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

Part of:
First published:
18 December 2020
Last updated:

Introduction

The general rules at alert level 4 are that:

  • people must stay local, except for very limited purposes
  • people must not enter each other’s homes, except for very limited purposes
  • people can meet with people they do not live with outdoors (including in private gardens) as long as a maximum of four people from two households (not including carers or children under 11 from either household) living locally meet at one time

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.

Visiting people who do not live in private homes

In general the law does not prevent visits to people who do not live in private homes. So for example, indoor visits to care homes, hospices and secure accommodation facilities for children are permitted under the law. This does not mean that any of these places are obligated to be open - individual settings will need to ensure they are able to support visits safely. We recommend checking with the relevant location for their specific visiting arrangements.

These visits will need to be in accordance with the rules put in place by the setting you are visiting.

When considering whether there is a need to visit someone outside your support bubble, especially indoors, you should remember we all have a responsibility to recognise the risks the virus presents to ourselves, our families and friends and our wider communities.

People will need to make judgements for themselves about what is reasonable, in line with that overarching principle. Keep in mind that the purpose of the continuing restrictions is to prevent the spreading of the virus, including to those we care about.

Seeing people outdoors

While the risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors, social distancing is still important.

In general, we are asking you to think about what is the most sensible thing to do to protect yourself, your family, friends and your community, rather than thinking about what you are – legally - allowed to do. Only through everybody taking responsibility for their actions will we be able to avoid further lockdowns.

Small groups of people are allowed to meet outdoors, including for exercise or simply socially. However, the smaller the number of people who gather, the lower the risk. That means you can vary the people you meet, but we ask you to try and be restrained in how many different people you see. It is better to see the same one or two people regularly than to see lots of different people occasionally. The more people you come in to contact with, the greater the risk.

In most circumstances, the absolute maximum number of people not already living together who can gather outdoors is four from a maximum of two households. This does not include any carers or children aged under 11 from either household. This is a maximum and not a target. You must stay local and therefore, you must not travel outside of your local area to meet with another household.

You are also able to spend time outdoors with your support bubble, even if there are more than four of you. As long as you remain outdoors, the maximum number of four people gathering together does not apply when all the people gathered together are from the same household or support bubble. So, for example, if a family of four was in a support bubble with a family of two, the two entire families could go for a walk together. However, if you are meeting with your support bubble, you should not arrange to meet with another household at the same time.

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. You can exercise in public outdoor places with:

  • members of your household or support bubble, or
  • with people from one other household, as long as the total number of people exercising is no more than 4 (excluding any carers or children under 11 from either of those households)

You should ensure that you maintain social distancing from the people you are exercising with if they are not in your household or support bubble. You should not travel outside of your local area to meet with someone outside of your household or support bubble.

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 such as  the closure of indoor 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).

Some outdoor sport and leisure facilities such as parks, playgrounds, tennis courts, golf courses and bowling greens can open.. You can attend these places with another your household, support bubble or in groups of up to four people from two households (not including carers or children under 11). You should only visit these facilities if they are within your local area.

Shopping

All leisure businesses, non-essential retail and close contact services (except for hairdressers and barbers) 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 items, 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

We strongly encourage people to work from home where possible. 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 should do so from home or locally 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.