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Guidance on social distancing for everyone in Wales.

First published:
17 March 2020
Last updated:

What has changed?

From 17 July 2021:

  • You can meet indoors in private homes with your extended household or a maximum of 6 people (not including children under 11 from any of these households or carers of anyone present).  You do not have to maintain social distancing or wear face coverings in a private home, but you may wish to consider both if you meet with people you don’t mix with often.
  • You can meet in indoor regulated settings (for example pubs, restaurants, cafés, bars and visitor attractions) as an individual household or a maximum of six people from up to six households (not including children under 11 from any of these households or carers of anyone present).  If you want to meet in indoor regulated settings with members of your extended household they must form part of the maximum of six people.  You still have to maintain social distancing from other people who are not part of your group and wear face coverings in indoor public places except when you are eating and drinking.
  • You can meet anyone outdoors, in any number.  You do not legally have to socially distance or wear a face covering.  However, a venue has to consider the risks for their business and decide what reasonable measures to employ to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  They may therefore require you to socially distance or wear face coverings or both and you should follow their instructions.
  • If you do meet up with people, indoors or outdoors, and one of them has symptoms or tests positive, you will have to self-isolate.
  • The easing of restrictions means you may have a personal choice as to whether you socially distance outdoors.  You should ask yourself a range of questions such as whether a place is crowded, who you are meeting and for how long.
  • If a premises or venue does not require you to socially distance or wear a face covering outdoors, you should use your own judgement as to what you do and be respectful of other people’s choices. 

Key messages

  • COVID-19 hasn’t gone away – although restrictions have relaxed, you should still exercise caution, even if you have been vaccinated.
  • Keeping your distance from people you don’t normally mix with remains one of the most effective ways of controlling the risk of spread of COVID-19.
  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands regularly and well, or use hand sanitiser if you can’t use soap and water.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, when possible. Face coverings must be worn on all public transport.
  • Work from home if you can. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
  • All employers and premises that allow the public into to their premises have to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19.  This may include social distancing and wearing face coverings.  Always co-operate with any social distancing, handwashing or other measures that are in place for your own safety and that of others.
  • Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, where there are no reasonable measures in place as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.

Background and scope of guidance

This guidance is for everyone in Wales, including children (see relevant section on children below). It advises on social and physical distancing measures we should all be taking to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It is intended for use in situations where people are visiting indoor places (such as shops), outdoors in busy places, and/or mixing with other people they don’t usually mix with. If you live in a residential care setting - guidance is available at residential care setting.

This guidance should be read alongside the FAQs for the relevant Alert level and detailed guidance on the Welsh regulations. These advise what you can and can’t do, and are regularly reviewed.

We are advising those who are extremely vulnerable (formerly shielding) and also those at increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) to continue to follow social and physical distancing measures carefully.

What is social distancing?

Social distancing means keeping a distance between yourself and other people. This helps reduce the transmission of COVID-19. In Wales the distance for social distancing indoors is generally set at 2 metres, although it may be less in some circumstances.  There is no legal requirement for social distancing outdoors.

Social distancing for everyone

Even a short period of contact can spread COVID-19. There is no such thing as a fully safe period of close contact. There are actions everyone can take to reduce the chance of catching or spreading COVID-19, including:

  • Taking up the vaccine when you are offered it, and have both doses.  Encourage others to be vaccinated as well. 
  • Thinking about whether you and your loved ones are vaccinated.  If they haven’t been, you need to think carefully about being in close contact with them.
  • Keeping a distance from people you don’t normally mix with.
  • Minimising how many people you are in close contact with, and for how long. The more people you are in close contact with, especially from different households, the higher the risk of catching or passing on COVID 19.  Some people are more at risk of being seriously ill from COVID-19. The risks from close contact are greater for them than for others.
  • Meeting outdoors if you can – if you are outside and distanced from other people, the particles containing the virus that causes COVID-19 are blown away.
  • Thinking carefully as to whether you are going to keep your distance from people you meet outdoors, even though you may not be required to do so.
  • Thinking carefully about whether you are going to keep your distance when you are meeting people indoors as part of a permitted group.  If you are in an indoor public place then you still have to socially distance from anyone outside of your permitted group.
  • Making sure the space is well ventilated if you do meet indoors. Open windows and doors to bring fresh air into a room. If you are in an indoor public place, follow any instructions in place about social distancing and wearing face coverings.
  • Washing your hands and cleaning surfaces regularly to remove virus particles.

