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Rules on meeting people outside your home.

First published:
26 March 2021
Last updated:

Introduction

The general rules are that:

  • 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 six people from two households (not including carers or children under 11 from either household) 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.

Meeting people away from home

Other than in very limited circumstances, nobody other than members of your support bubble, if you have one, should enter your home. Please refer to the visiting people in private homes guidance for further information, including what is meant by a “support bubble”.

You are allowed to meet other people outside of your home, subject to rules set out in this guidance.

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 six from a maximum of two households. This does not include any carers or children aged under 11 from either household.

The rules on meeting people apply to children as well as adults. It is still not generally permitted for children to go into someone else’s home unless you have formed a support bubble with them.

In circumstances where young children mix with others, it may not be practical to maintain 2 metre distancing (between children, or even between children and adults). This is in part because it is harder for younger children to understand the concept of physical distancing, and in part because appropriate support from carers will often require closer contact.

Children under 11 are not included in any legal limits on sizes of gatherings, because studies have found that young children are less likely to transmit the virus, whether to other children or to adults. The virus appears to take a milder course in children than in adults for most cases. This will also allow parents with larger numbers of children to meet with other adults more easily.

However, as young children can still transmit the virus, parents of young children should still exercise their good judgement, take care and encourage their children to follow hand hygiene measures and keep close contact to a minimum wherever possible. Even with children, it is safer to meet in smaller numbers, and to meet the same people regularly rather than a range of different people.

In other settings, the number of children who can gather together will be limited by the size of the setting and the need for a sufficient number of adults to be present to supervise.

You are also able to spend time outdoors with your support bubble, even if there are more than six of you. As long as you remain outdoors, the maximum number of six 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 six was in a support bubble with a family of two, the two entire families could meet outdoors together. However, if you are meeting with your support bubble, you should not arrange to meet with another household at the same time.

Organised outdoor activities for children

Organised outdoor activities for the development and well-being of children are permitted. These activities could include a range of clubs or classes attended by children under 18 (or by persons who were aged under 18 on 31 August 2020), such as sports clubs, parent and baby/toddler groups, youth groups and religious groups. It does not include activities such as children’s birthday parties or wider social gatherings of families and friends beyond the existing arrangements for meeting other people outlined in this guidance.

While these activities are not part of a child’s formal education, they may have some wider benefits related to learning and development. These activities are usually run by a business, a public body or charitable institution, a club, or the national governing body of a sport or other activity. 

The operators of these activities must take all reasonable measures to manage risk and maintain social distancing. There are currently no set limits on the numbers of children that can take part in these outdoor activities.  However, organisers should ensure they limit the number of places to that which can be safely accommodated in the space available.

Organisers should avoid running consecutive activities, and give time for all those participating in one session to have left the area before starting another. This is important to reduce levels of transmission. Organisers should remain present for the duration of the activity.

Many parents or guardians may want to stay in the area while their children are participating in these activities. Where this happens parents should not use this as an opportunity to gather or mix, and should continue to follow the rules on social distancing. Parents and organisers should also be mindful of the use of face coverings for those over 11. While it is not mandatory for face coverings to be worn outside, organisers should consider whether or not they should be used in spaces where it is difficult to maintain social distancing. 

For parent and baby/ toddler groups parents will need to be in attendance during the group session. Parents should not use this as an opportunity to gather or mix before or after the session, and should continue to follow the rules on social distancing

Exercise and outdoor activity

Exercise is important for physical and mental health. 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 6 (excluding any carers or children under 11 from either of those households)

Children and young people aged under 18 can take part in organised outdoor activities, which could include organised sport activities, where they are held outdoors.

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.

There are no legal limits on the kind of exercise that is permitted. However, in practice, this will be constrained by other restrictions such as the closure of indoor leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools. A full list of the types of businesses required to close is available in our guidance on business closures.  As one of the purposes of 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 six people from two households (not including carers or children under 11).

Shopping

All retail can open and close contact services can open.

People should ensure that they maintain social distancing and hand hygiene when visiting shops. Shops must take all reasonable measures to manage risk, including ensuring measures to maintain physical distancing are put in place.

There are no limits on how far you can travel to shop, but 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.

Shops 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 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 take part in organised outdoor activities for children
  • 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.

Travel

Travel within Wales

There are no travel restrictions in place within Wales. This means that you are allowed to travel anywhere within Wales for any purpose. This includes overnight stays in self-contained accommodation with members of your household or support bubble.

Travel in to and out of Wales

There are no restrictions in place for travel into and out of Wales. From 12 April people living in Wales do not need a reasonable excuse to travel outside of Wales, as long as they are travelling to a country within the UK or wider Common Travel Area (CTA). Likewise, people living outside of Wales, within the CTA can travel into Wales However, people will need to check the restrictions in place in the country they are travelling to or from as some countries within the CTA have travel restrictions in place that may prevent people travelling unless they have a reasonable excuse.

We are asking everyone to think carefully about the journeys they take and the people they meet. We should all think carefully about where we go and who we meet because the more places we go and the more people we meet, the greater the chances there are of catching coronavirus. In particular, it is also sensible to avoid travelling to and from areas with a higher incidence rate if you can.

You can only travel from Wales to an international destination outside of the Common Travel Area if you have a reasonable excuse. This does not include holidays.

If you need to travel internationally for one of the permitted reasons, you must complete an international travel declaration form and take it with you to your port of departure. You may also wish to take with you to the port evidence supporting the reason for your trip. Failure to complete a form or providing false information could result in a £60 fine. A larger Fixed Penalty Notice of £5000 may be issued if you are found to have travelled internationally without a reasonable excuse.

If you intend to travel to a destination outside the Common Travel Area and use an airport or ferry port in England you need to complete the English travel declaration form (on GOV.UK) and follow their guidance. 

Failure to complete the England form could result in a £200 fine and traveling without a reasonable excuse could result in a fine of £5,000.

Similar arrangements apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.