Coronavirus: Know your rights

There’s been a lot of confusion around the lockdown. How is the law changing? When can we leave home? What can the police do? What can we do if we’re questioned, fined or arrested? Our new coronavirus advice and information hub has you covered.

To help deal with the public health emergency caused by coronavirus, the Government has made new rules putting the country on ‘lockdown’. The Government must review the rules at least once every three weeks and edit them if necessary. Therefore, the rules may change over the coming weeks and months.

There have been a lot of confusing and contradictory messages about the new rules. Many people are unsure about what is and what isn’t allowed.

To help clear this up, we’ve created an explainer of what you can and can’t do.

What are the rules in place as of 13 May 2020?

The rules are set out in a number of different places:

  • Health protection regulations make it a criminal offence to leave your house in certain circumstances. They also say which businesses can stay open and which must close. These regulations came into force at 1pm on 26 March 2020, but they only apply in England. Different rules apply in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
  • New regulations introduced on 22 April 2020 and 13 May 2020 have brought in small changes to the regulations above. The advice in our pages reflects these newest rules.
  • On 11 May 2020, the Government also provided updated social distancing guidance. This is similar to the regulations, but not exactly the same. It is recommended that you follow this advice, but the guidance doesn’t create criminal offences like the regulations. Here are some useful FAQs about the new guidance.
  • There is also social distancing guidance for Wales and for Northern Ireland specifically.

The Government also introduced an Act of Parliament – the Coronavirus Act 2020, on 25 March 2020. This changed the law in a number of different areas in response to the pandemic. This includes things such as:

  • New police powers in relation to potentially infectious people.
  • Changes to mental health laws.
  • Changes to local authority duties in relation to social care.
  • Changes to the Government’s surveillance powers.

We plan to provide further guidance about the Coronavirus Act and what it means for your rights soon. Check this page regularly for updates

What about speeches made by the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers?

The Prime Minister and other Government ministers have made a number of speeches and public statements about what you can and can’t do, and what the Government is planning to do in future.

Advice that is set out in speeches by either the Prime Minister or Cabinet ministers is not law. To be as sure as you can be, we recommend following the guidance set out on the Government’s web page, or checking this page regularly as we update it to reflect the current law.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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