What you can and can’t do as lockdown rules are eased
- Credit: Denise Bradley/PA
People have been urged to continue to stick to coronavirus guidance despite fears the case of the UK government’s senior aide Dominic Cummings may see an erosion of public confidence in the rules.
The prime minister’s chief advisor gave a public statement on Monday saying he did not regret driving 260 miles during lockdown to his parents’ estate in Durham while his wife was suffering coronavirus symptoms.
He also said he wasn’t sightseeing when he took a trip to the tourist hotspot of Barnard Castle, but was rather checking whether he was safe to drive as his eyesight seemed to have been affected by Covid-19.
NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson is among those to raise concerns about the potential “damage” the case could have on public confidence in official guidance.
He said: “Over the next few weeks, following guidance is going to be as vital as ever and actually it’s going to be more complex because as lockdown eases the advice is, frankly, less binary and people have to exercise more discretion.
“So I think there is concern that this has been a distraction and that it’s not been helpful, and the fear is that it has made people on the front line frustrated and fearful.”
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Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, said despite the easing of lockdown measures, it remained important for people to follow the guidelines to “protect ourselves and protect Norfolk as well.”
She said: “It’s natural for us to think about what changes to lockdown are coming up next, but right now all of us have to keep doing our part to keep each other safe.”
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What are the current guidelines and how are they changing?
Who can I meet?
You can’t visit friends or relatives in their houses or indoors. And you are still not able to invite people inside your home.
You can meet one other person from another household, outdoors but the government scientific advice is that you still remain 2m apart.
You cannot gather in a larger group with people who are not from your household, apart from a few exceptions, such as funerals.
That means you cannot have a barbecue in your garden for friends, even if you all stayed 2m apart.
Tom McCabe, chair of the Norfolk Resilience Forum strategic coordination group and head of paid service at Norfolk County Council, said: “It’s understandable that people want to get out and enjoy themselves, but we need to understand that the restrictions have been ‘eased’ and not lifted completely. Do the right thing, protect yourself and look after your family by not adding to the crowd.”
Are the rules being enforced?
Higher fines of £100 have been imposed for anyone who breaks these rules, reducing to £50 if paid within 14 days and rising to a maximum of £3,200.
Police in Norfolk handed out more than 300 fines to those flouting lockdown restrictions.
Norfolk chief constable Simon Bailey said officers would continue to engage to ensure that people understand the virus remains.
“There are still risks within our communities, social distancing is important, and the legislation exists to deal with inappropriate large groups of people,” he said.
Can I drive somewhere - whether testing my eyesight or not?
You can drive to open spaces, including beaches and beauty spots, irrespective of distance - in a private vehicle, alone or with members of your own household.
But while there are no restrictions on how far you can travel you should not stay overnight, including at a second or holiday home. Campsites and caravan parks also remain closed.
Where else can I go?
You can visit gardens and parks, although buildings and facilities such as cafes remain closed and access may be limited to members or those with tickets to ensure social distancing.
The National Trust has begun to reopen its car parks, including at Felbrigg Hall and Blickling, though you need to book in advance to secure a parking space.
Andy Beer, regional director for the National Trust, said: “We fully understand that after eight weeks of lockdown everyone just wants to get outside to enjoy the good weather, fresh air and countryside.
“But when lots of us do this, we have a major effect on others, the local communities we are visiting and the emergency services. If the easing of lockdown is going to work then we need to change our habits a bit.”
What can I do outdoors?
All forms of water sports practiced on open waterways, including sailing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, and the use of privately-owned motor boats are allowed.
John Packman, chief executive of the Broads Authority, urged people to avoid areas that may attract lots of people and apply social distancing, including mooring a safe distance from others.
He said: “Whilst I still urge all boaters to take appropriate measures to stay safe and follow government guidelines it is great to see people back on the water.
“We all have a responsibility to ensure that our exercise and recreation does not have a negative impact on our communities and those that have worked so tirelessly to enable some relaxation to the restrictions during this terrible time.”
Can I exercise with other people?
There is no longer any limit to the amount of exercise, or “open-air recreation”, including sunbathing.
You can play certain non-contact sports like tennis, golf or basketball with one person from outside your household, as long as social distancing is maintained.
However, people are still unable to use outdoor gyms, or youngsters use playgrounds, where there is a higher risk of close contact and touching surfaces.
When can I go shopping again?
Garden centres and DIY chains have already reopened many of their stores. Other sectors will begin to reopen next month with strict measures in place including, from June 1, car showrooms and outdoor markets, like Norwich Market, if it is safe for them to do so.
Matthew Packer, cabinet member at Norwich City Council with responsibility for the market, said they were actively working on plans for how the market could reopen but that it must be undertaken in a “safe and responsible way”.
He said: “We will be taking into account government restrictions and official guidance, as well as the experiences and advice of other similar markets.”
Why will I be able to visit a car showroom but not my family?
Part of the public anger about Dominic Cummings’ decision to travel to his parents’ home in Durham stems from the frustration felt by many people who have been unable to see their own loved ones.
When Lynne in Skipton, North Yorkshire, asked at the Downing Street briefing last month when she would be able to hug her grandchildren, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We understand the impact of not being able to hug your closest family. It affects us all too.
“The best way we can get there, the fastest way, is for people to follow the rules.”
Dr Louise Smith said: “That means we need to keep staying at home as much as possible, keep working from home where we can and keep washing our hands with soap and water.
“When we do have to go out for essential travel, we need to keep our 2m distance, keep travelling by bike, foot or car wherever possible and cover our faces with a cloth covering, such as a mask, whenever we’re in enclosed public spaces.”
What about other high street shops?
All other non-essential stores, including those selling clothes, shoes, books and electronics, are expected to be allowed to resume from mid-June.
Store layouts will be changed to limit the amount customers handle merchandise. Fitting rooms will be closed. Social distancing will need to be maintained as much as possible, including having more entry points to a store if possible.
Shops will have to carry out and pass a risk assessment and may face fines and prison sentences of up to two years if they fail to protect customers and staff.
What will shopping look now in the ‘new normal’?
Shoppers will have to “exercise restraint” by not trying on clothing and testing goods, cabinet office minister Michael Gove said.
Explaining how shopping habits will have to change, he said: “When it comes to touching and testing goods, when it comes to trying on clothing, when it comes to trying make-up and so on, that all of us exercise restraint in not doing that and recognising that as these stores reopen, it is a new normal.”