What are the Current Covid-19 Rules in England?

Covid-19 restrictions are regularly under review and often differ across the UK. England’s Covid-19 restrictions ended on the 24th February 2022, when the Government announced that Covid would begin to be treated “as other infectious diseases such as flu” and that England would transition from legally binding restrictions to public guidance.

[Note: we last updated this article in August 2022, and aim to keep up to date with the latest information as we receive it]

The UK COVID alert level moved from level 4 to level 3 in May 2022.

“The current BA.2 driven Omicron wave is subsiding. Direct COVID-19 healthcare pressures continue to decrease in all nations and ONS community positivity estimates continue to decrease… While it is reasonable to expect the number of cases to increase due to BA.4, BA.5 or BA2.12.1, it is unlikely in the immediate future to lead to significant direct COVID pressures. This will continue to be kept under review”. – Gov.uk: UK COVID Alert Level News

Face Coverings

Face coverings are no longer a legal requirement in England, including at work or in educational settings. However, official government advice suggests that face coverings are worn in crowded, enclosed spaces, where you may be among people you do not normally interact with.

Social Distancing

Social distancing regulations are no longer in place in England - you are no longer required to keep a 2m or 1m+ distance from others, including at work or in educational settings. However the government does publish advice on reducing the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, including allowing fresh air indoors or meeting outside.

Self-Isolation

The NHS website currently advises that you should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you:

  • have any symptoms of COVID-19, and have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities

  • have tested positive for COVID-19 – this means it's very likely you have the virus

The NHS also stresses that you should avoid close contact with those who are vulnerable and at higher risk of COVID-19.

If You’ve Tested Positive for COVID-19

If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, be aware that you can be infectious to others for anything up to 10 days after initial infection. 

The NHS website states that you should: 

  • try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days

  • avoid meeting people at higher risk from COVID-19 for 10 days, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine

If you need to leave your home in the 5 days following a positive test result, or while feeling unwell, there are steps you can take to avoid spreading COVID-19, including:

  • Wearing a face covering that fits snugly against your face and has more than 1 layer

  • Avoiding contact with people at higher risk from COVID-19, especially if their immune system means they’re at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, even if they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine

  • Avoiding indoor or crowded places (including public transport or large social gatherings) or where there is not much fresh air

  • Undertaking exercise outdoors (as opposed to a gym) or where you will not be in close contact with other people

  • avoid touching your face

  • Covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough

  • Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use hand sanitiser, after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose, and before you eat and handle food

Individuals Under Aged 18 

If an individual aged 18 or under tests positive for COVID-19, they should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 3 days (starting the day after they did the test).

Those under aged 18 tend to be infectious to others for less time than adults. If they’re well and do not have a temperature after 3 days, there’s a much lower risk that they’ll pass on COVID-19 to others.

Testing and Contact Tracing

As of 1st April 2022, free COVID-19 testing was withdrawn. However free tests continue to be provided in certain instances, including if:

  • you have a health condition which means you’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments

  • you’re going into hospital

  • you work in the NHS or in adult social care

Order NHS home test kits on GOV.UK

If you want to test for COVID-19, but you are not eligible for a free NHS test, you must pay for it yourself (available from some pharmacies and retailers, in person or online).

Travelling Abroad

Your destination country will have their own COVID-19 regulations. You should check the ‘Entry requirements’ section of foreign travel advice for any country you will visit or travel through.

You should also seek advice as to whether you’ll be required to:

  • show proof of a negative COVID-19 test

  • quarantine on arrival

  • complete a passenger locator form to enter the country

  • show proof of vaccination status (plus any rules about vaccine expiry or vaccine boosters)

  • wear a face covering on your journey or on arrival

If you are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, you should be aware that this will need to be undertaken via a private test provider (rather than the NHS).

Some countries require proof of vaccination in order to grant entry, this may be via the NHS COVID-19 Pass, or another app that the country dictates.

You can get an NHS COVID Pass:

  • digitally through the NHS App or online via NHS.UK

  • as a letter sent to you in the post if travelling abroad

Air Travel, Passports, Travel Rights, and Driving Abroad

Read further information on:

Visit the Gov.uk website for full guidance: Travel abroad from England during coronavirus (COVID-19)

Currently there are no restrictions on domestic UK travel (travelling within the UK - between Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland)

Travelling to England from abroad

For those travelling to England from abroad, there is no need to complete a UK passenger locator form before you travel, take any COVID-19 tests or quarantine upon arrival. These rules apply whether you are vaccinated or not.

Travel Provider and Transport Hub Rules

While there are no requirements for travel to England, please note that the government currently advises that “your travel provider, or the transport hub you travel through, may have COVID-19 rules in place. For example they may require or advise you to wear a face covering.

You should follow any COVID-19 rules and guidance from:

  • your travel provider – airline, ferry, coach or train company

  • the transport venue – airport, port, coach or railway station

Red List Countries for Travel to England

Red list countries were first announced in January 2021. The list included a number of destinations the UK Government defined as particularly high-risk for new and emerging strains of coronavirus. This list was in addition to the amber and green lists of countries.

There are no regions currently on the ‘red travel list’ of countries for travel to the UK (the 11 countries on the list were removed as of December 2021).

At the end of March 2022, UK quarantine hotels ceased.

Latest Symptoms to Look Out For

The Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) symptom list (updated: March 2022), lists the following common symptoms of COVID-19, ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. This list is not exhaustive. 

  • Fever or chills

  • Cough

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle or body aches

  • Headache

  • New loss of taste or smell

  • Sore throat

  • Congestion or runny nose

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Diarrhoea

As you’re likely well aware, while COVID-19 restrictions have eased, Covid still exists and its prevalence and the guidance to manage it can change rapidly. 

You can protect yourself and others by staying up to date on current advice with the following resources:

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