Dean Dunham's guide to England's Covid lockdown number 3

5 January 2021, 12:57

LBC Presenter Dean Dunham explains the rules of the new Covid lockdown
LBC Presenter Dean Dunham explains the rules of the new Covid lockdown. Picture: LBC/PA
Dean Dunham

By Dean Dunham

With a third national lockdown for England announced LBC Consumer Hour host lawyer Dean Dunham explains what the rules are and what will happen if you break them.

The Prime Minister has announced a further national lockdown. Whilst the basic restrictions are obvious, many have been left confused as Boris’ speech lacked detail in many areas and this is not helped by the fact that Wales and Scotland have a different set of rules.

Here are the details which consumers in England need to know (I will do a separate guide on Wales and Scotland):

THE RULES

1. When can I leave my home?

The general rule is that you must not leave, or even be outside of your home, except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ includes:

• Work - you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home including, but not limited to, people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing which requires in-person attendance.

No formal definition of ‘reasonable’ has been provided by Government. My view is that it will only be ‘reasonable’ to attend work if it is not possible to carry out your work from home.

• Volunteering - you can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services. Again, this would only be lawful if you could not carry out such services from home.

• Essential activities - you can leave home to buy essential items at shops, or obtain services. You may also leave your home to do these things on behalf of a disabled or vulnerable person, or someone who is self-isolating.

• Education and childcare - You can only leave home for education, registered childcare, and supervised activities for children where they are eligible to attend. Access to education and children’s activities for school-aged pupils is restricted.

For parents living apart, who have existing arrangements for dual contact of children, these arrangements can continue. Childcare bubbles are also permitted to continue.

• Meeting others and care - You can leave home to visit people in your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one), to provide informal childcare for children under 14 as part of a childcare bubble (for example, to enable parents to work, and not to enable social contact between adults), to provide care for disabled or vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, to attend a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked-after child.

• Exercise - You can continue to exercise alone, with one other person, or with your household or support bubble. The Government guidance says this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside of your local area.

• Medical reasons - You can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies.

• Harm and compassionate visits - you can leave home to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness, or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse). You can also leave home to visit someone who is dying, or someone in a care home, hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.

• Animal welfare reasons – you can leave home for animal welfare reasons, such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.

• Communal worship and life events - You can leave home to attend or visit a place of worship for communal worship, a funeral, or event related to a death, a burial ground, or a remembrance garden, or to attend a wedding ceremony.

You can also leave home to fulfil legal obligations (including jury service and attending court as a witness or accused) or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property – further details below.

2. What if my employer says I must attend work?

There will also be queries raised as to what employees’ rights are when their employer says they still have to attend the office, even though they could carry out their work from home. My view is that this will be unlawful and therefore could lead to an employment claim as the employer, in these circumstances, would be inciting their employee to break the law.

3. Can my child attend school?

All schools will remain closed until the February half term. The exception is that colleges, primary (reception onwards) and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers.

4. Can my child go back to University?

Students will not be permitted to return to University until mid February, unless they undertake training and study for the following courses:

• Medicine and dentistry

• Subjects allied to medicine/health

• Veterinary science

• Education (initial teacher training)

• Social work

• Courses which require Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) assessments and/or mandatory activity which is scheduled for January and which cannot be rescheduled (your university will notify you if this applies to you).

5. Can I still use childcare?

There are several ways that parents and carers can continue to access childcare:

• Early Years settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open

• Vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities (including wraparound care)

• parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is under 14. This is mainly to enable parents to work, and must not be used to enable social contact between adults

• some households will also be able to benefit from being in a support bubble

• nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home

6. Can I go on a UK holiday?

No, for two reasons. Firstly, you cannot travel ‘unnecessarily’ (and this would definitely be unnecessary) and secondly, you cannot stay away from home overnight (without a reasonable excuse).

This includes staying in a second home or caravan which is not your primary residence. This also includes staying with anyone who you do not live with, unless they are in your support bubble.

