Monday 11 May 2020 2:50 pm

UK social distancing eased under lockdown exit strategy

The government has eased its social distancing measures, announcing that households will be able to socialise in the park at a two-metre distance or play sports like tennis and golf.

The government’s 60-page coronavirus strategy, released today, also revealed that people will be able to meet one friend not from their household in a public space if they keep a safe distance.

Read more: Coronavirus ‘roadmap’: ‘Non-essential’ retail could open next month

A Downing Street spokesman said that one person cannot meet up with another entire household, however.

People in England will also be allowed to drive to “outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance” with their household. But they cannot drive into Wales or Scotland under the new lockdown rules.

Two households could meet up

The new social distancing measures form part of the first stage of the government’s plan to ease the lockdown.

And they come alongside an instruction for employees who cannot work from home to return to their workplaces. That measure is most likely to affect staff in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Social distancing do’s and dont’s as of Wednesday


  • Go to the park, beach or other public space with your household, while staying two metres apart
  • Go to the park, beach or other public space with your one friend not from your household, while staying two metres apart
  • Play sports like golf, fishing or tennis with housemates, while staying two metres apart
  • Exercise as many times as you want
  • Wear face masks on public transport if you have to go to work


  • Meet at the park with a group of friends that don’t live in your household
  • Go over to someone else’s household
  • Hold a house party
  • Hug the one friend you are meeting up with in a public place

The new phase of lockdown includes a 14-day quarantine for anyone who enters the UK, except for people coming from a list of exempt countries, such as France.

Read more: French passengers not included in UK quarantine plans

The renewed guidance also includes advice from the government that everyone should wear “face coverings” when on public transport or in any shops.

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The second stage of easing the lockdown could start as early as 1 June, the government document says. It could see primary schools and non-essential retail shops reopen and sporting events resume behind closed doors.

One option being considered in the second stage is to create so-called household bubbles where two or more households could meet up under relaxed social distancing measures.

The coronavirus roadmap read: “The government has asked Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) to examine whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group.

“The intention of this change would be to allow those who are isolated some more social contact, and to reduce the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions, while continuing to limit the risk of chains of transmission.”

When will cinemas and pubs reopen?

The third stage, which will not be before 4 July, will see a wider opening of the economy to include some pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

The dates given in the guidance are only a first draft and may change depending on the trajectory of England’s coronavirus infection rate.

If the coronavirus rate of infection, known as R, continues to reduce then the next stages of the plan can be implemented.

It is believed that the current R rate is between 0.5 and 0.9, meaning each person who has coronavirus infects between 0.5 and 0.9 other people.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdowns: Which countries have relaxed social distancing measures?

However, the government has warned it would not hesitate to reintroduce tougher social distancing measures if the R rate increases.

This could be implemented on a regional basis.

Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the government was confident the new measures, if followed properly by the public, would not cause a second spike in infections.

“We are confident that the risk of being outdoors and in terms of meeting people providing social distancing is going to be lower than indoors,” he said.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdown: London records busiest week since restrictions began

“We’re confident these small changes won’t have an effect on their own if people follow the rules on social distancing.”

The new guidance comes as the UK’s coronavirus death toll reached 31,855 yesterday.

New infections have decreased rapidly from their high point, with Boris Johnson announcing last month that the UK was “beyond the peak” of coronavirus.

Social distancing measures will persist

Johnson wrote in today’s report that Brits should be prepared for some form of social distancing for a long time to come yet.

“It is clear that the only feasible long-term solution lies with a vaccine or drug-based treatment,” he said.

Read more: Coronavirus lockdown: Boris Johnson tells millions to get back to work

“A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine.

“So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome.”