HEALTH Secretary Matt Hancock has announced even tighter rules for parts of the North East – making it illegal to break the rules on socialising with other households.
This means people living in those areas – including Newcastle and Durham – have been thrown into confusion over what the new rules are, and how they differ from other local lockdown areas.
Can I have friends and family over to my home?
In most areas with local lockdown restrictions, including the North West, the North East, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire, people are no longer able to meet with other people in their homes or gardens.
The guidance tells people under local lockdown rules they are not allowed to meet up with people they don’t live with – even if the friends they are visiting don’t live in local lockdown areas.
It means if someone lives in Manchester, and they want to visit a friend who is otherwise allowed to have people over because there are no local lockdown restrictions in the area, they would not be allowed to.
In most of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, people are not allowed to meet up with anyone except those from their household and support bubble in any indoor setting.
In Northern Ireland and Scotland you can meet with up to six people outside (kids not counted).
But in England support bubbles are still allowed.
Scots are still able to meet up with others outdoors and in private gardens.
People in lockdown areas in England are discouraged in the guidance from seeing people they don’t live with outside, but they won’t face fines for breaking those rules.
In local lockdown areas in Wales, including Cardiff, people are not allowed to meet anyone outdoors either.
Can I be fined for breaking the rules?
But the rules are very different in different areas.
In the North East – people who live in Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland – the directive to not socialise with other households has been made a legal requirement.
That means that people can be fined for mixing with people they do not live with or are outside their support bubble.
Fines for a first offender have now been doubled to £200 and rise up to £6,400.
But for people outside of the North East, but are in local lockdown areas that rule against household mixing is still advice only.
That means if they do ignore it, they won’t be fined, but crucially, they can be fined for breaking the national rule of six which applies across the nation.
The confusion has prompted Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to demand simpler, more coherent rules.
Can I still go to the pub?
Yes, you can still go to the pub in most local lockdown areas.
However, the rules are different in Bolton, where pubs and restaurants have been forced to close with skyrocketing infection rates.
In lockdown areas, you can only go to the pub with the people in your household – not to socialise with people you don’t live with.
And the national 10pm curfew means everyone will have to finish their last drink in time for the early closing.
The rules say you must not “socialise with people you do not live with, unless they’re in your support bubble, in any public venue.”
The rule applies both indoors and outdoors – meaning you can’t sit outside the pub with a friend and catch up over a pint.
Skills minister Gilligan Keegan created even more confusion after she said she does not know if the legal requirement not to meet up with people in parts of the South East applies in outdoor parts of a pub.
But outside of local lockdown areas, people are free to go to the pub with whoever they like.
Can kids still go to school?
Children can go to school as long as they are not showing any symptoms of coronavirus, or have been told to self-isolate.
The PM has been adamant that schools will not close again to prevent kids’ education being interrupted.
But some schools have had to send hundreds of children home after just one positive case of coronavirus.
Should I work from home if I can?
And this is not limited to local lockdown areas.
Boris Johnson has changed the advice on heading back to the office and told anyone who can work from home that they should do so.
This is important to stop people mixing with people from other households.
But if your office is Covid-secure, you can continue to go in if you want to.
And if there’s a reason to head into your workplace, speak to your boss about the best course of action.