You are however allowed to stay overnight away from your home if you:

• are visiting your support bubble

• are unable to return to your main residence

• need accommodation while moving house

• need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event

• require accommodation for work purposes, or to provide voluntary services

• are a child requiring accommodation for school or care

• are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if you are escaping harm (including domestic abuse)

• are an elite athlete, or their support staff or parent, if the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home for training or competition

Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law including where guests are unable to return to their main residence, use that guest accommodation as their main residence, need accommodation while moving house, are self-isolating as required by law, or would otherwise be made homeless as a result of the accommodation closing.

7. What is a support and childcare bubble?

A support bubble is a support network which links two households. You can form a support bubble with another household of any size only if you meet the eligibility rules. It is against the law to form a support bubble if you do not follow these rules.

You are permitted to leave your home to visit your support bubble (and to stay overnight with them).

If you live in a household with anyone aged under 14, you can form a childcare bubble. This allows friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare.

You must not meet socially with your childcare bubble and must avoid seeing members of your childcare and support bubbles at the same time.

8. Can I visit someone in a care home?

Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. No visits will be permitted in the event of an outbreak. You should also check the rules of the care home.

9. Can I get married or attend a wedding or civil ceremony?

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included in that number. These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.

If you have a wedding/civil ceremony booked and you now want to cancel due to the lockdown, you will be entitled to a refund of any monies you have paid to date.

10. Can I attend a funeral?

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people. Linked religious, belief-based or commemorative events, such as stone settings and ash scatterings, can also continue with up to 6 people in attendance. Anyone working is not counted in these limits. Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

11. Can I attend a place of worship?

You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.

12. Can I attend a gym or other activity?

No. Indoor and outdoor gyms and sports facilities will remain closed. Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue.

If you have a membership for a gym or club, you will be entitled to a pro rata reduction for the time that the venue remains closed.

13. Can I move home?

You can still move home but only those in your support bubble or professional removal companies can help you with the move.

Estate and letting agent firms can continue to work. If you are looking to move, you can therefore still go to property viewings.

CONSEQUENCES OF BREAKING THE RULES

If you break the rules

The rules are being introduced into law, meaning the Police will have the power to fine and even prosecute offenders.

The most likely outcome for offenders is a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

BUSINESSES AND VENUES

Businesses and venues which must close

To reduce social contact, the regulations require some businesses to close and impose restrictions on how some businesses provide goods and services. The full list of businesses required to close can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:

• non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services.

• hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs, with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.

• accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes

• leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts, fitness and dance studios, riding arenas at riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses.

• entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks

• animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife reserves)

• indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise.

• personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes

• community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services

Some of these businesses and places will also be permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities. These activities include:

• education and training – for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where that is part of their normal provision

• childcare purposes and supervised activities for those children eligible to attend

• hosting blood donation sessions and food banks

• to provide medical treatment

• for elite sports persons to train and compete (in indoor and outdoor sports facilities), and professional dancers and choreographers to work (in fitness and dance studios)

• for training and rehearsal without an audience (in theatres and concert halls)

• for the purposes of film and TV filming

Businesses and venues which can remain open

Other businesses and venues are permitted to stay open, following COVID-19 secure guidelines. Businesses providing essential goods and services can stay open. These venues include:

• essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences

• market stalls selling essential retail may also stay open

• businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services

• petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses

• banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses

• funeral directors

• laundrettes and dry cleaners

• medical and dental services

• vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals

• animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)

• agricultural supplies shops

• mobility and disability support shops

• storage and distribution facilities

• car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas

• outdoor playgrounds

• outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise

• places of worship

• crematoriums and burial grounds

Public services

The majority of public services will continue and you will be able to leave home to visit them. These include:

• the NHS and medical services like GPs and dentists. We are supporting the NHS to carry out urgent and non-urgent services safely, and it is vital anyone who thinks they need any kind of medical care comes forward and seeks help

• Jobcentre Plus sites

• courts and probation services

• civil registrations offices

• passport and visa services

• services provided to victims

• waste or recycling centres

• getting an MOT, if you need to drive when lawfully leaving home