How many people can meet up outside and indoors has now changed, following the next stage of lockdown lifting on May 17 (opens in new tab).
This latest change signals the biggest shift in the restrictions since they first came into place in January this year. As well as changes to the social restrictions, we're seeing certain social distancing rules scrapped - such as the guidance on hugging (opens in new tab) - and even lifting of the lockdown travel rules (opens in new tab).
But the changes to how many people can meet up indoors and outside have been some of the most anticipated, since it's been a long time in lockdown (opens in new tab) now.
How many people can meet outside?
As of May 17 2021, 30 people from multiple households can meet outside in a public or private space. This could be a park, beach or someone's back garden.
Outdoor venues can host hoards of people again, with a maximum capacity of 4000 people or half-full (whichever number is lower). In larger outside seated venues, where people can be spread out more, up to 10,000 people (or a quarter of the normal maximum capacity) will be able to meet.
Along with allowing larger social gatherings for the first time in almost a year, the change will allow for spectators to watch sport live from an outdoor stadium or arena. The Wimbledon tennis tournament, which was cancelled last year due to Covid-19, is just one of the many sporting events organisers have confirmed for later this year.
While there's no absolute guarantee we won't go back into lockdown again (opens in new tab) in the future, the government has said that if all continues to go well with the roadmap, social contact restrictions will be scrapped from June 21. Currently, it hasn't been confirmed whether we will have to continue wearing face coverings (opens in new tab) after this date.
How many people can meet indoors?
From May 17, six people or two households will be able to gather indoors. These groups can also stay overnight with each other (opens in new tab), opening up the potential for holidays and trips away.
B&Bs, hostels and hotels can reopen to people from multiple households from this date as well, allowing groups to gather in small numbers indoors in both private and public spaces. Restaurants, pubs and cafes will be able to welcome patrons indoors again and gyms, leisure centres and fitness studios can lift restrictions on indoor numbers to allow group classes.
In certain circumstances, more than six people or two households can gather together. Up to 30 people can attend a wedding, reception, wake, funeral or similar significant life event, including bar mitzvahs and christening - regardless of whether they take place indoors or outside.
Group holidays abroad are even back on the table following this latest rule change, as the government has now announced the 'green list' of countries where travel is permitted without quarantine on return to the UK.
However as cases of the Indian variant have been spiking across the country, eight local councils across the UK have gone into local lockdown in 2021 (opens in new tab). These include Leicester, Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen and one London borough.
The next stage of the government's lockdown roadmap (opens in new tab) is due to take place no earlier than June 21. From this date, the government hopes to reopen nightclubs and lift more restrictions on large events. If advice from the UK's Chief Medical Officers suggests it's safe to do so, other social distancing restrictions - such as wearing masks and keeping a 2-metre distance - could be scrapped or limited.
How many households can meet in the UK?
The rules differ between each of the devolved nations in the UK.
From May 17 in England, up to six people or two households can meet up indoors. 30 people from multiple different households will also be able to meet up in various spaces outdoors, too. This can be for any reason, as the 'stay at home' rule hasn't been in place since March this year.
As of May 17, the majority of Scotland moved into level three. This means that, similar to England, groups of up to six people can meet indoors. This is with a limit of up to three different households.
In addition, six people from three households can meet up in an indoor public place and eight people from eight different households are allowed to meet up outdoors.
Scotland's roadmap has been a little more hesitant than England's and has been a "progressive easing" of the restrictions, rather than a set of dates.
Wales is currently in alert level 3. This means that people can only meet indoors with those they live with or are in an extended household with, and have to limit the number of people they meet socially where possible.
In general, there is a maximum of six people from six households allowed to meet outdoors in either private or public spaces.
Those living in Wales are also not currently allowed to travel internationally without a reasonable excuse.
The situation in Northern Ireland is a little different. From April 30, outdoor premises have been allowed to serve food and beverages to customers who gather in groups of up to six people or two households.
It won't be until May 24 at the earliest that people will be able to partake in indoor activities, such as sitting inside in pubs or restaurants, visiting attractions or exercising in groups.
But First Minister Arlene Foster said that the chance to lift restrictions was a positive occasion. “I am pleased and proud that through our collective efforts we have reached a point where we have established a good level of control over the virus." She said, “We are now entering brighter and better times.”
Rules to follow when meeting up with other households both outside and indoors
Even when the rules on meeting up with others indoors are lifted on May 17, there are still going to be some restrictions in place. This is what they are likely to be:
- Face masks will stay mandatory on all forms of public transport and in any indoor spaces where social distancing can't be maintained, including in restaurants before being seated.
- If possible, people will be asked to move outdoors where there is more space so the virus can't spread as easily.
- If you have to stay indoors, people will be asked to make sure rooms are well ventilated and to keep the windows and all doors open.
- Clinically vulnerable people (including those with underlying health conditions (opens in new tab) and those over 70) can still meet people indoors and outdoors, especially as all have now been offered the first dose of the vaccine. But, extra care should be taken around increased hygiene and social distancing.
- You can still use public transport if you are travelling to visit someone indoor or outdoors now, but the government could urge that if you can travel in another way, you should do so.
- You will likely be able to, with ventilation and a focus on hygiene, share a private vehicle with someone from outside of your household. But if possible, avoid doing this.
Alongside the lockdown reviews to announce whether the restrictions can be lifted further, independent reviews will take place on subjects such as mask wearing, international travel and social distancing.
Who counts in the rule of six?
Anyone and everyone counts in the rule of six in England, according to Michael Gove.
Last year, when the rule was in place for how many people can meet outside and indoors, the minister confirmed that the rule of six wouldn't exempt children (opens in new tab) under 12 as many thought it would.
What new powers have been given to the police to enforce the law?
How many people can meet outside and indoors has been policed since the beginning of lockdown, with fines in place for breaking lockdown rules (opens in new tab).
Over 60,000 of these fines were issued in England between March last year and February 14 2021.
According to the latest National Police Chiefs' Council (opens in new tab) (NPCC) report, 272 of these were £10,000 fines. The police handed them out to organisers of mass gatherings of more than 30 people. These have included the illegal raves, parties and protests which have hit the headlines in England over the last few months.
485 fines of £800 were handed out for people going to gatherings of more than 15 people. Over 2000 fixed penalty notices were handed out to people for breaching face covering rules, between June 15 last year and February 14 this year. This included 456 on public transport and 1888 in other relevant places, including shops.
Cressida Dick, London's Metropolitan Police commissioner, confirmed those who broke the rules were "increasingly likely" to be fined. She said that the Covid-19 laws would be utilised "more quickly" as officers have had to break up parties.
Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics. She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.
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