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Lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased across the UK, but the rules are different in each of the four nations. So, who can you meet and what can you do?

How many people can I meet?

By Monday, all four UK nations are due to have guidelines in place allowing more than two people to meet outside:

In England, groups of up to six people can gather from Monday 1 June. They can be from different households, but they have to meet outside – such as in parks or private gardens.

In Scotland, two separate households – up to a maximum of eight people – can meet outdoors, ideally travelling no more than five miles.

In Wales, any number of people from two different households will be able to meet each other outside from Monday. As in Scotland, families should aim to travel no more than five miles. Beauty spots remain closed.

In Northern Ireland, groups of up to six people who do not live together can meet outdoors.

Children are included in the headcount for groups meeting in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Wales, two large families can meet – as long as each of them lives at a single address.

And remember, social distancing rules – with people from different households remaining 2m (6ft) apart from each other – still apply across the whole of the UK.

Can I play sport or host a barbecue?

The overall advice remains “stay at home” as much as possible. But some non-contact outdoor sport is allowed – although rules vary across the UK.

Tennis, for instance, can be played in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – but not yet in Wales. However, golf can be enjoyed everywhere.

Socially-distanced picnics and barbecues could also be possible for many people who want to see their friends and family.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned people in England: “It remains the case that people should not spend time inside the homes of their friends and families, other than to access the garden or use the toilet.” He also said people could not stay overnight in the homes of others.

Hand washing and hygiene should remain a priority – and if you do use the toilet while visiting another home, you should take steps to clean any surfaces you have touched.

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Prof Chris Whitty, the UK government’s chief medical adviser, said: “If you were to do something like a barbecue, remember that passing things from one person to another, if you haven’t washed your hands, you can pass the virus that way.”

The guidelines in Scotland say that for a barbecue, each household should bring their own food, cutlery and crockery.

The rules in Wales so far say you can eat while out on a walk, run or cycle. But First Minister Mark Drakeford said allowing more people to meet was not “an invitation to go into a garden, have a few beers and start mixing in a way that potentially harms you or other people”.

Who has to still stay home?

People with certain underlying health conditions, or who are pregnant or aged over 70, are deemed to be clinically vulnerable. If you are in this category, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household.

There is another group of about 2.5 million people, categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable. These include people who have had organ transplants, cancer patients and those with severe respiratory conditions.

This group is being strongly advised to stay at home at all times until at least the end of June and avoid face-to-face contact – so called “shielding”.

Read more about shielding in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Why is social distancing necessary?

Despite the easing of lockdown restrictions across the UK, scientists stress the need for people from different households to remain 2m (6ft) apart.

Social distancing is important because coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air.

These can be breathed in, or can cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, and then touch your face with unwashed hands.

This coronavirus appears to thrive in crowded, indoor spaces which is why pubs, restaurants and many workplaces remain closed and the public has been advised against using public transport.

But virus transmission is less likely when ”fresh” air is involved – usually when people are outside.

What is self-isolation and what if I have symptoms?

If you show symptoms of coronavirus – such as a dry cough, high temperature or loss of taste – you must take extra precautions.

You should stay at home and not leave it for any reason. This is known as self-isolation.

You should not leave your property even to buy food or medicine, and instead order these online, or ask someone to drop them off at your home.

If the NHS Test and Trace team in England gets in touch because you’ve been close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will have to self-isolate for up to 14 days – even if you feel fine.

The people you live with don’t have to self-isolate, but they must take extra care regarding social distancing and hand washing.

There are similar tracing systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don’t show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the “curve” is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren’t working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS’s 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced “R-naught”, is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body’s immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body’s normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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