COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions: Update as of 10th August 2020

General

What is social distancing?

 

Social distancing refers to measures you can take to reduce your social interaction with people. It includes:

-        avoiding contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

-        avoiding non-essential use of public transport when possible

-        working from home where possible

-        avoiding large gatherings where possible (see further information below under “What are the restrictions on gatherings?”)

-        using telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services rather than attending in person

-        staying two metres apart or “one metre plus”

 

What does ‘one metre plus’ mean?

One metre plus means remaining a distance of at least one metre apart with ‘mitigations’ in place.

These mitigations will depend on the setting. For example, on public transport, it is not always possible to stay 2m apart so the mitigation is wearing a face covering. In other spaces, mitigations could include installing screens, making sure people face away from each other or installing handwashing facilities. Mitigation also includes minimising the amount of time you spend with people outside your household or bubble, and meeting people outdoors.

Am I legally obliged to socially distance?

There is nothing in the regulations that makes it a legal requirement to socially distance, however the government guidance maintains that social distancing should occur wherever possible.

What is a ‘support bubble’ or linked household?

If a household comprises one adult (the number of children in the household is irrelevant), that household can choose to be ‘linked’ with one other household. The second or ‘linked’ household can be comprised of more than one adult. 

 

Those two households are then a ‘support bubble’ - provided the adult members of the households agree to this. 

 

Each household cannot be linked to more than one other household. 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the house

When am I allowed to leave my home? 

These FAQs deal with the nationwide picture in England.  As of July 4th 2020, there is no nationwide restriction on leaving your home. There may however be local restrictions, such as those in force in Leicester and Preston.

Am I allowed to stay elsewhere overnight?

Yes, you can now stay overnight elsewhere with your own household (anyone in your support bubble counts as part of your household – see ‘what is a support bubble’ above), or with members of one other household.

Can I meet up with other people?

You can meet in groups of up to two households in any location. Again, anyone in your support bubble counts as part of your household.

You do not always have to meet with the same household - you can meet with different households at different times. However, the government guidance remains that even inside someone’s home you should socially distance from anyone not in your household or bubble.

If outside you can meet in groups of up to six people from different households as long as you follow social distancing guidelines.

Where do I have to wear a face covering?

In general face coverings must be worn by people (over the age of 10) in the following locations:

-        shops (this does not include pubs, bars and restaurants with table service)

-        enclosed shopping centres (excluding any areas where seating or tables are   made available for consumption of food and drink)

-        banks, building societies and short-term loan providers

-        post offices

-        on public transport

What is the definition of a ‘face covering’?

A ‘face covering’ is defined as a ‘covering of any type which covers a person’s nose and mouth’.

What are the exceptions to wearing a face covering?

The main exceptions to the rule are where a person:

-        is a child under 11

-        is an employer, employee or provider of services on the premises

-        has a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering

The following constitute examples of what would be considered a ‘reasonable excuse’ not to wear a face covering:

-        you cannot put on / wear / remove a face covering because of any physical or mental illness or impairment or disability or without severe distress

-        a person you are travelling with relies on lip reading to communicate with you

-        you remove the face covering to avoid harm or injury or the risk of harm or injury (to yourself or others)

-        you are travelling to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm and you do not have a face covering with you

-        it is reasonably necessary for you to eat or drink

-        you need to take medication

-        you are asked to remove the face covering by a relevant person (generally a police officer)

 

This list is not exhaustive.

What types of local businesses are allowed to re-open?

The following businesses and venues are now allowed to re-open:

-        shops

-        beauticians, tattooists, body piercing stores, spas and tanning salons (although no face-based treatments can take place)

-         restaurants, cafes, workplace canteens, bars and pubs

-         hotels, hostels, bed and breakfast accommodation, holiday apartments or homes, cottages or bungalows, campsites, caravan parks or boarding houses

-         places of worship

-         libraries

-         community centres

-         hair salons and barbers, including mobile businesses

-         cinemas

-         theatres and concert halls

-         funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities such as go-karting, laser tag and paintballing

-         swimming pools, gyms, sports facilities and playgrounds

-         indoor fitness and dance studios

-         museums and galleries

-         bingo halls

-         outdoor skating rinks

-         amusement arcades and other entertainment centres, such as snooker halls

-         model villages

-         social clubs

-         indoor attractions at aquariums, zoos, safari parks, farms, wildlife centres and any place where animals are exhibited to the public as an attraction

-         indoor and outdoor areas of visitor attractions including, gardens, heritage sites, film studios and landmarks

-         massage parlours

 

What are the restrictions on gatherings?

Gatherings of over 30 people are prohibited. This applies where the gathering is in a private dwelling, on public land or on a vessel (unless the vessel is used for public transport).

