Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: staying safe and protecting others

Rules on staying safe and protecting others to help suppress coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Phase 3: staying safe and protecting others
Seeing friends and family

Seeing friends and family

Meeting others: indoors and outdoors

When meeting people outside your household for a social gathering, you may meet people socially from no more than 1 other household at a time indoors or outdoors. You should stay at least 2 metres apart from people from other households at all times.

Other types of gathering e.g. for organised activity, work, or childcare are subject to different rules. Read more information about gatherings.

This limit applies if, for example, meeting others at home, in an outdoor space including a garden or park, or in a pub, restaurant or café. See the guidance on meeting others in a pub, restaurant, café or other indoor hospitality venue.

No more than 6 people in total (from a maximum of 2 households) may meet at any time in such settings, except as explained below.

As long as physical distancing between members of different households is maintained, this can include overnight stays.

Children under 12 from the 2 households do not need to maintain physical distance and do not count towards the total number of people at the gathering. Adults accompanying these under 12s should maintain physical distancing from other adults not in their own household or an extended household.

The partners in a non-cohabiting couple, and any children who live with them, do not need to maintain physical distancing from each other.

You should not meet socially with people from more than 4 other households in total (whether indoors and/or outdoors) each day. 

Meeting no more than 4 other households each day will limit the risk that someone who had the virus without realising it could infect multiple households on the same day.

You should:

  • stay at least 2 metres away from anyone who is not part of your household
  • maintain hand and cough hygiene
  • avoid touching hard surfaces with your hands
  • follow advice on the NHS Inform website about physical distancing and hygiene
  • wash your hands when you arrive, when you leave, when you get home and especially before eating or after touching surfaces
  • not share food or utensils – if eating, each household should bring, prepare and eat their own food separately
  • if possible, keep rooms well ventilated – consider opening windows or a door

Those at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including those who had been shielding, people over 70, people who are pregnant and people with an underlying medical condition) should strictly follow the physical distancing guidance.

People in the groups at highest risk from the virus were advised in March to “shield” themselves by minimising all interaction between them and others. In the light of the reduced prevalence of the virus that recommendation has been paused from 1 August. We will continue to monitor the evidence, and if the risks increase – whether nationally or locally – we will take the steps necessary in order to keep people as safe as possible. In particular we will contact people who were formerly shielding  and we will give them clear advice on what to do if we are asking them to do anything different. We will continue to update our shielding guidance.

Children and young people (aged 0 to 17):

The same rules apply to children as adults, except:

  • children aged 0 to 11 from the 2 households meeting do not count in the maximum number of people meeting. They do not need to maintain physical distancing. This means that an adult from another household looking after young children does not need to physically distance from the child. However, care should be taken to follow hygiene measures and keep proximity to a minimum where possible. There is no limit to the number of households that children aged 0 to 11 can meet in one day but no more than 1 other household at a time.
  • young people aged 12 to 17 can meet 1 other household at a time (in groups of up to 6 people in total), the same as adults. But there is no limit to the number of households that they can meet in one day, provided it is no more than 1 other household at a time. This means that young people can meet their friends separately from meetings that other members of their household may be having

Extended households

People who live in different places can form an “extended household” in some circumstances.

People who live alone

If you are an adult and you live alone, or if all the others in your household are under 18, you, any children who live with you, and the members of one other household (of any size) can agree to form an 'extended household'. 

Everyone in the extended household will be able to act, and will be treated, as if they live in one household - meaning they can spend time together inside each other’s homes and do not need to stay at least 2 metres apart.

This will allow people who live alone (or those living only with children under the age of 18) to be considered part of another household in order to reduce loneliness, isolation and to provide mutual social support.

However, we know that if one member of a household gets coronavirus, there is a strong likelihood that other members of that household will also catch it. For this reason, there are some important rules which extended households should follow to remain as safe as possible:

  • one of the households must be a person who lives alone (or who lives only with children under 18 years old)
  • a household should not form an extended household with more than one other household
  • households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form an extended household with a new household
  • this means that all the adults living in both households should agree to form the extended household. We would also encourage parents or guardians to discuss this with any children in their household. This is an important decision that should be properly discussed and agreed beforehand

If someone in the extended household develops COVID-19 symptoms, all members of the extended household must isolate immediately if they met the symptomatic person 2 days before and up to 10 days after their symptoms started.

If the symptomatic person tests positive, all members of their direct household must isolate for 14 days from the start of symptoms. And other members of the extended household must isolate for 14 days from when the most recent contact took place. Isolate means staying in your own home for the full 14 days.

Read more: Test and Protect: self isolation guidance

Those who have been advised to shield and those at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus (including people over 70, people who are pregnant and people with an underlying medical condition) may  take part in an extended household arrangement, but should strictly follow the handwashing, surface cleaning and respiratory hygiene guidance on the NHS Inform website.

Once two households have agreed to form an extended household they may meet outdoors or indoors, visit and stay at each other’s homes, and do everything that people in other households can do, such as watch TV, share a meal and look after each other’s children.

Physical distancing between members of an extended household is not required, but you should continue to follow advice on the NHS Inform website about handwashing, surface cleaning and respiratory hygiene. For example you should wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Members of an extended household are considered to be one household for the  legal requirements on meeting other households and going outside, and for the guidance in this document about seeing friends and family and about exercise and leisure activity.

Couples who do not live together

If two adults are in a relationship and they do not live together they, and any children they each live with, can agree to form an 'extended household'. 

Everyone in the extended household will be able to act, and will be treated, as if they live in one household - meaning they can spend time together inside each other’s homes and not need to stay at least 2 metres apart.

However, we know that if one member of a household gets coronavirus, there is a strong likelihood that other members of that household will also catch it. For this reason, there are some important rules that extended households should follow to remain as safe as possible:

  • a household should not form an extended household with more than one other household
  • households can end the arrangement at any time, but should not then form an extended household with a new household

We would also encourage parents or guardians to discuss extended household arrangements with any children in their household. This is an important decision that should be properly discussed and agreed beforehand

If someone in the extended household develops COVID-19 symptoms, all members of the extended household must isolate immediately if they met the symptomatic person 2 days before and up to 10 days after their symptoms started.

If the symptomatic person tests positive, all members of their direct household must isolate for 14 days from the start of symptoms. And other members of the extended household must isolate for 14 days from when the most recent contact took place. Isolate means staying in your own home for the full 14 days.

Members of an extended household are considered to be one household for the  legal requirements on meeting other households and going outside, and for the guidance in this document about seeing friends and family and about exercise and leisure activity.

Shielding has been paused from 1 Aug. We will continue to monitor the evidence for this, and if things take a significant turn for the worse – whether nationally or locally – we will take the steps we need to in order to keep you as safe as possible. In particular we will contact you and we will give you clear advice on what to do if we are asking you to do anything different. We will continue to update our shielding guidance.

Read more: Test and Protect: self isolation guidance

Shared parenting

Where parents do not live in the same household, children can be moved between their parents’ homes. 

 Read more: 


First published: 14 Sep 2020 Last updated: 14 Sep 2020 -