How do coronavirus lockdown rules differ in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

11 May 2020, 20:21

Lockdown restrictions will be lifted at different speeds across the UK
Lockdown restrictions will be lifted at different speeds across the UK. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson last night announced some of the lockdown rules in England will be eased, but Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have so far all refused to follow suit.

The Prime Minister announced changes to coronavirus lockdown measures on Sunday night, switching the government's slogan from 'Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives' to 'Stay alert, control the virus, save lives'.

However, with health powers devolved to all the home nations, the prime minister's amendments do not, therefore, apply to the whole of the United Kingdom.

Read more: Chancellor expected to extend coronavirus wage furlough scheme

Read more: Telecom engineers warned of razor blades hidden behind anti-5G posters

The first ministers for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster respectively - have all since rejected the new slogan and will instead lift lockdown restrictions when they feel the time is right.

So how do the individual approaches differ?

Sir Keir Starmer responds to the prime minister’s address to the nation


Exercise: From Wednesday, people will be allowed to leave the house for unlimited exercise and can even go sunbathing for as long as they like, so long as they obey social distancing measures.

If you one wants to drive outside of their immediate local area for exercise, for example to the countryside or to beaches, they will be free to do so.

Tennis and golf clubs will be able to reopen so long as they ensure their members are kept safe under the new rules.

Work: From Monday, English workers who cannot work from home are being urged to return to their jobs if it is safe to do so. This particularly applies to those in the construction industry and manufacturing.

However, people are being encouraged to not use public transport and travel by car, bicycle or on foot instead.

For workers to be safe to return, employees must make their workplaces "Covid-secure".

Other areas: Schools are hoped to begin reopening from 1 June onwards and hospitality businesses could get back up and running in July. Garden centres will also reopen as long as social distancing measures are enforced.

Mr Johnson has also unveiled a three-step plan for England and a new Covid Alert System, both of which will shape England's approach in the coming months.

Boris Johnson: Those who cannot work from home should go to work


Exercise: Scottish people will be able to go out more than once for exercise from today onwards, however Ms Sturgeon explained it would not be for an "unlimited" amount of time.

Social distancing measures must be adhered to, while sunbathing and barbecues in public are still not acceptable.

The first minister stressed Scotland will stick to the "stay home" advice, other than for buying food, exercising or getting medicine.

Work: The Scottish workforce is not being encouraged to return at the moment and there is currently no long-term exit plan for employers.

Ms Sturgeon has warned the country's R number - the average number of people an infected individual gives the virus to - is still too high for people to go back to work.

She said: "I am not, at this stage, asking anybody who is not working to go back to work, although we have said we are looking, with priority, at the construction sector, the retail sector and the manufacturing sector."

Other areas: Scotland will not be adopting the new "stay alert" slogan and there is no timetable for moving away from the "stay home" message.

However, Ms Sturgeon has suggested that an announcement on the reopening of garden centres could be made this coming weekend and does not expect schools to reopen at the same time as in England.

'Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives' still stands in Scotland


Exercise: Welsh people will be able to exercise more than once per day from Monday onwards, but they are still being told to do so locally - starting and ending at home.

The majority of Wales' lockdown measures have been extended for a further three weeks and Mr Drakeford has warned people from England not to travel to the country for exercise. People who cross the border to exercise could face police fines.

Work: People are still being encouraged to work from home if they are able to do so and the "stay home" advice will remain in place in Wales.

Other areas: Local councils are being given the power to start planning the reopening of libraries and recycling centres, while garden centres have also been given the green light to open their doors.

Social distancing measures must be enforced for anywhere that reopen, with Mr Drakeford saying: "My message to the people of Wales hasn’t changed. Staying at home is the best way you can protect yourself and others.

Welsh schools are also unlikely to begin letting pupils back in June.

LBC outlines Boris Johnson's new lockdown rules

Northern Ireland

Exercise: Despite the message so far not changing in Northern Ireland, Ms Foster said there would be "nuanced" tweaks to the measurements in the coming days, including allowing longer allowances for open-air exercise.

Northern Ireland prolonger the current rules for another three weeks on Thursday, with the first minister saying it was important to "move together as a bloc" with the rest of the UK to send a clear and simple message to people.

Work: The message to workers remains the same, people must only go to work if they cannot do so from home. If they do, they must abide by social distancing and wash their hands when returning.

Northern Ireland's coalition administration also agreed to recommend the wearing of face masks in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult.

Other areas: Further adjustments to Northern Ireland's rules can be expected next week, but Ms Foster has also dismissed Mr Johnson's "stay alert" slogan for the time being.

She said: "On the whole, the message is to stay at home. We will say we are not deviating from the message at this time. It is important for people to know we are not doing this in a nanny state way. Once we can move, we will move.”

Boris Johnson Statement to the House


Some adjustments were made on the island of Jersey on 2 May, including allowing residents to spend up to four hours outside while shopping and exercising.

They were also told they could spend time in the open with up to two people from outside their household as long as social distancing measures are adhered to.

Chief Minister John Le Fondre said on 7 May that it was the "right thing" to unlock Jersey, however plans to test the whole population have been put on hold.


Guernsey's government issued an "Exit from Lockdown" plan on 5 May, and by 11 May the island was in "phase two" of the six-phase scheme.

Residents were told they could spend up to four hours outside while exercising so long as they too followed social distancing measures.

The Guernsey government's plan is to "test, trace and quarantine" the virus, but it would roll back the phases if the outbreak worsens, said the island's director of public health Dr Nicola Brink.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify