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Rules on meeting people outside your home at alert level 4.

First published:
18 December 2020
Last updated:

Introduction

The general rules at alert level 4 are that:

  • people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  • people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with.

If you have been advised to self-isolate

None of the information in this guidance applies to people who have been told to self-isolate by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect. You must not leave your home if you have been told to self-isolate by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect. Failure to self-isolate when told to do so can lead to you being issued a fixed penalty notice or criminal prosecution. For more details please see our guidance on self-isolation.

We also strongly advise you to self-isolate if you are notified through the NHS Covid-19 app that you should do so. However, there is no legal duty to do so because the privacy and anonymity protections on the app mean that it does not collect any personal details.

We also strongly advise you that if you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you should follow the general self-isolation guidance and should arrange to have a test (although again this is not covered by the legal duty).

Leaving your home

Staying safe when away from home

Coronavirus is spread by large droplets and aerosol transmission from breath. The risk is even greater when sneezing, coughing or talking loudly, from the mouth and nose. This means close contact with others, in particular face-to-face contact within 2 metres, is most likely to cause infection. The virus can live on some indoor surfaces for days and may be spread by people touching those surfaces, then touching their mouth or nose with unwashed hands. The virus is much less likely to be spread outside, although this depends in part on the weather conditions, and disperses more in well ventilated environments. The virus dies quickly in the summer sun but less so in colder conditions.

Before leaving your home you should plan how you will keep safe and minimise risk. Frequent handwashing and the use of hand sanitiser gel remains important, as do social distancing and refraining from touching your nose/mouth with unwashed hands. You should also be mindful of whether you will be indoors or outside.

Even outside there are still risks in places used by many people, or where they may congregate, such as public toilets – where many people may touch taps and flush handles, petrol pumps, pay and display machines, door handles, and cash machines.

Disinfectant gel dispensers may also transmit infection if many hands operate them, so should be operated with the wrist/forearm rather than fingers/palm of hand.

When can I leave home?

At alert level 4, you can only leave home if you have a “reasonable excuse”. The following are considered to be reasonable excuses for leaving home at alert level 4:

  • to exercise, alone or with members of your household or support bubble. This must be done locally unless there is a reason, such as a specific health condition or mobility issue, that would require driving to the nearest convenient, accessible location. .
  • to meet the other people in your support bubble if you have one
  • to escape a risk of illness or injury, such as for victims or people at risk of domestic abuse
  • to provide or receive emergency services
  • to attend a place of worship
  • to attend a wedding, civil partnership or funeral if you are invited
  • to vote in an election
  • for elite athletes, to train or compete (or for others, to provide coaching or other similar support to an elite athlete)

There are other reasons listed in the regulations why you can leave home if it is “reasonably necessary” and there is “no practicable alternative”. The regulations do not contain a complete list of circumstances in which this might arise, but they do contain examples. It is important to note that you do not automatically have a right to leave home for these purposes – you can only do so if it is necessary and there is no practicable alternative.

  • the need to obtain supplies and services for you or your household, for example food, medicine, and essential household maintenance. We encourage everyone to do this as infrequently as possible
  • to access childcare and education
  • to access medical services
  • to access public services, including services provided to victims of crime or domestic abuse or those at imminent risk of becoming victims
  • to deposit and withdraw money from a bank or similar establishment
  • to provide care for or to help a vulnerable person; this includes getting food or medicines for them
  • for work purposes, or voluntary or charitable purposes, but only where it is not reasonably practicable to do this from home
  • to attend court or meet other legal obligations,
  • to move home, view a property or undertake other activities associated with moving home.

These examples are not the only possible reasonable excuses for leaving home. It is not possible to identify in advance every possible reason someone might have to leave home. In order to act reasonably you must ask yourself what other careful people would do if they were in your shoes. Whether or not it would be reasonable to undertake a particular activity would depend on the surrounding circumstances, including how long you would be away from home for, how far you had to travel, the likelihood of interaction with others and the risk of transmission of the disease as well as why the activity is necessary and cannot reasonably be deferred until Alert level 4 restrictions have been lifted or carried out in a way that does not involve you leaving home.

In each case it would be for you to form your own judgement about whether the particular circumstances justified making the journey, despite the need to avoid transmission of Coronavirus, and it would be for the police to decide if those circumstances provided a reasonable excuse.

Whenever you leave home, you should try to minimise time spent outside of the home, and ensure you stay at least 2 metres away from anyone you don’t live with or are in a permitted support bubble with.

Please see the business closures guidance for more information. 

