Covid: What are the social distancing rules and the rule of six?

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Hugs between friends and family who don't live together will be left to people's judgement under guidance in England from 17 May.

The prime minister confirmed the change along with other measures which ease lockdown restrictions.

What is the new guidance?

From 17 May, the guidance says people can choose whether or not to be socially distanced with close family and friends.

So if you want to hug each other, you can.

The government says it wants to let people exercise personal judgement as more of life returns to normal.

But you're still urged to remain cautious and remember that some people are more vulnerable to Covid than others.

Being vaccinated might reduce risk, but it does not eliminate it entirely.

Is there a safe way of hugging?

Hugs should be short and not face-to-face says Prof Cath Noakes, a member of the Sage committee advising the government.

Speaking in a personal capacity, she said it would worry her "if we were advocating we could hug all of our friends every time we meet them again".

She added: "The reality is that when you hug someone you are very close to them and we know the virus is in people's breath."

How many people can I meet from 17 May?

Mr Johnson has confirmed up to 30 people can gather outdoors in England from 17 May.

Indoors, six people - or two households of any size - will be able to meet, with overnight stays allowed.

Children of all ages are included in headcounts, but professional carers are not. Support bubbles count as one household.

When could social distancing end?

It's hoped the removal of "all legal limits on social contact" in England will be in step four of the government roadmap, on 21 June at the earliest.

First, a review into social distancing - including face coverings and working from home guidance - needs to report.

What are the current social distancing guidelines?

Across the UK you should stay 2m (6ft) away from anyone you don't live or bubble with.

In England, if it's not possible to stay 2m apart, the one-metre plus guidance means you should be at least 1m (3ft) apart with extra precautions in place (such as face coverings).

Although you can soon decide how close physically you want to be with people you know, social distancing will remain in shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants - plus business, medical and adult social care settings.

In Scotland, in some pubs and restaurants, you can be 1m apart from people you don't live with. But if you meet friends, venues should ensure there is enough space between you.

Social distancing guidelines for:

How many people can meet in Scotland?

Indoors, up to six people from two households can socialise in a public place, but not a private home.

Children aged under 12 are not included in outdoor headcounts, but they are when counting household numbers meeting indoors.

So, for example, indoor children's parties with youngsters from more than two households are not permitted.

An extended household (support bubble) counts as one household.

From 17 May it's hoped:

  • Up to four people from two households can socialise indoors in private homes (and stay overnight)
  • Up to six people from three households can socialise in an indoors public space
  • Up to eight people from eight households can socialise outdoors
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How many people can meet in Wales?

Six people from multiple households can meet outdoors, including in private gardens.

Children under 11 are not included in headcounts.

Meeting people from other households indoors is not allowed, unless you are in a support bubble or extended household.

No date has been set for the easing of household mixing rules, but the Welsh Government is considering whether to go ahead with plans to let pubs and restaurants serve indoors from 17 May.

How many people can meet in Northern Ireland?

Up to 15 people (including children) from three households can meet outdoors (including a private garden).

You must not socialise indoors with anyone you don't live with.

Two households of any size can bubble together and meet indoors, but with only 10 people (including children) present.

It's hoped wider mixing of households in homes will be allowed from 24 May.

What questions do you have about the changes to the rules?

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