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What do the COVID rules mean for me?

Unsure about which rules apply in which part of the UK? Read our handy guide to current COVID rules across the UK below and download our one-page roundup at the bottom of the article.

On 20th December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP held a Cabinet meeting to discuss the COVID-19 situation. He stated that the Government will keep the data under “constant review” and also “reserve the possibility of taking further action to protect the NHS”. On the potential for further measures, he added they were “looking at all kinds of things” and “will rule nothing out”. See more online here


On 8th December, the Prime Minister confirmed a move to Plan B in response to the risks of the Omicron variant.

This means:

  • Face coverings are required by law in most indoor settings.

  • Office workers who can work from home should do so.

  • Certain venues will be required by law to check that all visitors aged 18 years or over are fully vaccinated, have proof of a negative test in the last 48 hours, or have an exemption.

  • Venues include nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques, indoor events with 500 or more attendees, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoors or outdoors.

Other rules include:

  • 1m-plus social distancing remains in places including hospitals and passport control.

  • Anyone with Covid symptoms, or who tests positive, must self-isolate for 10 days.

  • Pupils in secondary schools are ‘strongly advised’ to wear face coverings in communal areas, as should staff and visitors at all schools and childcare settings.


On 14th December, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP delivered a statement to the Scottish Parliament to announce that:

  • Regulations will be amended to put a legal requirement on those running businesses or providing services to take measures which are reasonably practical to minimise the risk of transmission.

  • Employers will have a legal duty to enable staff who were able to work at home from the start of the pandemic to do so.

  • All those who cannot work from home have been asked to test regularly before they go to work and employers with over 10 staff should join the workplace testing regime.

  • People have been asked to reduce as far as possible the contact they have with people in other households in the run up to and during Christmas, limited to three households in each group.

  • There will be limits on the size of live public events from 26th December for at least three weeks. Indoor standing events will be limited to 100 people, indoor seated events limited to 200 people and outdoor standing/seated events limited to 500 people.

  • Non-professional indoor contact sport for adults should not take place from 26th December for three weeks.

  • Venues serving alcohol should only provide table-service from 27th December.

Other rules include:

  • People must isolate for 10 days – regardless of vaccination status or a negative test – if anyone in their household tests positive for Covid.

  • They must also isolate if they have been in close contact with someone from another household who has tested positive, and take a PCR test. If it is negative and they are double-vaccinated, they can end their isolation.

  • 2m social distancing rules remain in places such as hospitals, GP surgeries and dentists.

  • Face coverings are compulsory on public transport and most indoor spaces.

  • Indoor hospitality venues must collect customer contact details.

  • All those aged over 18 years are required to prove their vaccine status or show a negative test at nightclubs and other venues.


On 17th December, Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford MS set out a two-phase plan in response to the Delta and Omicron variants, with a further update on 22nd December announcing new rules for the hospitality sector from Boxing Day:

This means:

  • People are advised to reduce the number of people they meet over the Christmas period, meeting outdoors if possible and taking a lateral flow test before going out.

  • They should also ‘space out any socialising’ by leaving at least a day between events.

  • Regulations will be amended to place a legal duty on employers to allow their employees to work from home if possible.

  • From 26th December a new 'Alert Level Two' will be introduced for hospitality businesses, cinemas, theatres and public gatherings, reintroducing the 'rule of six' people allowed to gather, limiting service to at-table and limiting event attendance to 50 outdoors and 30 indoors.

  • There will be a new set of measures for businesses and services from 27th December, including a new rule on 2m social distancing.

  • Nightclubs must close from 27th December and financial support of up to £120m will be available to businesses materially affected by these new restrictions.

Other rules include:

  • Covid passports needed for entry to nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls, and many other events.

  • Compulsory face coverings in schools, on public transport, and in shops and hospitals.

Northern Ireland

On 16th December, the Northern Ireland Executive Office released an update on the COVID-19 situation, and a further statement on 22nd October:

  • Work from home if possible and to wear a face covering in crowded or indoor settings.

  • Limit social contacts and meet outdoors when possible, with a limit of 30 people from different households allowed to mix in homes.

  • From 26th December nightclubs will close, dancing in all hospitality venues will be banned (except weddings) and indoor standing events will not be allowed.

  • From 27th December, household mixing is limited to three households, and six people (or 10 from a single household) can meet at seated indoor hospitality settings.

Other rules include:

  • Post-primary pupils must wear a face covering inside school buildings, as well as on school transport.

  • Covid passport scheme for venues including nightclubs, bars and cinemas, and many other events.

  • All close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases should self-isolate and get a PCR test even if they are fully vaccinated.

UK Travel Restrictions

Fully Vaccinated people

  • Fully vaccinated currently means that at least 14 days have passed since a person received their second vaccine dose (does not apply to under 18s).

  • Proof of vaccination can be shown through a Digital Covid Pass, with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having separate apps.

  • All those aged 12 and over travelling to the UK must take a PCR or a LFT test up to two days before their departure. The test must be from a private provider, rather than from the NHS.

  • A Passenger Locator Form must also be completed at least 48 hours before travel.

  • All those aged over 5 (over 11 in Scotland) must take a PCR test in the two days after arrival in the UK, which must be booked before travelling, with arrivals having to self-isolate until they receive a negative result. If the PCR result is positive, the self-isolation period is 10 days from when the test was taken (in Scotland it is 10 days from when the positive result was received). This test must also be from a private provider. Those aged 4 and under must isolate until their responsible adult receives their result back.

  • Tests are not needed for travel within the UK, or from Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, the Falkland Islands, St Helena or Ascension. Passenger Locator Forms are not necessary for travel from a different place in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man.

Non-Fully Vaccinated People

  • Non-fully vaccinated people must also take a COVID-19 test two days before travelling to the UK, and take a Day 2 test after arriving. In addition, they must also take a Day 8 PCR test, which can only be taken on or after Day 8.

  • If the Day 2 test is positive, they must self-isolate for 10 days from the day the test was taken, and they are not required to take the Day 8 test.

  • If the Day 2 test is negative and the Day 8 test is positive, the person must isolate for 10 days from when the Day 8 test was taken. If it is negative, they must isolate for either 10 days or until the Day 8 result is back, whichever is longer.

  • There is an option to take part in the Test to Release scheme, which involves paying to take a test on Day 5, and if this is negative the isolation period can end early. The Day 2 and Day 8 tests must still be taken, and the scheme is only an option for those arriving in England.

Red List

  • Countries can be placed on a travel Red List, which means that travel from these destinations is only allowed for British and Irish Nationals, and those who have residence rights in the UK.

  • All arrivals from places on the Red List must book a quarantine hotel package, which includes 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel, and PCR tests on Days 2 and 8 after arrival. There are only 7 ports on entry into the UK for those arriving from Red List destinations, and direct flights from Red List countries can only arrive at London Heathrow and Birmingham Airport.

  • When the Omicron variant was first discovered, 11 countries in Africa were added to the Red List in the subsequent days.

  • On 14th December, Health Secretary Sajid Javid MP announced that all countries would be removed from the travel Red List, due to “community transmission of Omicron in the UK”, and the wide spread of the variant across the world.

Click on the below link to download our one page roundup of all the current rules in place across the UK:

UK COVID-19 Update - 23.12.21
Download PDF • 457KB


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