Meeting with others safely (social distancing)

As Published on on 12th October 2020

The government has announced further national measures to address rising cases of coronavirus in England.

  • Local COVID alert levels are sometimes called ‘tiers’ or known as a ‘local lockdown’.

    In all areas of England, you should remember ‘Hands. Face. Space’:

    • hands – wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds
    • face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
    • space – stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors)

    This guidance is for people who are fit and well. There is separate guidance for:


    Meeting family and friends

    You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them. This includes private homes, and any other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.

    support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household. Households in that support bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.

    Informal childcare can also be provided via childcare bubbles. Find out more about childcare bubbles in the ‘Childcare’ section below.

    You may continue to see friends and family you do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with) outside, including in a garden or other outdoor space. When you do so, you must not meet in a group of more than 6. This limit of 6 includes children of any age.

    Meeting in larger groups is against the law. There are certain exceptions (see below). The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

    You can be fined £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

    If you live in a high alert level area you also cannot meet indoors with people outside of the area, unless exceptions apply.

    When meeting friends and family you should:

    There are exceptions where people from different households can gather beyond the limits set out above. These exceptions are:

    • in a legally permitted support bubble

    • in a legally permitted childcare bubble (see section on childcare below for more details)

    • for work, volunteering to provide voluntary or charitable services (see guidance on working safely in other people’s homes)

    • for registered childcare, education or training

    • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians

    • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them

    • for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after school childcare), youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups

    • for birth partners

    • to see someone who is dying

    • to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm

    • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service

    • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable

    • to facilitate a house move

    • for a wedding or equivalent ceremony and wedding receptions where the organiser has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus – up to a maximum of 15 people (not to take place in private dwellings)

    • for funerals – up to a maximum of 30 people; wakes and other commemorative events are permitted with up to 15 people present (not to take place in private dwellings)

    • for elite sportspeople and their coaches if necessary for competition and training, as well as parents or guardians if they are a child

    • for outdoor exercise and dance classes, organised outdoor sport, and licensed outdoor physical activity

    • indoor organised team sports for disabled people, and youth sport

    • support groups of up to 15 participants – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support (not to take place in private dwellings)

    • protests – if organised in compliance with COVID-secure guidance

    Other activities, such as indoor exercise classes and other activity groups can only continue provided that households or support bubbles do not mix. Where it is likely that groups will mix, these activities must not go ahead.

    Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the limit, if they are there for work.


    Visiting other venues, including restaurants, pubs and places of worship

    Venues following COVID-secure guidance can host more people in total, but no one must mix indoors with anyone who they do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) unless exemptions apply. Outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to 6 people.

    This includes in:

    • pubs and restaurants

    • leisure and entertainment venues

    • places of worship

    At least one person in your group should give their contact details to the venue or check in using the official NHS COVID-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed