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Guidance on social distancing for everyone in Wales.

First published:
17 March 2020
Last updated:

Key messages

Keep Wales safe:

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

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 social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It is intended for use in situations where people are visiting indoor places (such as shops) or outdoors, living in their own homes, with or without additional support from friends, family and carers. If you live in a residential care setting - guidance is available at residential care setting.

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

What is social distancing?

Social distancing measures (also known as physical distancing) are steps you can take to reduce very close or physical contact between yourself and other people. This will help reduce the transmission of COVID-19. They are:

  • Keep your distance from other people who are not part of your household or extended household – stay 2 metres (3 steps) away from others when outdoors and in enclosed spaces outside the home setting.
  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of  COVID-19. These symptoms include high temperature, or new and continuous cough, or loss of or change to sense of smell or taste.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, when possible. Face coverings must be worn on all public transport.
  • Work from home, where possible. 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.  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 placeas infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
  • You should not gather indoors with friends and family other than people you live with or those in your extended household. If meeting up in a hospitality setting with others who are not part of your extended household social distancing measures will still need to be observed.
  • Outdoor meetings  with others who are not part of your extended household are permissible but  social distancing measures need to be observed. Find out more about extended households in the separate guidance.
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services and to keep in touch with other family members and friends.
  • Work people visiting your home (eg to fix a boiler) must only visit if they are well and have no symptoms. They and you must maintain social distancing and they must undertake frequent hand hygiene measures (see section below) whilst they are in your home.
  • The rules on who can meet, where and for what purpose change from time to time.  Please check the FAQs regularly for the latest advice.

Physical distances of less than 2 metres are permissible in limited circumstances 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 and everyone should be following these measures as much as is practicable.

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 or are over 70, or are pregnant.

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

Social distancing and children

The rules about social distancing for children aged under 11 outside their household or extended household have been relaxed. Whether children of this age group practice social distancing depends on whether they can understand what is needed is dependent upon their age and the context in which they are interacting. 

Very young children such as those in pre-school and reception class 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 for a context like a playgroup of pre-schoolers.

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. This would apply in a school, where friendship groups are not likely to socially distance amongst themselves. However, in a public space, adults in charge of children are advised to exercise their judgement as to when children are to socially distance from others – for example, in a shop or out on the streets.

Children aged under 11 do not need to wear face coverings in public places, either indoors or on public transport.

Young people aged over 11 are required to socially distance outside their household or extended household. They are required to wear face coverings indoors in public places and on public transport.

Other than this, the rules on indoor socialising have not changed and apply to children of all ages as well as adults. The only indoor close contact with others that children up to the age of 11 and young people up to the age of 18 can have outside of their household/extended household is in an educational setting such as playgroup, school etc. or other organised activities for children where strict rules apply.

Young people under the age of 18  with learning disabilities or other special needs may not understand social distancing. They might also have difficulty wearing a face covering in public places. Adult carers are asked to help the people they care for to socially distance as far as they are capable. If they have difficulty in wearing a face covering, they would be excepted on health grounds. Carers, however, should take appropriate precautions if close contact is required. This advice also applies to people over the age of 18 who have learning disabilities or other special needs.

Handwashing and respiratory hygiene

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

  • washing your hands more often - with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitiser, when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect 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, but in some circumstances where it might be difficult to stay 2 metres away from others, we are advising the use of three-layer, non-medical face coverings for those aged 11 and over. Children aged under 11 may use face coverings if they wish, but they should never be used on children under the age of 3 on breathing safety grounds.

This is in line with the World Health Organization’s latest technical advice. Face coverings should be made up of three layers as set out by the World Health Organization but do not need to be medical-grade face masks.

Used correctly, a face covering may help to protect others by reducing the transmission of COVID-19.  We have made the wearing of face coverings in indoor public places compulsory. However, this does not apply to you, or people you live with, when you are in your own home. The guidance for the public on face coverings includes information on how to wear and use face coverings safely, and 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 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 within 5 days of symptoms developing. If you live with others or are part of an extended household and you, or one of them. have symptoms of coronavirus, then everyone must stay at home and self-isolate and not go out until the result of the test of the person with symptoms is known. The isolation period starts from the day when the first person became ill. 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 other than those in your extended household should not visit you indoors unless they are providing essential care for you. Essential care includes things like help with washing, dressing, or preparing meals.

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 in agreeing a plan for continuing your care.

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.

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

What steps can you take to stay connected with family and friends?

There are new rules on being able to meet up with people indoors in private households and forming extended households. People who you don’t live with cannot come into your home, unless you have formed an extended household (or “bubble”) with them (except in very limited circumstances, such as tradespeople having to undertake work in your home). Likewise there are only very limited circumstances in which you can enter other people’s homes.

You can meet up outside the home setting with people who are not from your household or extended household as long as you maintain social distancing measures at all times. If you need a carer to help you and be with you when you go outdoors, you can still meet someone else or others outdoors and your carer would not be counted within maximum group number permitted. 

FAQs which set out what you can and can’t do are available, which includes information on who you can meet with indoors and outdoors, and what rules apply.

Remember it is OK to share your concerns with others you trust and in doing so you may end up providing support to them too. Or you can use a NHS recommended helpline.