If you do meet up with other people, indoors or outdoors, and they have symptoms or test positive, you will have to self-isolate.

We strongly advise you to follow the above measures as much as you can, and to significantly limit your face-to-face interaction with friends and family, other than people you live with or those within your extended household - particularly if you have an underlying health condition, are aged 70 or older, or are pregnant.

Social Distancing and meeting up with people

The rules are the same for meeting up with people indoors in private homes and regulated premises:

  • You can meet in indoor regulated premises with members of your household or up to a maximum of six people from up to six households.  These numbers do not include children under 11 or carers of anyone present. You do not have to keep your distance when you are in a group with them, but your group does need to keep a distance from other groups or individuals.  If anyone in the group later has symptoms or tests positive, then you will have to self-isolate.
  • The rule on meeting people outdoors is that you can meet anyone in any number and you don’t have to socially distance, unless a place you are meeting asks you to.  You should, however, think carefully about whether you should socially distance. 
  • If you meet indoors in a private home, make sure the space is well ventilated. Open windows and doors to let in plenty of fresh air.
  • Base your decision on whether to socially distance outdoors on who you are meeting, how long for, and whether the place you are meeting is crowded.  If you or someone you are meeting later has symptoms or tests positive, you will have to self-isolate.
  • Please try and be restrained in how many different people you see. It is better to see the same five people regularly than to see lots of different people occasionally.
  • You should always make space for other people to keep their distance if they want to.
  • Even though legal restrictions on social distancing outdoors have been relaxed, everyone should continue to apply the same caution and protective behaviours as they have done throughout this pandemic. COVID-19 has not gone away. 
  • Remain cautious, even if you are meeting friends and family you see often. This applies to everyone, but particularly to people who are at increased risk, clinically extremely vulnerable or pregnant.  People can have the virus even if they feel well. You can pass COVID-19 on to others if you only have mild symptoms or even no symptoms at all, and people of all ages can pass it to you.

Different guidance applies for care home residents.

FAQs on the COVID-19 regulations are reviewed regularly and provide up to date advice on what you can and can’t do.

Work people can visit your home (eg to fix a boiler) if they are well and have no symptoms. You should not invite them into your home if you or a member of your household has symptoms or are self-isolating, unless it is an emergency. They and you must maintain social distancing, and they must undertake frequent hand hygiene measures (see section below) whilst they are in your home.

Social distancing and the general public

Whilst the restrictions for gathering outdoors have been relaxed, it is strongly recommended that you consider keeping your distance outdoors from people outside your household, extended household or your permitted group of six. Keeping 2m distance (3 steps), decreases the risk of catching and spreading coronavirus.

When in an indoor hospitality setting with others who are not part of your household, or permitted group of 6, you should still follow social distancing rules.

Businesses may choose to ask their customers to keep certain distances from others, even in outdoor venues, as part of their reasonable measures risk assessment to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Please do not be offended if you are asked to keep a distance from others at a particular premises or when taking part in particular activities or events.

If you are not asked to distance at a premises but you were expecting to, you can still exercise your own personal choice to distance if that is what you want to do. If other people want to keep their distance, you should respect their choice too. 

Physical distances of less than 2 metres are permissible in limited circumstances indoors in work places and businesses open to the public, as long as all reasonable measures are taken to minimise the risks of exposure to COVID-19. However, for the majority of businesses and the general public, the rule is still to keep a 2 metre distance from others indoors.

Social distancing and children

The rules about social distancing for children aged under 11 outside their household or extended household depends on whether they can understand what is needed. This will be dependent upon their age and the context in which they are interacting. 