Exercise and outdoor activity

Exercise is important for physical and mental health. While Alert level 4 restrictions are in place, you can leave home as often as you like to exercise, as long as you do so alone or with members of your household or support bubble (and/or a carer).

There are no legal limits on the kind of exercise that is permitted. However, in practice, this will be constrained by other alert level 4 restrictions requiring exercise to start and finish at home as well as the  closure of leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools. As one of the purposes of alert level 4 restrictions is to reduce pressure on NHS Wales, we also ask people to avoid activities that involve a significant degree of risk (for example, swimming or other exercise at sea or in lakes, rivers and other waterways).

Parks and playgrounds are allowed to remain open for outdoor exercise. However, you should only attend parks with members of your household or support bubble and must not arrange to meet with other households. Some parts of parks, such as sports courts, skate parks, bowling greens and golf courses will be closed.

There are no limits on the distance you can travel during exercise, though the nearer you stay to your home, the better. Your exercise should start and finish from your home and generally, this should not involve people driving to a location away from home. However, we recognise that some people, such as those with specific health or mobility issues, may need to travel from their home in order to exercise. For example, wheelchair users may not be able to start exercise immediately outside their homes for practical access reasons. Driving to a suitable flat location, such as a park, would be permitted in this instance. Where people need to drive to access exercise, the journey should be to the nearest convenient accessible location. No long journeys should be undertaken unless absolutely necessary. The need to carry sports equipment is not regarded as a justification on its own for driving in these circumstances.

Leaving your home to exercise should not be used as an excuse to undertake other activity which is not permitted. The purpose of leaving home is to exercise. Going for a walk and then having a picnic or spending a prolonged period on a park bench, for example, is not considered to be exercise.

Shopping

All leisure businesses and non-essential retail are closed. This includes clothes shops, furniture shops, and car dealerships among many others. A full list of the types of businesses required to close is available in our guidance on business closures.

There are no limits on how far you can travel to shop for essential, but please stay local to your home wherever possible. People are advised to avoid unnecessary travel and crowded spaces where possible, particularly indoors.

Shops that are required to close are still able to provide click and collect or home delivery services. However, you may only leave home to make necessary purchases and you should limit your journeys as much as possible. We also ask that you do not travel long distances to access click and collect services.

Shops allowed to remain open include supermarkets and other food retailers, pharmacies, banks and post offices. However, wherever possible people should avoid unnecessary visits to these, and use alternative approaches such as online services and deliveries. Shops that are allowed to be open during alert level 4 restrictions must stop selling alcohol from 10pm and cannot begin to sell alcohol again until 6am the following day.

You must not meet with people from outside your household or support bubble for shopping.

Work

While alert level 4 restrictions are in place, you must work from home if you can. People who are not able to work from home, but are able to work safely in their workplaces, can do so, provided their workplace remains open. This include occupations like construction and manufacturing as well as public services that rely on face to face provision.

You can undertake voluntary work if you wish to do so, but again you must do so from home if reasonably practicable.  You can also go out to provide care or help to a vulnerable person, including emergency help. This includes getting food and medicines for them. But it is important you do not put yourself or the person you are caring for at risk.

Seeing other people

There are some limited circumstances where gathering with other people away from home outside of your household or support bubble is permitted. These include:

  • For work purposes, if it is not reasonably practicable to do your work without gathering with other people
  • To visit health services, including veterinary services
  • To access education and childcare
  • To participate in elite sports
  • To access essential public services
  • To avoid injury or illness, or escape a risk of harm
  • to provide care for or to help a vulnerable person; this includes getting food or medicines for them
  • for voluntary or charitable purposes
  • to attend court or meet other legal obligations,
  • to move home, view an unoccupied property or undertake other activities associated with moving home.
  • To attend a funeral if you are organising it, are invited by the person organising the funeral, or are the carer of a person attending the funeral
  • To attend marriage or civil partnership ceremonies, if invited; or
  • To attend a place of worship;

Where you do gather with others for any of these purposes, it is very important you follow guidance on social distancing, cough and cold hygiene and follow the rules on face coverings in indoor public places. You should also continue to wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitiser gel. You should only attend if completely well, and if you have any symptoms of coronavirus, it would be advisable to remain at home. If you have been informed by NHS Wales Test Trace Protect that you have come in to close contact with someone who has had a positive test for coronavirus, you will be required by law to self-isolate. You must not leave your home unless there is an exceptional circumstance to permit this .

Specific guidance is available on workplaces and the responsibilities of employers and employees.