Lockdown rules England: Covid restrictions explained as country enters new national lockdown in January 2021

The rules for lockdown are similar to those in March 2020
People have been asked to stay at home (PA Media)People have been asked to stay at home (PA Media)
People have been asked to stay at home (PA Media)

England has entered a fresh lockdown amid rising Covid-19 cases thought to be caused by the new, more transmissible strain of the virus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new restrictions on Monday 4 January following fears that the four-tier local system was not enough to control the spread.

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It came as mainland Scotland was also placed under lockdown after an announcement from Nicola Sturgeon.

People will be legally required to “stay at home”, similar to the measures introduced during the first March lockdown, and police will have powers to arrest or fine those who breach the rules.

Schools will also close and turn to digital learning instead while the restrictions are in place.

Here are all the rules and changes during England’s third national lockdown:

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Stay at home

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Everyone has been told to “stay at home” from Tuesday 5 January, only leaving the house for the following reasons and exemptions:

- Going to work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot work from home. This includes key workers and people who work in construction

- Shopping for food or medicine for yourself or a vulnerable person

- Providing care or help for a vulnerable person

- For medical care, or to avoid injury, illness or risk of harm, including domestic abuse

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- Meeting your support or childcare bubble if you have legally formed one

- Education or childcare, if eligible

- Activities related to moving house

- Outdoor socialising (only with people from your household or bubble) and exercise (see below).


You can exercise with your household or bubble, or with one other person from another household, and you should stay in your local area for exercise.

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Sports venues, including pools, gyms, tennis courts and golf courses, will close, but playgrounds can stay open.

Amateur team sports are not allowed, but elite sport can continue.

Schools and childcare

Schools and colleges will close immediately, including primary schools and secondary schools, with pupils learning remotely via online services until the February half-term.

Nurseries and early years settings, however, will be able to stay open.

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Vulnerable children and the children of key workers will still be able to attend school.

A-level and GCSE exams will not go ahead this year in summer.

University students should not return to campus and should be taught online instead until mid-February, with in-person lecturing only taking place for those training to be critical workers (i.e. medical students).

Support bubbles

You are still able to form support and childcare bubbles under the new lockdown.

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Children of divorced or separated parents can still move between both parents’ homes.


All non-essential retail, hospitality, entertainment and personal care services - like hairdressers and salons - must close.

Essential services will be allowed to stay open. This includes:

- Supermarkets, food shops, pharmacies and garden centres

- Petrol stations and MOT services

- Laundrettes

- Banks and post offices

- Doctors and dentists' surgeries and vets

- Car parks, public toilets and playgrounds

Restaurants and cafes can offer takeaway services, but will not be able to sell alcohol.

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Tradespeople, like cleaners, can still visit people’s homes.

Driving lessons will not be permitted to take place.

Places of worship

Communal worship is allowed to take place with social distancing.

Weddings will only be allowed under “exceptional circumstances”.

Care homes

Indoor, close-contact visits within care homes will not be permitted, but window visits and visits involving screens and pods can go ahead.


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Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should stay at home and not attend work.

Boris Johnson said those affected by the shielding guidance will receive letters "shortly", and that those who were previously told to shield should stay at home again.

You should only go out for medical appointments, for exercise, or for essential trips.

When could the lockdown end?

The government has said it plans to review the lockdown on 15 February, but there is not yet a definitive end date for the restrictions.

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Michael Gove told Sky News on Tuesday 5 January that the lockdown could begin to be eased in March.

He warned the public that they should not expect a sudden relaxation of the restrictions.

Asked how long the lockdown could last, the Cabinet Office minister said the review would happen in mid-February, with the aim to “progressively lift restrictions” after that.

However, he added: “What I can't do is predict - nobody can predict - with accuracy exactly what we will be able to relax and when.

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"We will keep these constantly under review but you are absolutely right, we can't predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15 to 22.

"What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated, so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.

"I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions, but not necessarily all."