Will support bubbles continue during new lockdown rules?

Coronavirus regulations are to be slowly eased over the next four months in England. On 22 February, Boris Johnson announced a roadmap out of lockdown, with restrictions ending by 21 June at the earliest, provided various criteria are met and that Covid doesn’t put too much pressure on the NHS.

However, those in a support bubble should err on the side of caution and continue to stay in their bubbles until most of the milestone dates have been hit in the four-point plan.

The dates outlined by the government are not set in stone, and, as we saw with Christmas preparations, things can change quickly during a pandemic.

If all goes to plan, certain businesses will be allowed to reopen over five-week intervals. It will be a slow process and bubbles will remain important for those who are isolated during the initial milestones of the plan.

What counts as a support bubble?

Stay-at-home restrictions are currently in place. People may form a support bubble during coronavirus restrictions with another household of any size if: 

• You live by yourself – even if carers visit you to provide support.

• You are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability.

• Your household includes a child who is under the age of one, or was that age on 2 December 2020.

• Your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5, or was under that age on 2 December 2020.

• You are aged 16 or 17 living with others of the same age and without any adults.

• You are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18 or were under that age on 12 June 2020.

You should not form a support bubble with a household that is part of another support bubble.

Those who share custody of a child with someone they don’t live with do not need to form a support bubble, they and their children can move freely between both parents’ households.

When are the milestones out of lockdown?

The first milestone is 8 March, when schools and colleges will reopen for students. However, stay-at-home restrictions will continue, although people may leave home for recreation and outside exercise and “with their own household, support or childcare bubble, or with one person from another household”, plus can meet outside socially, for meetings including “coffee on a bench”.

From 29 March, at the earliest, things may start to change for those in a support bubble. Those living alone will find some relief with the news that coronavirus restrictions will allow six people to meet up from two households, but no indoor mixing is allowed.

From 12 April at the earliest, there may be further relief for those in support bubbles as all shops, pub gardens and outdoor dining at restaurants can commence. Libraries and community centres will also reopen, as will zoos and theme parks.

Hopefully, by 12 May, support bubbles will be far less important as the government’s road map includes meeting up to 30 people outdoors, plus allows for two households of up to six people to meet indoors. Indoor fitness classes will also resume, data permitting.

All restrictions will cease to be in place by 21 June, as per the government’s plan, and if coronavirus data allows. This means you are free to mingle in clubs, at weddings and other social events, with any amount of people.

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