  • Very young children (such as pre-school age) do not understand social distancing. Adults caring for them need to have close contact within the 2m distancing requirement. A relaxed approach to social distancing therefore is appropriate.
  • Older children aged under 11 do not generally have to socially distance amongst themselves or with the adults they have regular contact with outside their household or extended household
  • Although children under the age of 11 do not generally have to socially distance from other people, adults in charge of children are asked to consider that other people may have chosen to socially distance and may not welcome close contact.
  • Children aged under 11 do not need to wear face coverings in public places or on public transport.

Young people aged over 11 are to follow the same advice as for adults in respect of meeting people indoors and outdoors. They are recommended to socially distance when meeting people outside their household or extended household. They are required to wear face coverings indoors in public places and on public transport, and may be asked to socially distance in premises outside the home.

Social distancing and people with learning and other cognitive disabilities

People of all ages with learning disabilities or other special needs may not understand social distancing. They might also have difficulty wearing a face covering in public places. Carers are asked to help the people they care for to socially distance as far as they are capable, when it is required. If they have difficulty in wearing a face covering, they would be exempt on health grounds. Carers, however, should take appropriate precautions if close contact is required. 

Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

There are general principles you can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, including:

  • washing your hands more often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitiser - when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, and when you eat or handle food.
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • avoiding contact with people who have symptoms.
  • covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in a bin and washing your hands.
  • cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home.

Face coverings

The evidence remains clear that the most effective way to protect yourself and others from infection is to follow social distancing rules, avoid touching surfaces and your face, and wash your hands regularly. Face coverings are not a substitute for these measures.

The guidance for the public on face coverings includes information on how to wear and use face coverings safely, when face coverings should be worn, and any exemptions that may apply. 

You should also read about the requirement to wear a face covering on public transport in Wales.

Guidance is also available for employers and managers of premises about the requirement for employees to wear face coverings.

This advice on the wearing of face coverings applies only to people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19. If you experience any of the symptoms of COVID-19, you must self-isolate immediately and get a test. Unless your test shows a negative result, you must not go out during this self-isolation period, even with a face covering.

What should you do if you develop symptoms of COVID-19

Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19 (high temperature, or new and continuous cough, or loss of or change to sense of taste or smell) must self-isolate at home immediately and apply for a test. If you live with others or are part of an extended household or have met with a permitted group and you, or one of them has symptoms of coronavirus, then everyone must stay at home and self-isolate.  You should do this until the result of the test of the person with symptoms is known. You can find the full guidance at self-isolation: stay at home.

What is the advice for visitors including those who are providing care for you?

Your regular social visitors, such as friends and family who are not in your extended household, can visit you indoors.  However, you may need to think carefully about how many different people you see if you are at increased risk, or clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you receive regular health or social care from an organisation, either through your local authority or paid for by yourself, they will be aware of the social distancing requirements and will take this into account when caring for you.

If you receive essential care from friends or family members, you should discuss with them the extra precautions they can take to keep you safe. You may find this guidance on home care provision useful.

It is also a good idea to speak to your carers about what happens if one of them becomes unwell. If you need help with care but you’re not sure who to contact, or if you do not have family or friends who can help you, you can contact your local council who should be able to help you.

If you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, ensure you follow the advice on good hand and respiratory hygiene in this guidance when you visit them. Find out about different sources of support that could be used, and access further advice on creating a contingency plan from Carers UK

Look after your own well-being and physical health during this time (on Public Health Wales).

What is the advice for informal carers?

If you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, there are some simple steps that you can take to protect them and to reduce their risk at the current time. Ensure you follow advice on good hygiene such as:

  • wash your hands on arrival at their home and often when there, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitiser.
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards.
  • do not visit if you are unwell but do make alternative arrangements for their care.
  • provide information on who they should call if they feel unwell, how to use NHS 111 Wales online coronavirus service, and leave the number for NHS 111 Wales prominently displayed.
  • find out about different sources of support that could be used, and access further advice on creating a contingency plan is available from Carers UK

Look after your own well-being and physical health during this time (on Public Health Wales).

What is the advice if I live with a person who was previously shielding or is at increased risk?

If you live with a person who was previously shielding or someone who is in the wider ‘at increased risk’ group, refer to our self-isolation guidance, as this contains information on how to manage household arrangements, protect vulnerable family members and prevent the spread of infection.