Coronavirus / When can I leave my home?

Coronavirus: When can I leave my home?

This information was correct as of 14 September 2020, but is subject to possible changes.

Unless otherwise stated, this page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

When can I leave my home?

As of 4 July 2020, there are no limitations on leaving your home. This means that you can leave and stay outside of your home for any reason, as long as you comply with the rules banning gatherings of more than six, and any rules imposed by a local lockdown (see below).

This means that it is no longer a criminal offence to leave or to be outside of your home without a ‘reasonable excuse’, or to stay overnight at any place other than the place that you or your linked household is living, provided you comply with the rules on gatherings.

Social distancing

Government social distancing guidance recommends you stay two metres apart from anyone who isn’t from your household or your linked household. However, it now says that you can be one metre away from others so long as there are also ‘mitigation measures’ in place. This is known as the “one-metre-plus” rule. Mitigation measures might include screens or the use of face coverings.

It is recommended that you follow this advice for the safety of yourselves and others. However, it isn’t a specific criminal offence if you don’t follow this advice.

Can I stay overnight somewhere other than my home?

Yes. Under the new regulations it is no longer a crime to stay anywhere other than your home or the home of your support bubble overnight, as long as you do not form a gathering of more than six people.

You can stay over in the same place in groups of more than six if you are all members of the same household or support bubble.

You can now stay at hotels, hostels, B&B accommodation, holiday apartments and homes, cottages and bungalows, although there are still restrictions on staying in shared dormitory rooms.

You can also stay at campsites and caravan parks overnight.

The Government has also issued guidance that accommodation providers should follow to help keep customers safe.

If you currently have nowhere to stay or are concerned you might become homeless, you can call Shelter’s emergency helpline on 0808 800 4444 or read Shelter’s housing advice: coronavirus.

We created a postcard to know your rights if you are homeless. Please note that this postcard refers to the old law, so it will only apply if you were given a fixed penalty notice (FPN) or prosecuted before 4 July 2020.

We also created an information street for frontline organisations working with people experiencing homelessness. Again, this refers to the old law, so will only be relevant to anything before 4 July 2020.

Can I travel anywhere now?

You can now travel anywhere within England, but you can’t stay overnight anywhere that is under a local lockdown.

If travelling by car, government guidance recommends that you avoid travelling with anyone from outside your household or support bubble, given that transmission can happen during car journeys. The guidance also recommends taking hygiene and safety precautions if using services on the way.

Government guidance says that you can use public transport but it is better to travel in other ways where possible. If you do need to use public transport, is against the law if you do not wear a face covering while doing so – see our page for more information about this.

If travelling to anywhere else in the UK, you should check the local law and guidance. This is because different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

See the Department for Transport’s safer travel guidance for more information.

Which types of businesses are now open?

Any business except for those listed in the regulations can now open for business. For example, the following businesses are now allowed to open:

  • most cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants
  • hotels, hostels, B&B accommodation, holiday apartments and homes, cottages or bungalows (but not shared sleeping spaces e.g. dormitory rooms)
  • campsites and caravan parks
  • hair salons and barbers, including mobile hair businesses
  • nail bars and salons
  • tanning booths and salons
  • spas and beauty salons
  • massage parlours
  • tattoo parlours
  • body and skin piercing services
  • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • places of worship
  • funfairs, theme parks and adventure parks
  • museums and galleries
  • bingo halls
  • outdoor playgrounds
  • indoor and outdoor swimming pools, including water parks
  • indoor fitness and dance studios
  • indoor gyms and sports courts and facilities
  • amusement arcades and entertainment centres, such as snooker halls
  • model villages
  • social clubs
  • indoor attractions at aquariums, zoos, safari parks, farms and wildlife centres
  • visitor attractions, including gardens, heritage sites, film studios and landmarks
  • casinos
  • indoor skating rinks
  • indoor play areas, including soft play areas
  • bowling alleys
  • exhibition halls and conference centres (although this should only be for government endorsed pilots)

It is still worth checking that individual businesses or attractions are open before you travel, as they may still be closed or have reduced business hours.

The Government has provided guidance on measures businesses should be taking to help keep you safe. There is specific guidance for:

Which types of businesses are still closed?

The regulations say that the following types of businesses must remain closed:

  • nightclubs
  • dance halls, discotheques and other venues which open at night, have a dance floor, and which provide music (live or recorded) for dancing
  • sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars

Government guidance permits all indoor and outdoor hospitality including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants to reopen unless they are part of the premises of a venue which must remain closed as set out above. They may reopen if they are self-contained units that can be accessed from the outside.

I am scared of my partner or somebody I live with. Can I leave my home if I’m worried about my safety?


You can now leave home for any reason, and it was always okay during ‘lockdown’ to leave your house to escape a risk of harm.

Social isolation can be a time of increased risk for anybody experiencing domestic abuse. If you need to escape to a safe place, domestic abuse refuges are still open.

If you are worried about your immediate safety, you should call the police on 999. This guide explains how you can alert the police that you need help if you are unable to speak.

For further assistance, you can call the freephone 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run by Refuge on: 0808 2000 247.

Contact the helpline through this online form.

The Government has also produced guidance about what to do if you are experiencing domestic abuse during this time, which includes other ways that you might be able to get support.

Can I leave the house for mental health reasons?

Yes, you can now leave home for any reason.

If you are having a mental health emergency, for example, you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life and feel like you can’t keep yourself safe, you should call the emergency services on 999.

The NHS has provided guidance on where to get urgent help for mental health issues.

You can also call the Samaritans for free 24-hours a day, 365 days a year on 116 123.

The mental health charity Mind has also created a list of helplines that you can call in a crisis.

