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The UK has hundreds of laws 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 national and local coronavirus restrictions regulations and directions.

What rules currently apply across the UK?

The Library maintains an interactive map displaying the which rules apply across the UK. Please note the map is correct as at the date of publication.

Further information relevant to each UK nation can be found on government websites:

Types of lockdown law

There have been many different coronavirus restrictions imposed by lockdown laws since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Different rules apply in each nation. Specific restrictions for certain local areas are now common.

Lockdown laws can be categorised into three types of restriction (gatherings restrictions, movement restrictions and business restrictions) within which an array of specific restrictions might be imposed:

Gatherings restrictions

  • An almost total ban on social gatherings has been imposed during full national lockdowns.
  • Household mixing rules have been imposed to prevent people who do not live together from meeting. Sometimes these rules specify places (usually indoor spaces) where people cannot meet.
  • Versions of a rule of six have prevented gatherings larger than six people. Differing exemptions to these rules allow larger gatherings for specific purposes.
  • Various other rules have been in place which allow only for small gatherings. Sometimes the size of the gathering permitted is defined by a specific number of households.
  • Specific rules have been made to further discourage illegal raves and large gatherings. Those enforcing lockdown laws can issue higher penalties to those who break these rules. During summer 2020 England’s national coronavirus gatherings restriction was a “large gathering rule”. The penalty for breaking this rule was the same as the “small gatherings rule” it replaced.

Movement restrictions

  • Early in the pandemic the lockdown was built on a law which prohibited people from leaving home without a “reasonable excuse”.
  • Laws have prevented people from travelling outside their local area. Sometimes these rules have also prevented people from outside an area entering it.
  • Laws have prohibited also prohibited travel between specified areas (often from/ to areas with different restrictions).

Business restrictions

  • Certain businesses have been required to close during the pandemic.
  • Hospitality businesses have also been required to operate restricted opening hours.
  • There have been some rules which restrict the sale of alcohol.

England’s tiered lockdown system

From 14 October 2020, a new tired system for coronavirus restrictions has applied in England. England has been divided medium (tier1), high (tier 2) or very high (tier 3) COVID alert level areas. Different restrictions apply in each tier (as summarised in the table below). The UK Government page Local COVID alert levels: what you need to know provides further information.  

The English tiered system for lockdown restrictions






Rule of six

Opening hours

Business closures

People are prohibited from socialising in groups of more than six (unless for an exempt purpose)

Hospitality businesses must close at 10pm.

Nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues must close.



Household mixing: indoors

Opening hours

Business closures

People are prohibited from meeting people they do not live indoors.

Hospitality businesses must close at 10pm

Nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues must close.


Very high

Household mixing: outdoors

Opening hours

Business closures

People are prohibited from mixing with other households both indoors and most outdoor settings.

Hospitality businesses must close at 10pm.

Pubs and bars must close (unless they serve substantial meals).

Nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues must close.

Local restrictions apply to other businesses (betting shops, soft play etc)

Documents to download

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