New national lockdown measures come into effect in England today (5 Nov), after MPs voted yesterday to confirm the plans.
The lockdown is scheduled to end on 2 December, and - though the Prime Minister has said it will definitely end on schedule - there are some who believe it could be extended if the virus isn’t brought under control, as suggested by cabinet minister Michael Gove.
After going into lockdown for the first time in March, much of what’s happening now will feel familiar, though there are some differences in how the rules will work this time around.
In some cases, the government has learned from mistakes or taken feedback from the first lockdown on board, whereas some changes are informed by a greater understanding of how the virus spreads.
Here are all the ways this lockdown will differ from the last.
Socialising, exercise and bubbles
One of the main differences this time around is the rules on socialising with people from outside your household.
When the first lockdown came into force in March, you weren’t allowed to meet up with anyone socially.
Now, because of what’s being called the ‘one plus one’ rule, people are able to meet up with friends and family who don’t live with them in public outdoor places, as long as they follow social distancing measures.
This new rule, when taken with the change to allow unlimited exercise outdoors, means you can go for a socially distanced walk in the park with one friend in the morning and another later in the day.
Unlike the last set of rules in England, children will not be included in the two people maximum rule.
Another difference between this lockdown and the last is that many people will now have established support and childcare bubbles, which the government introduced once the initial lockdown measures were loosened. These will continue to operate in the same way
Schools and childcare
This time around, schools, college and universities will not be forced to close, unlike in March.
This doesn’t mean some students won’t be doing some or all of their learning online at some points, due to outbreaks in schools or catch-up tuition, but generally the government wants to keep as many young people in education as possible.
For younger children, nurseries and childcare providers will also be able to remain open.
The government has taken the step of banning outbound international travel for holidays, meaning people will not be able to travel for the duration of lockdown.
There is, however, no ban on travelling to England from elsewhere, so people returning from holidays or longer stays abroad are likely to be able to return, but should check with the Foreign Office guidance.
Care home visits
Although there is an obvious need for heightened social distancing and caution when it comes to visiting elderly friends or relatives in care homes, the government has been keen to encourage people to do so during this lockdown.
You will most likely have to see them through a window, or in an outdoor setting, after making arrangements with the home, but the government has said it will help care homes to “provide safe visiting opportunities.”
Experts have said that one of the issues with the last lockdown was that people missed or didn’t try to arrange medical appointments, due to understandable concerns about the virus and the toll on the health service.
This time around, the government has been keen to remind people that they should still attend medical appointments unless specifically told otherwise. There will also be a wider range of healthcare services available, as dentists, opticians, chiropractors and others will be allowed to open as usual.
It’s still worth checking with wherever you’ve got an appointment booked for before attending, but in the majority of cases they should be operating as normal.
No official shielding
When the first wave of the pandemic got underway, the government reached out to people who were medically vulnerable and told them to “shield” by staying at home.
This time around, these people are being advised to avoid shops and take extra care to adhere to social distancing, but otherwise they’re not being told to stay indoors.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he knows “how tough shielding was,” so the government’s strategy has been to find a balance between protection and restriction. People who are “clinically extremely vulnerable” are being advised to be extra cautious, by working from home and minimising contact with other people.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has said there will be a ban on protests this during the second lockdown. A number of large events drew criticism for seemingly not adhering to social distancing guidelines during the first lockdown.
The government attracted significant criticism over its decision to close all public toilets last time around, and has not opted to do the same in this lockdown.