The gathering prohibition does not apply to public places owned by a “business, charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution” or to visitor attractions.

There are the following exceptions for indoor gatherings comprising over 30 people:

-        the gathering is arranged by a “business, charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, public body or political body” if a risk assessment has been carried out and reasonable measures have been taken to limit the spread of coronavirus

-        the gathering is “reasonably necessary” for one of the following:

                            i.   work or provision of voluntary/ charitable services;

                          ii.   education or training; 

                        iii.   childcare; 

                        iv.   emergency assistance;

                          v.   avoiding illness or injury/escaping a risk of harm

-        the gathering comprises sportspersons, elite sportspersons or the parent of an elite sportsperson (if the latter is a child), as long as the gathering is necessary for training or competition

-        the person attending the gathering is fulfilling a legal obligation

 

Can I attend a wedding or a funeral?

Weddings and funerals are included in ‘gatherings’ above.

Can I visit someone who is shielding?

You can meet with those who are shielding through age, illness or pregnancy   but you and they should be especially careful and diligent about social distancing and hand washing.

Never visit someone shielding if:

-        you have any COVID-19 symptoms, no matter how mild

-        you have been advised to isolate by NHS Test and Trace because you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus

 

Who is considered an ‘elite sportsperson’?

An elite sportsperson is defined as somebody who meets one of the following criteria:

- they derive their living from competing in a sport

- they are a senior representative nominated by a relevant sporting body

- they are a member of the senior training squad for a relevant sporting body

- they are aged 16 or above and on an “elite development pathway”

 

Travel

Can I travel to work?

Yes, any person is allowed to travel to work. Although government guidance remains that if at all possible you should work from home and are only required to go into work if your employer has ensured that appropriate working practices are in place to keep employees safe.

Am I allowed to use public transport?

Yes, you can use public transport, however, people are urged to avoid public transport if possible, to aid with social distancing.

 

 

Do I have to wear a face covering in taxis?

No, face coverings are not legally required for any ‘taxi or private hire vehicle service’.

However, specific companies may have their own rules or requirements to use their services. Uber, for instance, now requires face masks to be worn.

Does my child have to wear a face covering on the school bus?

No, ‘school transport services’ are excluded from the definition of public transport

If I go abroad on holiday, do I have to self-quarantine upon my return? 

The default position is that if you have been abroad you are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return.  As of July 10th, however, there are over 50 countries that can be visited without triggering the self-isolation requirement upon return. They include:

-         Ireland

-         France

-         Italy

-         Germany

-         Greece

 

The U.S. is not on the list. Spain was removed from the list on 25th July. Belgium was removed from the list on 8th August.

The full list is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors 

What does self-isolation after travel entail?

Self-isolation at home after travel to a country not on the travel corridor list is stricter than the original “lockdown” rules. A person is not entitled to go outside to exercise. A person is not entitled go outside to buy food or medical provisions, except in “exceptional” circumstances where it is not possible to arrange delivery. Other exceptions include:

-        requiring urgent medical assistance

-        requiring access to critical public services (but only in “exceptional circumstances”)

-        attending the funeral of a family member or somebody with whom you live

-        visiting a dying or critically ill family member or somebody with whom you live

-        fulfilling a legal obligation such as participating in legal proceedings

-        dealing with an emergency

What is the significance of Foreign Office travel guidance?  

The Foreign Office currently advises against “non-essential” travel to the majority of foreign states. There is a list of exempted countries. They include:

-         Ireland

-         France

-         Italy

-         Germany

-         Greece

The full list is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-countries-and-territories-exempt-from-advice-against-all-but-essential-international-travel

This list overlaps extensively with the list of countries where self-isolation is not required upon return. 

If you travel to a country that is not on this list, it is likely that any travel or health insurance policy will be invalid.

 

Work

Do I have to go to work if I am unable to work from home?

No, you should only go to work if your work is open and processes have been put in place to make your work environment safe. Workers have the right in law not to work if it would put them in imminent danger.

In England, employers will be provided with guidelines on keeping workplaces as safe as possible, including the use of staggered shifts and frequent cleaning. If workplaces do not follow these guidelines, they could face criminal proceedings.

For further information please click here.

Can I go into other people's homes to work?

 

If you are a cleaner or plumber etc., needing to enter someone else's home for your job, you are allowed to return to work.

However, unless there is a direct risk to household safety, no work should be carried out in the home of someone shielding or isolating because of Covid-19 symptoms. In homes where someone is shielding or isolating because of Covid-19 symptom, face-to-face contact should be avoided, and strict hygiene rules followed.

For further guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes in England please click here.

 

Enforcement

Can the police enforce the regulations?

