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Latest restrictions explained: the Government's new Regulations on COVID-19

Posted on 15 January 2021

This article was last updated on 15 January 2021

The Government has now imposed a national lockdown, similar to that in force throughout November last year. The updated Regulations can be found here.

There are a number of different rules as to what is and is not allowed under law (as opposed to encouraged or discouraged under the guidance), which we understand can be confusing. To assist, we have updated the key dos and don’ts under the latest Regulations and Government Guidance (the Guidance) to reflect the Tier 3 restrictions. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.


The advice in the Guidance is clear: you must stay at home and should not be outside your home except where necessary. You may leave home to:

  • Shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person.
  • To go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home.
  • Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this 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.
  • Seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • Attend education or childcare- for those eligible.

If you do leave home for a permitted reason, you should stay local (unless it is necessary to go further, for example to go to work). Stay local means in the village, town or part of the city where you live.

Whilst travel within the UK and international travel are not specifically mentioned in the Regulations, the general restrictions on leaving your home, mean that travel (unless for an essential purpose) is not permitted.

National lockdown restrictions

You are not permitted to meet up with anyone indoors over the festive period unless you ordinarily live with them or they are part of your existing support bubble.

The advice intier 4 is tostay at home. You must not socialise indoors with anyone outsideyour household (orlinked household/bubble - (see section below for an explanation of what counts as a linked household or bubble)*. This rule also applies to public venues and private gardens.

You are not permitted to be outside your home or garden unless you have a 'reasonable excuse'. A reasonable excuse includes:

Work and volunteering
  • You can leave home for work purposes if your place of work remains open and you cannot work from home.
Essential activities
  • You can leave home to buy goods at shops or obtain services from a business that is permitted to be open, but you should stay local. 
  • You are permitted to leave home to collect food, drinks or other goods that have been ordered from a business.
Education and Childcare
  • Early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open.
  • Childminders should continue to allow children to attend as normal except for school-aged children. Childminders caring for school-aged children (including reception children) should only admit vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
  • 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.
  • Nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home.
Exercise and recreation
  • You cannot leave home to meet socially with anyone not in your household or support bubble.
  • You should limit exercise to once a day. You can exercise alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble, or one other person.
Meeting others and care
  • You can leave home to visit people in your support bubble, or to provide informal childcare for children aged 13 and under as part of a childcare bubble. 
  • You can leave home to provide care to vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, to attend a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care where the care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability. 
Medical reasons, harm and compassionate visits
  • You can leave home for medical reasons, including to be with someone who is giving birth, to escape harm (e.g. domestic abuse) or for animal welfare reasons.
  • You can leave home to visit someone who is dying in a care home, hospice, or hospital or to accompany them to a medical appointment.
Communal worship and life events
  • You can leave home to attend a place of worship, including to attend a wedding or a funeral.
    • No more than six people may attend a wedding; and
    • No more than 30 people may attend a funeral (with a maximum of 6 people at a wake or other linked event)

As before, the rules that apply to businesses, across all the tiers, are slightly different.

  • "Work" is an exemption from the gatherings limits, including in other people's homes. You can therefore meet people outside of your household indoors for work whether in an office or at home.
  • Meals to socialise with work colleagues are not permitted.
  • Gatherings (a group of more than 30 people) are permitted if they are reasonably necessary but the organiser must have taken certain precautions:
    • The gathering organiser or manager must carry out a risk assessment that satisfies the requirements set out in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
    • The gathering organiser or manager must take all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of COVID-19, taking into account the risk assessment and Government guidance.
  • The Guidance states that people across all tiers are still encouraged to work from home if they can.  


Breaching the Regulations is punishable on summary conviction by a fine. If an authorised person (i.e. police officer, community support officer, etc.) believes that someone has committed an offence under the Regulations, and they are over 18, they can be issued with a fixed penalty notice without a hearing.

  • Fixed penalty notices can be discharged without any further liability (i.e. a record of conviction) by payment of the sum within the designated period on the notice.
  • First notice is a £100 fine (if paid within 14 days, otherwise £200). The penalty increases on a sliding scale from £400 for a second offence to £6400 for the sixth (and any subsequent) offences.
  • There is no formal right to appeal a fixed penalty notice and, as the person awarding the notice only needs to have a reasonably held belief that you are breaking the law, they are difficult to challenge. Any objection must be raised within the 28 day payment period stated on the notice. It is important to ensure that you request an extension to the period of non-liability to conviction until the matter has been resolved. Please get in touch if you need advice in relation to challenging a fixed penalty notice.

The Guidance does not make clear which rules are laid down in the Regulations and which are simply 'guidance'. We understand that accordingly, some fixed penalty notices have been given out for infractions which may breach the Guidance but do not breach the law. As there is no formal right to appeal a fixed notice and any objection must be raised within 28 days, these are often going unchallenged.

It is worth noting that different rules regulate the requirement to self-isolate if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been contacted by Test and Trace. Under the self-isolation regulations, the fines imposed in the event of a breach are significantly higher; ranging from £1000 for the first offence to £10,000 for the fourth.

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