Coronavirus: The different rules for meeting friends and family across the UK

Joe Gamp
Contributor, Yahoo News UK
Each UK nation has unveiled different plans to emerge from lockdown, with differing approaches to meeting family and friends. (PA)

Different parts of the UK are easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions in different ways, with specific guidance on meeting family and friends.

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are taking varying approaches to restrictions following Boris Johnson revealing a three-stage COVID-19 Strategy to lifting lockdown in England.

Following the prime minister unveiling his government’s new “stay alert” slogan, other devolved administrations rejected the changes as “confusing” and criticised varying aspects, including his instructions for people to return to work.

As such, the leaders of the devolved governments said they would follow their own timelines for easing lockdown.

People observing social distancing on a bench in Hyde Park, London. (AP)

Here, we run through each UK nation’s current social distancing rules and how they are being adapted.


First minister Nicola Sturgeon has outlined a four-phase plan to lift lockdown, which will begin May 28.

From that point, people will be able to meet people from one other household outside - but will be expected to maintain the 2metre social distancing rule.

Non-contact outdoor sports such as such as golf, tennis, bowls and fishing will resume, as well as dwelling in parks and sunbathing.

Recreational trips within five miles will be permitted, but walking or cycling wherever possible is preferred.

Outdoor businesses and garden centres will also reopen from 28 May - but schools will not reopen until 11 August at the earliest.

Boris Johnson encouraged people in England to start returning to work. (AP)


Boris Johnson’s announcement on 10 May came with a new slogan: “Stay alert, control the virus, save lives.”

The change was criticised by Sturgeon, who said he should make it clear the changes only applied to England.

He went beyond allowing more exercise and encouraged people to return to work in sectors such as construction.

Rules around socialising were also changed, with people in England allowed to meet one person from outside their household, providing distancing is maintained.

Meanwhile, the government aims to see some children in England return to school from 1 June.

Wales maintained the 'Stay at home' slogan and extended lockdown measures (Getty Images)


First minister Mark Drakeford extended lockdown in Wales from 8 May - and made clear the “stay at home” message still applies there.

Currently, people in Wales can exercise outside more than once a day in kept - but people are advised to remain indoors “as much as possible.”

Police have had to take action in several cases when visitors from England have driven to scenic spots across the border.

UK countries have varied in their approaches to relaxing quarantine measures. (Getty Images)

The Welsh Government has now increased fines for people who flout rules against non-essential travel, with a maximum penalty of £1,920.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said there could be changes to rules against outdoor meetings at a review of the lockdown next week, but details of the changes have not yet been confirmed.

Northern Ireland

A number of changes to social distancing measures were introduced in Northern Ireland on Monday, with the nation appearing to accelerate its path out of lockdown.

Arlene Foster said different households in Northern Ireland can now meet outside in gatherings of four to six people. (AP)

People from different households can now meet outside in gatherings of four to six, while rive-in religious services are allowed and churches can be used for solitary prayer.

There were queues at garden centres and recycling facilities as they reopened from Monday this week.

Indoor gatherings of different households are still banned.

But first minister Arlene Foster said this was being kept under review as Northern Ireland takes “small steps” out of lockdown.

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