The following advice applies to England only. Separate guidance applies to Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Throughout the pandemic government advice to the public and laws around social contact have been changing. It’s hard for many of us to keep up, especially when information isn’t distributed clearly or through universally available channels.

Below we’ve collated the current rules and guidance as they stand during the current lockdown (updated 29/01/2021).

When can I leave home?

The overwhelming message from the government and NHS is that people should stay at home in order to prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

Leaving the house is only generally permitted in the following circumstances:

  • shopping for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • going to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercising with your household (or support bubble) or one other person (in which case you should stay two meters apart).
  • Exercise should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • Seeking medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • Attending education or childcare - for those eligible
  • Animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.

It’s important to state here leaving for leaving due to “injury, illness or harm” applies to common situations that LGBTQ+ people may encounter. If you’re living in an abusive household where you don’t feel safe then you are permitted to leave. Also, if you are feeling at risk of self harm, or are in extreme mental distress, this also constitutes “risk of harm”. Do not feel like you must suffer in your current environment, as this may prove dangerous to your safety and wellbeing. Take yourself somewhere you can receive the necessary support.

Social distancing

Current government advice states that in-person contact with other people not in your household should be kept to a minimum. This means remaining two metres apart when outside, avoiding physical contact, and not meeting indoors (apart from in the above exceptional circumstances).

Exercise outdoors with members of your support bubble or household are permitted, or with one member of another household, as long as you abide by the two metre distancing rules. Walking is exercise! As is cycling, or doing other aerobic activities. Try to avoid any activity where equipment is shared like resistance training with weights, or using many of the outdoor gyms provided by local authorities, which should be avoided.

The government is encouraging people to stay within their local area for exercise, though exactly what the means is subject to debate. If exercising within your local area requires a short drive to reach a suitable location, then this is permitted.

Support bubbles

Support bubbles link two households, effectively treating both residences and the people within as one household according to the rules.

Living alone, with no contact with others can be damaging for your mental health, so if you live alone, then forming a support bubble is a vital method of maintaining your wellbeing.

You can form a support bubble under the following circumstances:

  • you live by yourself – even if carers visit you to provide support.
  • you are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability.
  • your household includes a child who is under the age of one or was under that age on 2 December 2020.
  • your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5, or was under that age on 2 December 2020.
  • you are aged 16 or 17 living with others of the same age and without any adults.
  • you are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18 or were under that age on 12 June 2020.

Many LGBTQ+ people live alone, and are eligible to form support bubbles with other households. It’s important to remember that each house can only form a bubble with one other house. 

More detailed information on support bubbles is available here.

In addition to support bubbles, there are other ways to maintain social contact with other people. Try reading our list of online social events for LGBTQ+ people.

Masks

Though the wearing of mass was derided at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s become a proven method of preventing the transmission of coronavirus. It is now legally required to wear a mask indoors in certain situations, even though many of these venues are currently closed due to Tier 5 lockdown. According to the government these include:

  • public transport (aeroplanes, trains, trams and buses).
  • taxis and private hire vehicles.
  • transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals).
  • shops and supermarkets (places which offer goods or services for retail sale or hire).
  • shopping centres (malls and indoor markets).
  • premises providing hospitality (bars, pubs, restaurants, cafes), except when seated at a table to eat or drink (see exemptions).
  • post offices, banks, building societies, high-street solicitors and accountants, credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings
  • clubs and money service businesses
  • estate and lettings agents.
  • theatres.
  • premises providing personal care and beauty treatments (hair salons, barbers, nail salons, massage centres, tattoo and piercing parlours).
  • premises providing veterinary services.
  • visitor attractions and entertainment venues (museums, galleries, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, cultural and heritage sites, aquariums, indoor zoos and visitor farms, bingo halls, amusement arcades, adventure activity centres, indoor sports stadiums, funfairs, theme parks, casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, indoor play areas including soft-play areas).
  • libraries and public reading rooms.
  • places of worship.
  • funeral service providers (funeral homes, crematoria and burial ground chapels).
  • community centres, youth centres and social clubs.
  • exhibition halls and conference centres.

It’s a long list! So we’d advise always wearing a face mask indoors unless it’s absolutely necessary not to. Remember, there are valid exceptions from wearing a mask, for instance if you have a medical condition which prevents it, or in situations where you’re eating, drinking, or taking medication. A more detailed list of when you don’t have to wear face coverings is available on the government website.

Is there anything else I should know?

Advice and laws around coronavirus are always changing, so it's important to keep up to date. The above rules are the most important guidelines, but if are in need of more information, then check the government's coronavirus hub.

  • If you're lonely, have a specific question that needs answering, or just want to talk, then you can contact us directly via the OutLife forums.