Saturday.
What do the government rules say?
From 4 July you can now meet indoors with another household (this does not need to be the same household every time) or meet outdoors with up to two households, or a maximum of six people from any number of households. Although it does remain the case that – even inside someone’s home – you should social distance from anyone not in your household or bubble.
When you meet outdoors you can meet in public or private spaces, such as gardens, yards or roof terraces – as long as you maintain social distancing. Garages, sheds or cabins are all indoor areas where the risk of transmission is as high as if you were in a small room in a house.
From 4 July people can also stay overnight at someone else’s house: although again this is capped at a maximum of two households. During this time people should try to maintain social distancing, regularly wash hands for 20 seconds or more, avoid sharing plates and utensils, avoid the use of paddling pools or garden equipment together. If you do so, use disinfectant to wipe down surfaces and door handles.
How safe is it to visit someone else’s house?
Dr Robert Dingwall, professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University and on the Department of Health's Nervtag (New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Group), which advises the Chief Medical Officer on the threat posed by new viruses, says: “This is a low risk and many people are exaggerating the risk over that – especially because the community in general now has low numbers of the virus (most of it is in hospital settings) and it is a diminishing risk.”
Dr Simon Clarke, professor in microbiology at University of Reading, also says this setting is “lower risk” because you’re seeing a limited number of people. Although he does say that maintaining social distancing in these circumstances will be tricky for many people. “If you’re going to visit family the whole point is not to be distant from them, so it defeats the object in some way to do that.”
What can you do to keep yourself safe?
Practice social distancing where possible. If you are visiting friends or family then stay in the garden or outside if possible (weather permitting) – as virus transmission is lower outside than inside. Make small adjustments like sitting on the opposite side of the table to the other household, or not sharing cutlery and condiments when eating together.
Be vigilant about cleaning after yourself. It is easy to quickly get comfortable around friends and family and slide back into old habits but try to be vigilant about what you touch and when using shared facilities like bathrooms – if you have anti-microbial wipes then give the sink and taps a wipe.
Don’t visit if anyone has any Covid-19 symptoms (even if they are mild). If anyone in your household or the other household has a new and persistent cough, a fever, or loss of smell or taste, then isolate at home and do not visit other people.
Read more about what the easing of lockdown restrictions means here.