Changes to lockdown rules came into force in England on Monday, allowing for bigger social gatherings albeit with restrictions still in place.
Police still have powers to slap people with a fine and enforce the new legislation in some cases.
Some of the latest Government advice – which is not enforceable by law – has prompted questions on whether the measures are practical.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 came into force on Monday.
They update previous versions of the lockdown laws but still set out the same reasons for being made – because of “serious and imminent threat to public health” posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
The restrictions and requirements are considered by the Government to be “proportionate to what they seek to achieve, which is a public health response to that threat.”
At the same time the Government has issued fresh guidance in the hope people will continue to take steps to help prevent the spread of the virus while lockdown measures are eased.
Central to this is a plea from ministers to continue to stay two metres apart from anyone you do not live with.
– Can I leave the house?
Yes, and the law says you no longer need a reasonable excuse to do so.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) says a person can now “leave and remain outside of the place where they live for any reason, subject to restrictions on gatherings and overnight stays.”
– Can I meet people I do not live with?
Yes, up to six people at any one time can meet outside, in open spaces like parks or a private garden.
But the Government guidance has said: “If you are in someone else’s garden, you must not go inside to help the host carry the food out or to help with the washing up.”
– Can I use the toilet at a friend or relative’s house?
Yes, and people can walk through someone’s home to access a garden.
But the law prohibits two or more people from the different households being indoors at the same time.
This suggests someone from a different household would be breaking the law if they went indoors to use the toilet, or walk through the house, if it was not empty.
– Can I hug my parents or be intimate with my partner who I am not living with?
Neither the law or Government guidelines are explicit on this point, but the general two-metre social distancing advice remains.
The legislation defines a gathering as two or more people “together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”.
– Can I stay overnight anywhere?
No, unless you have a reasonable excuse.
This includes: to attend a funeral (subject to restrictions); if you are an elite athlete, their coach or accompanying parent and need to stay somewhere for training or competitions; while moving house; for work, voluntary or charity services; to care for a vulnerable person; to avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm or because it is not safe to return; to take part in legal proceedings; to get medical help; or because you cannot lawfully travel to your home.
The law details a definition of who is considered an elite athlete and specifically refers to those trying to prepare to represent the United Kingdom in some form at the forthcoming Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games taking place in 2021 and 2022.
The law does not apply to homeless people.
– What about childcare?
– Can any other businesses re-open?
Yes, subject to restrictions, including: outdoor markets; water sports, shooting and archery venues; stables; golf courses and driving ranges; car showrooms and premises which sell or hire caravans and boats, for example.
Gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities can now be used to train elite athletes as well as accommodation they need to stay in.
Places of worship can be used for early years childcare provided the person in charge is registered to do so.
– What else does the Government guidance say?
For all of those with a burning desire to play croquet and frisbee again, or other sports like tennis and cricket, the Government is giving you the green light – if you can socially distance and clean equipment regularly.