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Hundreds of UK laws have been made in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these laws could be described as “lockdown laws”. In this briefing the term “lockdown law” refers to coronavirus restrictions regulations relating to movement, gatherings and high-street business operations.

Coronavirus restrictions regulations

Coronavirus restriction regulations are a form of secondary legislation made using powers in public health legislation. They place restrictions and requirements on individuals designed to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

There are four main types of coronavirus restriction regulations:

  • Lockdown laws: sets various rules connected to movement, gatherings and the operation of high-street businesses.
  • Face coverings: require people to wear face coverings in certain public spaces.
  • Self-isolation: require those who have tested positive for the coronavirus and their close contacts to self-isolate.
  • International quarantine: require those arriving in the UK from specified countries to quarantine.

A collection of Library briefings discussing coronavirus restrictions can be found on our website. A collection of coronavirus legislation has been compiled on legislation.gov.uk.

What lockdown rules currently apply across the UK?

England

The UK Government revoked England’s lockdown laws on 19 July 2021. This means there are no longer any lockdown laws in force in England, although other types of coronavirus restrictions are still in force (notably self-isolation and international quarantine restrictions).

The Library has published a history of English lockdown laws which explains the laws that were in force between March 2020 and July 2021.

Scotland

Scotland moved to level 0 lockdown restrictions on 19 July 2021. This means that indoor and outdoor gatherings are still subject to restrictions in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s timetable for coronavirus restrictions says “all major COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted” on 9 August (subject to review).

Wales

Wales moved to level one coronavirus restriction on 17 July.  This means that there are no legal limits on people meeting outdoors, up to six people can meet indoors, and most businesses can open.  Subject to review, the Welsh Government have planned to move to level 0 where most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted on 7 August.

Northern Ireland

A number of restrictions on gatherings and businesses remain in place Northern Ireland.  Some restrictions were lifted on 26 July 2021.

Government guidance

There has been a huge range of government guidance relating to coronavirus. Most coronavirus guidance is a mixture of information on the law and public health advice.

Government guidance should indicate something is public health advice instead of law by the way it is written but throughout the pandemic, concerns have been expressed that discerning which instructions are required under law and which are public health advice can be difficult.

As the legal coronavirus restrictions have begun to be lifted, the guidance has become more advisory. In England, where most legal restrictions have been lifted, the guidance places a greater emphasis on “personal responsibility.”


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