Coronavirus / Coronavirus Step rules - frequently asked questions
Coronavirus rules: Frequently asked questions
This information was correct as of 19 July 2021, but is subject to possible changes.
Unless otherwise stated, this page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.
The coronavirus rules have changed several times in recent months. Here is a brief timeline of the different sets of rules we have seen:
- On 2 December 2020, the Government introduced a new system of “Tier” rules, also known as local alert levels.
- On 20 December 2020, the Government amended the existing system of Tier rules to introduce Tier 4.
- On 6 January 2021, the Tier 4 rules were further strengthened and extended to apply to every area in England.
- On 8 March 2021, the Tier 4 rules were relaxed slightly but still apply to every area in England.
- On 29 March 2021, the Tier rules were repealed and replaced with the Step rules. From 29 March 2021, the Step 1 rules applied to every area in England.
- On 12 April 2021, every area in England transitioned from Step 1 to Step 2. From that date, the Step 2 rules apply.
- On 17 May 2021, every area in England transitioned from Step 2 to Step 3. From that date, the Step 3 rules apply.
- On 19 July 2021, every area in England transitioned from Step 3 to Step 4. From that date, Step 4 of the roadmap applies.
Can I leave the United Kingdom to travel abroad?
As of 19 July 2021, there are no prohibitions on travelling abroad. The government has also removed the recommendation for people not to travel to amber list countries.
Anyone travelling abroad will have to abide by the restrictions of the country they travel to. Some countries may have their own bans or restrictions on incoming travellers, or other requirements. You should research the restrictions in your destination country before travelling.
In addition, anyone returning to the UK after travelling abroad will need to abide by the UK restrictions on incoming travellers. These are found in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021.
The Government has produced guidance for those travelling abroad, which can be found here. It should be noted that, while they still advise against non-essential travel to red list countries, this guidance is not the same as law, and is not enforceable.
Do I still have to quarantine when returning to England?
From 4 October, the rules about travelling into the UK have changed, depending on whether you travel from a red list or non-red list country. The green and amber lists have been removed.
If you travel from a red list country, you are still required to take a coronavirus test before you return to the UK, and to quarantine in a “quarantine hotel” for 10 days when you arrive. You can find more information about additional restrictions, the potential offences and fines in our article here.
If you travel from a non-red list country the rules change depending on whether you are fully vaccinated or not. If you are fully vaccinated you must carry proof of this and book a ‘Day 2’ test for after you arrive in the UK. However, you do not need to self-isolate. If you are not fully vaccinated, you need to take a coronavirus test before you return to the UK, self-isolate for 10 days and take both a ‘Day 2’ and ‘Day 8’ test after you arrive. There are exemptions for certain jobs, those under 18 years old and those who are medically exempt from taking vaccines. You can find more information about these rules in our article here.
Do I have to wear a face covering?
As of 19 July 2021, there is no legal requirement to wear a face covering in any setting. However, government guidance recommends that people continue to wear masks in enclosed and crowded places.
It is also worth noting that wearing a face mask will still be compulsory on all Transport for London services, unless you are exempt. This is because wearing a face mask has been made a contractual requirement for travel. This requirement operates in a similar way to the requirement not to drink alcohol on TfL services and TfL can refuse travel to anyone who fails to comply with it.
Private companies are also allowed to make their own private policies on their premises, provided these do not breach discrimination laws. This can include requiring you to wear a face mask, as long as allowances are made for those who are exempt.
Do I have to social distance?
From the 19 July 2021, the government is no longer advising people to socially distance. Instead, individuals are advised to continue to exercise caution, particularly if they are extremely clinically vulnerable or have not yet received the vaccine.
However, there are a limited number of circumstances in which social distancing is still required. Social distancing is still required between disembarking and border control at ports of entry such as airports.
When do I have to self-isolate?
It remains a legal requirement to self-isolate if you are told by NHS Test and Trace that you have tested positively on a PCR test.
However, if you are told by NHS Test and Trace that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, the requirements change depending on whether you are vaccinated or not. If you are vaccinated, you are not required to self-isolate but are advised to take a PCR test. If you are not vaccinated then you are still required to self-isolate for 10 days.
You are not legally required to self-isolate if you are ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app. This app simply provides guidance.
You can find more information about the self-isolation rules in our article here.
Will I need to prove my “COVID-status” in order to go to pubs, restaurants or events?
Proving your Covid-status is not a legal requirement of entry in any setting. This includes pubs and restaurants as well as larger venues like theatres or stadiums. However, although proving your Covid-status is not required by law, these places are allowed to ask visitors for proof of Covid-status. It is therefore worth checking the requirements for the venue you are going to.
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 fulling vaccinated or have received a negative test.
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.
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