The number of people allowed to meet socially across England has been reduced to six people – with exemptions for those in support bubbles.
The new measure, which began on Monday, September 14, has been introduced as coronavirus cases across the UK continue to rise.
But what exactly are support bubbles and how do they work?
What is the new guidance?
Last week, Boris Johnson announced new guidance to reduce the number of people allowed to meet up socially in England from 30 to just six.
The rules apply both indoors and outdoors, however if your household is larger than six you will be able to gather in one larger group. This also applies to support bubbles.
Johnson said: “In England, from Monday [September 14], we are introducing the rule of six. You must not meet socially in groups of more than six – and if you do, you will be breaking the law.
“This will apply in any setting, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the pub.”
Johnson explained that the new rules will be enforced by the police, and that anyone caught breaking the rules could face a fine, or even be arrested.
However, households larger than six people and support bubbles of more than six are exempt from the new rules and will be able to continue to socialise.
What are support bubbles?
A support bubble is when two households join together to become one household in the eyes of the government.
This means that you can have close contact with the other household as if they were members of your own, meaning there is no need to be socially distanced from one another.
Once you’ve created a support bubble with another household, you should not change households.
You can only have one support bubble as well, meaning that you cannot create multiple bubbles with multiple households.
Who can make a support bubble?
When the government first announced the support bubble rule, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that they were being introduced to “support those who are particularly lonely as a result of lockdown measures”.
You can form a support bubble if:
- You live by yourself (even if carers visit to provide support)
- You are a single parent living with children who were under 18 on 12 June 2020
You can form a support bubble with another household of any size that is not already part of a support bubble with a different household.
If you live with other adults, including if you are a carer or carers live with you, you can form a support bubble with a single-adult household who are not already part of a support bubble group.
Can I change my support bubble household?
The government states: “When you form a support bubble, this should be a permanent arrangement.”
However, unforeseen circumstances can occur and you may have to change your support bubble network.
If this is the case, you can change your support bubble. For 14 days before forming a new bubble, you should avoid close contact with your existing support bubble or any other individuals.
This is to reduce the risks of transmitting the virus and spreading Covid-19.
Can I make a support bubble with another household that’s far away?
The official guidance from the government states that support bubbles should ideally be formed with households that live locally to one another.
Reducing the need to travel will help prevent the virus from spreading from an area where there might be a higher rate of infection.
What if someone in the support bubble develops symptoms?
If someone within your support bubble group develops symptoms of Covid-19, or tests positive for the virus, then you and the rest of the support bubble will have to follow stay at home guidance as issued by the government.
Symptoms of Covid-19 include:
- A new, continuous cough
- A high temperature
- A loss, or change in, your normal sense of taste and smell
The stay at home guidance states that anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 need to immediately self isolate for at least 10 days, and arrange to have a test to see if they have the virus.
The guidance says that you and everyone in your household needs to remain at home – no going to work, school, public areas or using public transport or taxis.
No-one should even go out to buy food or other essentials, and exercise should be taken within your home.
The person experiencing symptoms should avoid contact with other members of the household as much as possible.
If a contact tracer from the NHS Test and Trace service contacts someone within the support bubble, everyone will need to follow the guidance issued.