Yes, if you are caught breaching the regulations you can be:

-        fined (see below at ‘How much are people being fined for breaching the regulations?’); or

-        prosecuted (see below at ‘What happens if I am prosecuted for a breach?’)

Is it an offence not to comply with directions given by a police officer regarding gatherings?

A ‘relevant person’ (generally a police officer) can take ‘such action as is necessary’ to enforce the prohibition on gatherings. This includes issuing a prohibition notice or removing a person. A person who contravenes directions commits an offence (provided that the intervention by the relevant person was ‘reasonable’). It should also be noted that somebody who ‘obstructs, without reasonable excuse’ any person carrying out a function under the regulations commits an offence.

Is not wearing a face covering an offence?

Yes. The maximum sentence is a fine.

Can a person be directed to wear a face covering in order to take public transport or visit a shop?

Yes. Not complying with such directions would constitute a criminal offence.

Can a person be denied boarding on public transport for not wearing a face covering?

Yes

Can I be fined for not socially distancing?

The college of policing have stated that they have no powers to enforce social distancing (i.e. the “1 metre plus” distancing rule)

How much are people being fined for breaching the regulations?

Where an enforcement decision is taken, in most circumstances the police are likely to issue a fixed penalty notice (although they are not obliged to do so).

In general the fine by way of fixed penalty notice will be £100 but is reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days.

If the person is not dealt with by way of a fixed penalty notice then a Magistrates’ Court can technically impose an unlimited fine (though the offender’s means will always be considered).

However, police guidance suggests that enforcement should be a “last resort”.

What if someone commits more than one offence and receives multiple fixed penalty notices?

For every subsequent fixed penalty notice an individual receives, the amount doubles from £100, up to a maximum amount of £3,200 (i.e. for the sixth and any subsequent fixed penalty notices received).  It is not yet clear, however, whether offences in relation to not wearing a face covering on public transport are subject to this rule.

It is worth remembering that the police do not have to issue a fixed penalty notice.

What happens if I do not pay a fixed penalty notice?

If you do not accept a fixed penalty notice (or one is not issued), then you will be liable to prosecution for the alleged breach, where the Magistrates’ Court can impose an unlimited fine (though the means of the offender will always be considered).

Will I receive a criminal conviction for breaching the regulations?

If you receive a fixed penalty notice, which you pay, you will not receive a criminal conviction. However, you may receive a criminal record if the case goes to the Magistrates’ Court and you are convicted.

 

What happens if I am prosecuted for a breach?

The prosecution would take place in the Magistrates’ Court and would be heard by three volunteer (‘lay’) magistrates or a single District Judge.

Would I be entitled to legal aid to challenge the alleged breach?

No. The maximum sentence is a fine. As you cannot be imprisoned, legal aid is unlikely to be available.

If I was convicted in the Magistrates’ Court would I have a right of appeal?

Yes. There is an automatic right of appeal from the Magistrates’ Court to the Crown Court following a trial in the Magistrates’ Court where a person is found guilty. The appeal is a complete re-hearing.

Note, however, that if an appeal is unsuccessful you would be liable to pay a higher amount towards the prosecution costs.

Who would be hearing my appeal in the Crown Court?

A Crown Court judge (‘Circuit Judge’ or ‘Recorder’) sitting with two volunteer magistrates.

Do I commit an offence if my child breaches the regulations?

Parents do not automatically commit a criminal offence simply because their child fails to comply with the regulations. 

 

However, if their child has stayed overnight in a place other than their home or repeatedly gathered with too many others, the police may direct the parent to take the child home. 

 

The parent must comply with that direction, so far as reasonably practicable. Failing to do so could amount to a criminal offence. 

 

This offence is explained in more detail here.

 

Can people be detained by authorities to prevent the spread of coronavirus?

Yes. If there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect a person is ‘potentially infectious’ a public health officer or police officer is entitled to remove the person to a place where the person can be assessed/screened. He may also simply direct that the person goes to a suitable place.

What happens if the screening indicates that the person is infected with coronavirus?

Where a person has been diagnosed with coronavirus (or where the screening is ‘inconclusive’) they can be subject to requirements that either oblige them to remain at a specified place for a specific period (in isolation or otherwise) or place restrictions on their movement/activities/contact. These restrictions can be in place for a maximum of 28 days although this does not apply to the requirement to remain in isolation, which could potentially last indefinitely.

Is there any appeal against such restrictions being imposed?

Yes, there is an appeal to the Magistrates’ Court, which can either confirm or quash the requirement or restriction.

Do violations of the restrictions on potentially infectious people constitute a criminal offence?

Yes. The maximum sentence is a fine of up to £1000.

 

Please note that this document contains our summary of the legal position and should not viewed as formal legal advice.