Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Know your rights

There’s been a lot of confusion around the changing coronavirus rules. Do you have to self-isolate? What can the police do? What about all the speeches ministers are making? 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 affected the way we live our lives. 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.

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

This information is correct as of 28 February 2022, but is subject to possible changes.

What are the current Coronavirus rules?

We have produced a brief explanation of the main Coronavirus rules in place in England. See our in-depth articles for more information.

Face coverings / face masks

You are no longer required to wear a face mask by law. Private companies may have their own policies in their premises. They can deny entry to those who don’t comply with their policies. Transport for London have instated similar policies. As such, you are required to wear face masks on public transport in London.

For full details on the new rules, see our face coverings page.

Self-isolation

On 24 February 2022, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 were revoked. As such, there is no legal requirement to self-isolate if you tested positive or are in close contact with someone who has. This includes when you have travelled from a non-red list country. NHS Test and Trace has been closed down.

The only remaining requirement to self-isolate is when you have arrived in England from a red list country. At the time of publishing, there are no countries on the red list.

However, NHS guidance still recommends remaining at home if you test positive for Coronavirus, in order to restrict transmission.

Travelling into England

If you have travelled to England from a red list country, there are strict requirements, including taking a coronavirus test before you arrive in the UK and staying a “quarantine hotel” when you do arrive. However, there are currently no countries on the red list. See here for further information.

If you have travelled from a non-red list country, the requirements are different depending on whether you have been vaccinated or not.

If you are fully vaccinated and are travelling to the UK from a non-red list country, you need:

  1. to fill out a passenger locator form
  2. carry evidence of your vaccination status.

You do not need to self-isolate.

If you are not fully vaccinated and are travelling to the UK from a non-red list country, then you are required to:

  1. take a coronavirus test before you arrive in the UK,
  2. fill out a passenger locator form,
  3. book and take a ‘Day 2’ PCR test when you return

You do not need to self-isolate if the test is positive. However, NHS guidance still recommends remaining at home if you test positive for Coronavirus, in order to restrict transmission.

Under 18s only have to follow the same rules as fully vaccinated travellers when they return from non-red list countries, whether they have been vaccinated or not. This means they will not need to take a pre-departure test or a ‘Day 2’ PCR test.

People who have medical exemptions from vaccination will also be able to follow the same rules as fully vaccinated travellers, as long as they have their exemption confirmed by their GP before travelling. See our advice page here to see how to show your medical exemption status.

Businesses

All businesses are allowed to open as normal.

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.

Social distancing

From the 19 July 2021, the Government removed all requirements of social distancing.  However, individuals are strongly advised to continue to exercise caution, particularly if they are extremely clinically vulnerable or have not yet received the vaccine.

NHS COVID passes

You are no longer required to show your Covid status to enter nightclubs, indoor events with over 500 standing people and large events of over 10,000 people.

However, venues can choose to enforce their own policies which require a COVID Pass. These are not legally enforceable, but they can deny entry to those without a valid COVID Pass. It is worth checking on the policies of a venue before attending.

Covid-status can be proved using an NHS COVID Pass, which shows your Covid-19 vaccination details or test results. You can get an NHS COVID Pass if you are fully vaccinated, have received a negative test or are medically exempt.

For these purposes fully vaccinated means that you have had your final does of an approved vaccine at least 14 days in advance.

You can find out more about the NHS COVID Pass here.

Can I still get an FPN for anything under the new Coronavirus rules?

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) have been the most common enforcement tool used during the coronavirus pandemic. As most requirements have been repealed, their use has dropped significantly. However, the coronavirus rules which are still  in place can be enforced through FPNs:

  • The travel regulations can be enforced through FPNs. For example, if you are travelling into England you are required to book a day 2 test if you are unvaccinated. If you do not, you can be fined £1,000 for a first offence. See our travelling articles for more details.

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.

In October 2021, the government revoked parts of this Act, including some of the powers relating to ‘potentially infectious people’ and the enhanced powers to restrict events.

The Act should expire in March 2022. However, for now, many of its powers remain. In addition, the government have the power to extend that expiration date.

Liberty responded to the most recent changes here.

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 guidance. Only the rules found in the regulations and the Act are enforceable by fines or arrest.

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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