How do the coronavirus lockdown rules differ across the UK?

Politicians and police chiefs have urged the public to abide by coronavirus lockdown rules as the Easter bank holiday weekend approaches with the promise of good weather.

Some forces have warned they may have to crack down on those flouting the rules using the powers given to them by law.

But in some parts of the UK the legislation differs slightly.

– When did the laws come into force?

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations 2020 were introduced in England on Thursday March 26 at 1pm.

Similar versions of the law were enacted in Wales at 4pm and in Scotland at 7.15pm on the same day, as well as at 11pm on Saturday in Northern Ireland.

Police officers patrol a park in Northampton
Police officers patrol a park in Northampton (Joe Giddens/PA)

 – Can I leave my house?

According to the legislation in England: “During the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.”

This is similar in the laws for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

All state a reasonable excuse includes: getting food and medical supplies for yourself, members of the same household and vulnerable people, getting money, to exercise and for essential work.

You can also leave your house to: give blood, attend a funeral (in some cases), meet bail conditions, go to court and take part in legal proceedings, move house and to “avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm”.

But public gatherings of more than two people are banned apart from for members of the same household who are currently living together. There are some exceptions along similar lines as above.

– How often can I go out?

The laws in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland do not specify – or limit – how many times per day someone can leave their house for any of these reasons.

Although the Government advice is to exercise once a day, the law does not say how many times a day this is allowed to happen.

But in Wales, exercise is permitted “no more than once a day”.

– What about rules for businesses?

In Scotland and Wales, companies which are allowed to remain open must take reasonable steps to make sure those within the premises keep two metres apart, unless they are a carer or members of the same household.

This rule is not in place in England and Northern Ireland.

– Can I go for a drive?

Ministers have urged people to only use open spaces near their homes where possible, keeping at least two metres apart from anyone they do not live with.

But none of the laws in force in any part of the UK address the use of cars or vehicles at all and do not forbid members of the public from using their cars to “go for a drive” or travel to a location by car to exercise.

They state petrol stations, car repair and MOT services, taxi companies and car parks can all remain open, albeit with restrictions.

Coronavirus – Thu Apr 9, 2020
The M1 in Bedfordshire remains quiet during the normal Easter getaway period as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of Covid-19 (Joe Giddens/PA)

– Can I go shopping, and what can I buy?

Each of the laws says you can leave the house to obtain “basic necessities” like “food”.

None of them define what constitutes food and they do not prohibit buying certain items when shopping.

Supermarkets, corner shops, off licences, hardware stores, pet shops and post offices can all remain open under the legislation.

– What can the police do?

Officers have been told enforcement action is a last resort but they can issue fines or arrest someone if they “reasonably believe” someone is in contravention as long as the decision is “necessary and proportionate”.

They can order someone to go home, leave an area, have the power to disperse a group and remove someone using “reasonable force, if necessary” as well as take steps to make sure parents stop their children from breaking the rules.

The first fine costs £60 – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days and double for each further offence.

The limit is £960 in England and Scotland but one is not specified in Wales

Those who do not pay could be taken to court.

You could also be arrested for refusing to provide your name and address to avoid being given a fine.

Coronavirus – Tues Apr 7, 2020
Shuttered stores and police patrols on Ann Street in Belfast (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

– What else do the rules say?

The laws all define a vulnerable person as someone who is aged 70 or older, anyone aged under 70 who has an underlying health condition and anyone who is pregnant.

Underlying health conditions include asthma, kidney and heart disease, hepatitis, Parkinson’s, diabetes, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, a learning disability or cerebral palsy, HIV, Aids, cancer, and obesity.

– When will the lockdown end?

By law, each of the regulations must be reviewed every 21 days after being introduced and will remain in place until scrapped by the Government but ultimately expire six months after they were introduced, if not renewed.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the laws must be reviewed before April 16 and by April 18 in Northern Ireland.

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