Coronavirus: Know your rights
There’s been a lot of confusion around the changing coronavirus rules. What are the new rules after 19 July? What can the police do? What can we do if we’re questioned, fined or arrested? Our coronavirus advice and information hub has you covered.
To help deal with the public health emergency caused by coronavirus, the Government has made restrictions which have prevented us from going out, meeting people and doing things in the way we did before. It has also introduced lots of other rules dealing with things such as face coverings, travel quarantine and self-isolation. The rules continue to change regularly and at short notice.
There have been a lot of confusing and contradictory messages about the 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 19 July 2021?
On 19 July 2021 every area in England transitioned to Step 4 of the Government’s roadmap for easing coronavirus restrictions. This means that a lot of the restrictions which previously existed have now been relaxed.
There are now no restrictions on gatherings. This means that you can gather with as many people as you want, inside or outside, and organise gatherings without restrictions.
Therefore, protests, sporting events (including with spectators), music events, weddings and other large gatherings are all lawful.
Leaving your home
The restrictions on leaving your home which were in place during the more severe lockdowns were repealed several months ago. There are no restrictions on leaving your home.
The list of restricted businesses has been removed entirely. This means that all businesses are allowed to open as normal. Businesses with a dancefloor, such as nightclubs, can open again, and bars and restaurants no longer require table service.
There is government guidance on the safest way to run businesses in different industries, but be aware that these are not legal requirements. However, employers still have legal duties under health and safety law to keep their employees and other people affected by their business safe, and this will generally require them to carry out risk assessments and to take steps to minimise the risks posed by coronavirus.
Government guidance encourages businesses to continue collecting the names and contact details of people who are seeking to enter their premises using a QR code and a system for those without the COVID-19 app. However, there is no legal requirement on businesses to ask customers to check in and customers are not legally required to do so.
Additionally, government guidance encourages certain types of businesses (such as nightclubs) to use the NHS Covid Pass as a condition of entry. This is a way of checking whether a person has been double vaccinated or has had a recent negative coronavirus test. Businesses can choose to have their own policies which reject entry to those who refuse to use this system. However, there is again no legal requirement on businesses to use this system.
Face coverings / face masks
Previous regulations made it a criminal offence not to wear a face covering in certain indoor places, including public transport, transport hubs, shops, shopping centres, bars, pubs, banks and theatres. These regulations have now been removed entirely, so in general it is no longer a legal requirement to wear face coverings in any of these places.
However, Transport for London (TfL) have confirmed that they will continue to require face coverings on the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, London Overground and TfL Rail networks; Dial-a-Ride services; the Emirates Air Line; and the Woolwich ferry. There are exceptions for children under the age of 11, those who cannot wear a face covering for health or disability reasons and TfL employees. As this is a private policy of their own, they are allowed to enforce this by denying service to those who refuse to comply. However, they are not permitted to enforce it by using Fixed Penalty Notices.
Some other areas in England are considering similar measures. For example, there are apparently face covering requirements in:
- Bus stations in West Yorkshire
- Metro systems in the North East and Manchester
- Ferries in Liverpool
Uber has also announced that it will continue to require drivers and passengers to wear face coverings unless exempt in order to use their service.
It is worth researching the requirements in your area and/or checking with your particular transport provider.
Although most legal requirements to wear face coverings have been removed, government guidance “expects and recommends” that people continue to wear face coverings crowded areas.
On 28 September 2020, regulations came into force for people who have tested positive for coronavirus and their contacts. These are currently still in effect, although changes are expected in August.
If you are notified by NHS Test and Trace that you have tested positive or that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, you are required to self-isolate in your home (or certain other permitted locations) for a specified period and are only allowed to leave that place during that period where certain exceptions apply. It is a criminal offence to break these rules and you can be given a fine of £1,000 for your first offence.
This does not apply to notifications received via the NHS Covid 19 smartphone app.
Travelling into England
If you have received both vaccines and are travelling into England from an amber list country, then you no longer have to self-isolate for 10 days. Instead, you will revert to the same rules as those travelling from green list countries. This means that you still need to take a test before you travel, and still need to book and take a ‘Day 2’ test when you return. However, you do not need to self-isolate in your house or a hotel, and do not need to take a ‘Day 8’ test.
In order to qualify for this, your second vaccine must have been 14 days before you enter England, and both vaccines must have been applied by the NHS in the UK. See government guidance here on demonstrating your vaccine status.
Under 18s will also not have to isolate when they return from amber list countries, whether they have been vaccinated or not.
These rules do not apply if you are travelling from Metropolitan France (mainland France and the Island of Corsica) or have travelled through there within the ten days before arriving in England. In either of those cases you must follow the rules for amber list countries, regardless of your vaccine status.
Can I still get an FPN for anything under the new Coronavirus rules?
Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) were the most common enforcement tool used during the coronavirus pandemic. As most requirements have been repealed, their use should drop significantly. However, there are still some coronavirus regulations in place which can be enforced through FPNs:
- The travel regulations are still in place and can be enforced through FPNs. For example, if you travel from an Amber list country but you do not qualify for the vaccine exception, then if you do not self-isolate for the full 10 days you can be fined £1,000 for a first offence, up to £10,000 for a fourth offence. See our travelling articles for more details.
- The Test and Trace system is still in place. This means that if you test positive, or you are identified by the NHS Test and Trace system as a being in close contact with someone who tested positive, then you are still required to self-isolate for 10 days. If you do not, you can be fined £1,000 for a first offence, up to £10,000 for a fourth offence.
See our article on police powers for more information.
What is the Coronavirus Act 2020 and has it been repealed?
In addition to the various health protection regulations listed above, 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.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 has not been repealed or seriously amended. Therefore, all of these changes are still in place.
See our article on Police Powers under the Coronavirus Act for more information.
Where can I find government guidance on the rules?
The government has produced extensive guidance about different elements of life under Coronavirus regulations. It is recommended that you follow this guidance to reduce the transmission of the coronavirus.
It should be noted that guidance is not the same as law. You cannot be fined or arrested for failing to follow any of this guidance.
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 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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