Following a rapid rise in infections, hospital admissions and case rates across the country, the Prime Minister announced yesterday (04 Jan) a national lockdown in England with immediate effect and instructed people to stay at home to control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.

The drastic jump in COVID-19 cases has been attributed to the new variant of COVID-19, which scientists have now confirmed is between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible.

National lockdown means that you cannot leave your home unless for a small specific list of reasons. From today (05 Jan), all primary schools, secondary schools and colleges will move to remote learning, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

The restrictions have come into effect today, and are expected to last until the middle of February if the situation in hospitals improve. By this point, the NHS hopes to have vaccinated everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) – including older care home residents and staff, everyone over 70, all frontline NHS and care staff and all those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

Below is a summary of some of the key pieces of guidance, but please familiarise yourself with the full lockdown guidance to make sure you know what you and your family need to do to keep our town safe.

Leaving home

  • From today (05 Jan), you can only leave your home for the following reasons:
    shopping for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • going to work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercising 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
  • meeting your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies
  • seeking medical assistance or to avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • attending education or childcare – for those eligible

Meeting other people and exercising

You should minimise time spent outside your home.

It is against the law to meet socially with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble. You can only leave your home to exercise, and not for the purpose of recreation or leisure (e.g. a picnic or a social meeting). This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

Indoor gyms and sports facilities will remain closed. Outdoor sports courts, outdoor gyms, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding arenas must also close. Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue.

Businesses and hospitality

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, but includes:

  • non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores – venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect 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 can continue to be provided by delivery
  • accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites
  • leisure and sports facilities
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries
  • indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons

Read more about the guidance for businesses and venues here.

Support and childcare bubbles

You are permitted to leave your home to visit your support bubble (and to stay overnight with them). However, if you form a support bubble, it is best if this is with a household who live locally. This will help prevent the virus spreading from an area where more people are infected.

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.

If your child lives in more than one location, you can mix indoors where necessary with the other parent to allow your child to move between homes.

Full guidance on support bubbles and childcare bubbles can be found online.

Education and childcare

Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open only for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term. Early Years settings remain open.

Higher Education provision will remain online until mid February for all except future critical worker courses.

Weddings, civil partnerships, religious ceremonies and funerals

Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals are allowed with strict limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.

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.

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies must only take place with up to 6 people but these should only take place in exceptional circumstances.