Covid: What are the social distancing rules in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

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Social distancing has been a feature of life since the start of the pandemic, but the rules are changing.

Scotland is the latest UK nation to announce an end to most restrictions.

What are the social distancing rules?


From 9 August, most rules on social distancing and limits to the size of gatherings will be lifted.

However, face coverings will continue to be mandatory in most public indoor settings.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said this would be kept under review, but was likely to continue "for some time to come".

The law does not require people keep a certain distance from each other in most public places.

But advice remains to keep a safe distance from those in other households - especially indoors - and to avoid crowded places.

In schools - for up to six weeks next term - staff will still be required to keep at least 1m from each other and from children.

You can find the rules for Scotland until 9 August here


Almost all legal restrictions have been lifted on the number of people you can meet - at home and in a public place - whether indoor or outdoor.

It also means an end to capacity limits at events.

The government says people should still "consider the risks of close contact", particularly if someone is clinically extremely vulnerable, or not fully vaccinated.

Social distancing is still required in certain circumstances:

  • When travellers enter the country, before border control
  • Hospitals and care homes may use it to reduce the chance of infections


An extended household, or up to six people from different households, can meet indoors in private homes, hospitality settings and holiday accommodation.

People do not need to socially distance outdoors, but businesses can set their own rules.

You should remain 2m away from others indoors, apart from in certain business settings.

If the Covid situation allows, social distancing rules - including indoors - will end on 7 August.

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Northern Ireland

Ten people from three households can now meet inside a private home (not including children under 12), and 15 people from 15 households can meet outdoors, including in a private garden.

There is no upper limit on the number of people at outdoor public gatherings, although the risks need to be determined by the organiser.

In indoor settings such as restaurants, workplaces, retail outlets and shopping centres, the social distancing limit has been reduced to 1m.

Social distancing is not required for any outdoor activities by law. However, it's recommended that people keep 1m from people not in their households, where possible.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Paul Givan recently said he hoped the executive could agree on 12 August to put in place a date to end social distancing.

What about face masks?

In England, the legal requirement to wear a face covering in enclosed public spaces ended on 19 July. But the government "expects and recommends" people wear them in crowded areas such as public transport.

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In Scotland, masks must still be worn in shops and on public transport - as well as pubs and restaurants when not seated.

In Wales, masks are still legally required in all public indoor areas, apart from when seated to eat or drink. If there is a move to alert level zero on 7 August, masks will still be required in most public places and on public transport

In Northern Ireland face coverings must still be worn indoors, including on public transport, in shops and hospitality venues

Why is social distancing important?

Coronavirus spreads mainly when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks - sending small droplets, packed with the virus, into the air.

The further apart people are, the lower the risk of the infection spreading.

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