What are the Covid rules around the UK? The restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales and NI compared

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid has warned that Covid-19 cases in the UK could reach 100,000 a day over the winter.

However, the Government continues to resist calls to move to Plan B of England’s Covid winter plan, which would bring back some restrictions.

Almost all restrictions have been dropped across the UK, but rules differ slightly by country.

Here is the situation in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


The UK is currently under Plan A, which puts almost the entire weight of the Covid recovery on the vaccine.

Nearly 80 per cent of adults have had both doses of the jab. Booster doses for over-50s and the most vulnerable and jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds have begun, but both programmes are going more slowly than ministers would like.

Under Plan A there are no requirements to social distance or wear masks, though masks are recommended, and one-metre distancing remains in hospitals and passport control.

However, under Plan B, revealed by Boris Johnson back in September, masks would once again become compulsory in indoor public spaces.

The instruction to work from home would also return, and vaccine passports for venues such as nightclubs could also be introduced.

The winter plan did not set out what thresholds cases and admissions would need to reach to trigger Plan B, but earlier this month Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), estimated it would be necessary if hospitalisations breached 1,200 – around a third higher than the current number.

There is also a working assumption in Whitehall that daily deaths would need to reach 250 consistently. The current daily average is around 130, but Tuesday’s figure of 223 shows that this scenario may not be far off.

The Prime Minister has previously said Plan B should be introduced, if necessary, to avoid a fourth lockdown this winter.

Ministers have consistently denied the existence of a Plan C, and ruled out another national lockdown.


In Scotland masks are still required in public indoor spaces and on public transport. They are also required in schools for staff and secondary pupils.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this month: “The level of infection remains relatively high and so we consider that it is prudent at this stage, as we approach winter, to keep in place the remaining mitigations, face coverings for example, for a further period.”

Social distancing rules have been scrapped, other than in healthcare settings such as hospitals, GP surgeries and dentists.

Vaccine passes have been introduced for large indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people, and any event with more than 10,000 people.

Government advice to work from home where possible remains.


Similar to England, Wales has two winter plans, though they are known as Covid Stable and Covid Urgent.

Under Covid Stable:

  • Face coverings are still required in public indoor spaces and on public transport
  • Working from home advice remains, where possible
  • School staff and pupils are advised to test regularly, though masks are not required

Wales has also introduced vaccine passes. Everyone over 18 required to use their NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs, indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people and any setting or event with more than 10,000 in attendance.

Under Covid Urgent – which occurs if there is a big spike in cases and deaths – Wales could return to any of its previous alert levels, including the highest level four, which was a full lockdown.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland still has a number of restrictions in place, including:

  • Maximum of 30 people can mix indoors
  • Social distancing remains in pubs and bars until 31 October
  • Nightclubs must remain closed until 31 October
  • Face masks are still required in public indoor spaces, on public transport and at tourist attractions
  • Dancing not permitted at indoor venues (excluding weddings)
  • Working from home advice remains where possible

The mask requirement is currently set to remain through winter, and vaccine passes could be introduced if pressure mounts on health services.

Social distancing could also return if the situation deteriorates.

News by MSN

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