The Government has provided guidance and support to help improve your mental health.

Can the Government close certain public places?

Yes. The new regulations give the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care the power to make a direction to restrict the public from accessing certain public outdoor places.

A direction is a type of law which can be made by a minister without any oversight by Parliament. However, the Secretary of State can only make this type of direction if it is both necessary and proportionate to respond to the public health risk.

If this happens, the direction will be published on and in the Gazette, specifying exactly which public place or places you are restricted from accessing (the “restricted area”), as well as the start and end date and time.

During this time, you will not be able it will be a criminal offence to enter or to stay in the restricted area without a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse could include:

  • you are the owner or occupier of land falling within (or partially within) the restricted area
  • to obtain access to or leave your home
  • to avoid illness or injury or escape a risk of harm
  • to continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between parents and children (where you do not live in the same household)
  • to fulfil a legal obligation
  • to participate in legal proceedings
  • for work purposes, or the provision of voluntary or charitable services (where it is reasonably necessary to enter or stay in the restricted area)
  • to facilitate a house move (where it is reasonably necessary to enter or stay in the restricted area)
  • to provide care and assistance to a vulnerable person (where it is reasonably necessary to enter or stay in the restricted area)
  • to provide emergency care (where it is reasonably necessary to enter or stay in the restricted area).

Any owner or occupier of land which falls within the restricted area has the right to appeal against the direction to the Magistrates’ Court.

What is a local lockdown?

Areas of the country which are experiencing a local COVID-19 outbreak can now be subject to a ‘local lockdown’. This means that different guidance and law will apply in that region compared to the rest of the country.

The list of areas with local restrictions is changing frequently and you should check here for the latest information.

Additionally, the Government has given 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. The Government has also published guidance about how these powers will work.

Who is a ‘vulnerable person’?

The new regulations still say that the following people are considered to be vulnerable to COVID-19:

  • people aged 70 or older
  • anybody with an underlying health condition
  • anybody who is pregnant.

A non-exhaustive list of underlying health conditions can be found in Schedule 1 of the regulations.

Government guidance provides more detailed definitions as follows:

Clinically vulnerable

You will be in this category if you are aged 70 or over, you have a specific chronic pre-existing condition and/or you are pregnant. Underlying health conditions include things such as lung conditions if they are not severe (for example asthma, emphysema or bronchitis), heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, hepatitis, conditions affecting the brain or nerves (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis), being seriously overweight (with a BMI of 40 or above), or other things set out in the list below.

Clinically extremely vulnerable

If you are in this group, you should have been informed about it by the NHS, your clinician or your GP. You will be in this group if you have had an organ transplant, have certain types of cancer, you have a severe lung condition (such as cystic fibrosis, severe asthma, and others), have a rare disease that significantly increases your risk of infection (such as severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) or sickle cell), have a serious heart condition and are pregnant, or other things set out in the list below.

The full list of medical conditions in relation to both categories can be found here. You should note that the government guidance says that the list may not include everyone who is at higher risk from coronavirus, and that the list might change over time. If you are unsure whether you fall into either category, you should call your GP or 111 for the non-emergency NHS helpline.

What are the rules for ‘vulnerable people’?

The regulations don’t impose any specific restrictions on vulnerable people. This means that, if you fall into one of these groups, you are required to follow the law (as set out in the regulations) in the same way as anybody else.

However, the Government has provided specific guidance for people who fall into these groups, which they recommend you follow to keep yourself safe. The guidance distinguishes between the clinically vulnerable and the clinically extremely vulnerable (see definitions above). What you are advised to do will depend on which group you fall into (as set out below).

What can I do if I’m a ‘clinically vulnerable person’?

If you fall into the clinically vulnerable group, government guidance advises that you try to keep your overall social interactions low, and try to keep 2 metres from other people where possible.

If you are pregnant, the Government has issued some advice about pregnancy and coronavirus here.

What can I do if I’m a ‘clinically extremely vulnerable person’?

If you fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable group, the government guidance about what you should do changed as of 1 August 2020. You no longer need to shield. You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low. More detailed guidance is available here.

The National Shielding Service is not open for new registrations due to the advice to stop shielding as of 1 August 2020. You will no longer receive free food parcels, medicine deliveries and basic care from the National Shielding Service.

You will still be able to get:

  • local volunteer support by contacting your local authority
  • prescriptions, essential items and food you buy delivered by NHS Volunteer Responders
  • priority slots for supermarket deliveries (if you previously registered for free food parcels)

You can also find a food bank through The Trussel Trust website here.

You may be advised to shield again if the transmission of coronavirus increases in the community.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, government guidance advises you not to enter any area where shielding advice is in place.

As of 18 August 2020, government guidance says that evidence suggests the risk of serious illness for most children and young people is low. Children and young people who have their health conditions managed by their GP (conditions such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and kidney failure) are very unlikely to need to shield in the future.

Children and young people who receive specialist care in hospital may still be considered clinically extremely vulnerable following a consultation with their doctor. Government guidance says that all children and young people identified as clinically extremely vulnerable do not need to shield at the moment. Shielding has been paused for everyone. More information can be found here.

Support for anyone who is shielding

If you are feeling isolated and lonely as a result of shielding or for any other reason, you can call the following helplines for emotional support:

  • Samaritans – freephone 116 123 (open 24 hours a day, every day of the year) or access their website here.
  • Mind Infoline – 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm Monday to Friday except bank holidays) or access their website here.
  • Age UK Advice Line – 0800 678 1602 (8am-7pm every day of the year) or access their website here.

You can contact us for further advice on our Get Advice page.

Read our next page: can I gather with other people?

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