Staying safe and well as lockdown guidance changes

Luke James
Group Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Director of Healthcare Transformation
13 May 2020
Next review due May 2023

This article was written in line with the best available evidence and guidelines at the time of publishing. Keep up-to-date with the latest guidelines on coronavirus at

The UK Government has published new guidance that sets out a plan for moving forward with COVID-19. A key message is that we are not at a stage to make drastic changes and there are big challenges to navigate. More details are set to emerge, but here are some key points to remember in light of the new guidance for people living in England.

Stay a safe distance apart

Good hygiene practices are still extremely important. They include the following.

  • The virus spreads through the air in droplets, and that’s why it’s so important to still keep two metres apart from other people.
  • Still wash your hands regularly using soap and warm water.
  • Disinfect surfaces that are regularly touched by other people.

If you develop symptoms – even mild ones – of COVID-19 then you must stay at home and isolate for seven days. Your household will also need to isolate and they will need to stay inside for 14 days.

Spending time outside

New guidance says you can go outside for as long as you like, and as many times as you like, provided you follow social distancing guidance. This also means you can sit outside – in the park for example. However, playgrounds and outdoor gyms are still closed.

You can get in your car and drive to other open outdoor places to spend time outside, such as the coast or countryside, if these are nearby. But do not travel to other parts of the UK.

You can also now exercise with one other person outside your household. You can’t play team sports – unless it’s with members of your household.

Seeing people outside your household

You can meet one other person outdoors, but you must keep that safe two-metre distance from them and other people. So that means keeping apart and not being tempted to hug them or sit too close together. And you should only meet up with one person from another household at a time.

For people who are vulnerable and extremely vulnerable

If you are over 70, have a specific pre-existing health condition or are pregnant, then you should still carry on as before and minimise your contact with people outside your household.

If you are extremely vulnerable and have been shielding then you must continue to do so – stay at home and do not leave your house.

Returning to work

If you can continue to work from home, then that’s what you should do. For those who can’t work from home, returning to work is a big concern for many people. The government is set to release specific guidance on this later this week to ensure that workplaces are safe.


Avoid public transport if you can. If it’s possible, you could drive, cycle or walk to work. Not everyone will be able to do this. If you do use public transport, the guidance is to social distance as much as possible, and wear a face covering. The government will release more detail on public transport guidance this week.

Face coverings

It’s advised that you wear a face covering in enclosed spaces where you’ll be coming into contact with other people, including public transport and shops. This shouldn’t be a specialist medical mask – wear a homemade covering such as a scarf or homemade covering. A face covering may help to reduce transmission of the virus from people who have the virus but don’t have any symptoms (asymptomatic).

Children under the age of two shouldn’t wear a covering, nor should anyone who may find it hard to manage one, such as unassisted primary school aged children. If you have a respiratory condition and covering your face may make your condition worse then don’t wear one.

Whenever you wear a covering, wash your hands before you put it on, and again when you take it off.

Luke James
Dr Luke James
Group Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Director of Healthcare Transformation

    • Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy. Public Health England., Published 11 May 2020

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