Coronavirus / Coronavirus Step rules - frequently asked questions

Coronavirus Step 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  • On 29 March 2021, the Tier rules were repealed and replaced with the Step rules.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?

As of 19 July 2021, all those returning from red list countries and those returning from amber list countries who are not yet fully vaccinated will still be required to quarantine

From 19 July 2021 individuals who are fully vaccinated, or are on a formally approved UK vaccine trial, are no longer required to quarantine when returning to England from amber list countries. For these purposes, fully vaccinated means that you have had your final does of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before the date you arrive in England.

Individuals returning from green list countries are not required to quarantine, regardless of whether they have had the vaccine.

You can find out more about the different travel rules for green, amber, and red list countries.

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.

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:

  1. Between disembarking and border control at ports of entry such as airports
  2. If you are self-isolating

When do I have to self-isolate?

As of 19 July 2021, it remains a legal requirement to self-isolate if you receive a positive Covid test or you are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace. Whilst those with symptoms are encouraged to get a test and self-isolate, this is not a legal requirement.

Although, from 19 July 2021, the government is no longer instructing people to work from home, an employer cannot require you to come to work if you are self-isolating.

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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