Coronavirus: Know your rights

There’s been a lot of confusion around the lockdown. How is the law changing? What restrictions are in place now? 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 made new rules putting the country on ‘lockdown’. Over the summer, the lockdown was eased, but now certain restrictions are being introduced again. The rules continue to change at short notice, and are likely to continue to change over the coming weeks and months. The Government must review the rules at least once every four weeks and edit them if necessary.

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 14 September 2020?

There are now several sets of rules in force which deal with different areas of our lives:

  • Restrictions on gatherings: On 14 September 2020, the Government introduced new amendments to existing health protection regulations. These replaced the previous rules on gatherings and make it a criminal offence to gather in groups of more than six people unless they are all members of the same household, they are all members of the same support bubble, or if other exceptions apply. It is also an offence to organise gatherings of more than 30 people in certain circumstances.
  • Travel quarantine rules: On 8 June 2020, new regulations came into effect meaning that most people entering England had to self-isolate for the first 14 days in the country and had to provide certain information. These regulations were amended on 10 July so that the rules don’t apply for passengers arriving from a large number of countries. However, the list of countries which are exempt is changing on a frequent basis and you should check here for the latest information. For passengers arriving from countries to which quarantine rules apply, it is a crime if you don’t follow them.
  • Face coverings rules: On 15 June 2020, new regulations came into effect making it a criminal offence to use public transport without wearing a face covering, unless you have a reasonable excuse, or you fall into one of the exceptions. On 24 July, further regulations come into force making it a criminal offence not to wear a face covering in certain other indoor places, including transport hubs, shops, shopping centres, banks and post offices, unless you have a reasonable excuse, or you fall into one of the exceptions. Restaurants with table service, bars and public houses are not covered by these rules. These regulations were amended on 8 August 2020 to extend the list of places where face coverings are not required. The new places include community centres, indoor places of worship, museums, public libraries and concert halls, as well as premises providing wholly medical or dental services.
  • Local lockdown rules: On 18 July, the Government introduced regulations giving new powers to local authorities. Councils can now prohibit or restrict access to premises, events and public outdoor places in their areas in certain circumstances. If they do, it will be a criminal offence to break these rules unless you have a reasonable excuse. Additionally, new regulations have also been introduced to enforce local lockdowns in areas such as Leicester, Greater Manchester and Bolton. The list of areas with local restrictions is changing frequently and you should check here for the latest information.

The above regulations only apply in England. Different rules apply in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

  • On 14 September 2020, the Government also provided updated social distancing guidance.  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.
  • The Government has also provided guidance about travelling safely, including by public transport, during this time.

There is also guidance for Wales, Scotland 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:

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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