12 reasons you are legally allowed to leave your home right now

George Martin
·6 min read
Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel attends a COVID-19 pandemic virtual press conference inside 10 Downing Street in central London on January 12, 2021. - People who flout coronavirus lockdown rules were on Tuesday warned that police will take action, as the government vowed to step up enforcement measures to cut surging infection rates that risk overwhelming health services. Home Secretary Priti Patel said 45,000 on-the-spot fines had already been issued to people who failed to adhere to strict lockdown guidelines. (Photo by Leon Neal / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Home secretary Priti Patel at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday. (Getty)

Priti Patel has insisted the nationwide lockdown rules are are clear, firm and "tough enough" during a press conference on Tuesday.

The home secretary said the government keeps the lockdown measures in England under "constant review" but said the British public “understand the stay-at-home message”.

So far, nearly 45,000 fixed-penalty notices have been issued across the UK since March for breaches of social distancing restrictions.

But pressed on whether the rules are tough enough during the Downing Street press conference, Patel said: "The rules are clear, the rules are firm in terms of staying at home.

"The rules are tough enough – you've already heard 45,000 fixed-penalty notices have been issued just in the recent time since we've been in this pandemic."

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and Conservative MP for Broxtowe Darren Henry ride bicycles at the Canal Side Heritage Centre in Beeston, central England, on July 28, 2020, during an event to launch the the government's new cycling intuitive to help get people fitter. - The British government promised Monday to build thousands of miles of new bike lanes to get people moving and healthy after months of coronavirus lockdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's pledge comes on the heels of a plan to force restaurants to display calories on menus as part of a broader effort to win the battle of the bulge. (Photo by Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP) (Photo by RUI VIEIRA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson was accused of breaking the rules with a bike ride over the weekend. (file photo/Getty)

What are the rules?

Current guidance posted on the government’s website lists 12 situations in which people living in England have a “reasonable excuse” for leaving home.

The guidance says police can issue a fixed-penalty notice if individuals do not have an appropriate reason for being outside.

Travelling for work purposes “where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home”, providing voluntary or charitable services, and carrying out “essential activities” are among the excuses.

Read more: What you can and can't do under current lockdown rules

According to the government, essential activities include “leaving home to buy things at shops or obtain services”.

Education and childcare, meeting others in your support bubble and caring duties are also listed as viable reasons for going outside.

Watch: Priti Patel vows to crack down on people who break lockdown rules

Other excuses include: medical reasons, providing maternity services, to escape risk of harm, to visit someone who is dying, animal welfare reasons and attending a place of worship.

When exercising, people are asked to “exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble”.

You can see the rules laid out in full at the bottom of this article, as per the gov.uk website.

Patel clarified: "When it comes to staying at home, that also means staying local.

“Exercise is important – it's important for people's health and wellbeing – and that equally applies to exercise."

The government rules state that exercise should be “limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area”.

Alleged rule breaches

Patel was asked why two women were fined by Derbyshire Police last week for going for a walk five miles from their home while the prime minister was allowed to go for a bike ride seven miles from No 10.

She replied: "We all have to exercise our judgment and be very conscientious as to how we act.

"When it comes to exercising, I do say stay local – staying local is absolutely crucial."

She added it was important to stay away from other people, "which is clearly what the prime minister did when he was taking his daily exercise".

"I think, quite frankly, we all have to ask ourselves what can we do to keep everyone safe and absolutely reduce our contact with each other."

Patel insisted the rules were clear and that the British public understand the message.

"We are in a pandemic,” she continued. “The British public are absolutely sensible, they are conscientious, they understand the stay-at-home message.”

What does the advice actually say?

Here are the government’s 12 “reasonable excuses” for leaving your home during the current lockdown. This list is not exhaustive, and the guidance does say individuals may need to fulfil other legal obligations, such as voting in elections or buying/selling a property.


You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home. This includes, but is not limited to, people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance


You can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services.

Essential activities

You can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person or someone self-isolating.

Education and childcare

You can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where the child is eligible to attend. Access to education and children’s activities for school-aged pupils is restricted. See further information on education and childcare. You can continue existing arrangements for contact between parents and children where they live apart. If you live in a household with anyone aged under 14, you can also form a childcare bubble.

Meeting others and care

You can leave home:

  • to visit people in your support bubble ( if you are legally permitted to form one)

  • to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work, not to enable social contact between adults)

  • to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people

  • to provide emergency assistance

  • to attend a support group (of up to 15 people)

  • for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child.


You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.You should maintain social distancing. See exercising.

Medical reasons

You can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and for emergencies.


You can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth or, accessing other maternity services, or to be with a baby receiving neonatal critical care. There is NHS guidance on pregnancy and coronavirus.


You may leave home, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse).

Compassionate visits

You may also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home (if permitted under care home guidance), hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.

Animal welfare reasons

You can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.

Communal worship and life events

You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, to attend a funeral or event related to a death, to visit a burial ground or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony. You should follow the guidance on the safe use of places of worship and must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. Weddings, funerals and religious, belief-based or commemorative events linked to someone’s death are all subject to limits on the numbers that can attend.

Watch: What is long Covid?