What are the Covid rules and guidelines in the four nations of the UK?

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA</span>
Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

Government’s plan B restrictions bring England closer into line with rules elsewhere in UK but differences remain

The government has rushed in plan B Covid restrictions in England after confirming that cases of the new Omicron variant are doubling every three days or faster. It brings England closer in line with elsewhere in the UK, but rules and guideline still vary between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


Boris Johnson announced four new measures as part of the move to plan B:

  • From Friday 10 December the legal requirement to wear face masks in shops and on public transport will be extended to most public indoor venues, including theatres and cinemas. But you will not have to wear masks in cafes, restaurants or pubs.

  • From Monday 13 December people have been urged to work from home. “Go to work if you must but work from home if you can,” Johnson said.

  • From Wednesday 15 December the NHS Covid pass or negative lateral flow test will be mandatory in nightclubs and other large venues. The venues are listed as: nightclubs; indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people; unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people; any venue with more than 10,000 people.

  • Daily tests for contacts of people suspected of having the Omicron variant will be introduced to replace the current isolation rules. But until the new tests are available, contacts of suspected Omicron cases will be required to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their age or vaccination status. Anyone who tests positive for Covid is still required to self-isolate.

These measures are in addition to the existing travel restrictions requiring anyone entering the UK to take a PCR or lateral flow test within 48 hours of departure. Travellers also have to take a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival in the UK and self-isolate until they have a negative result.


  • People are encouraged to keep a distance from people not in their group. And the 2-metre rule distancing rule remain in healthcare settings.

  • Masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops

  • Teachers and secondary school pupils have to wear masks indoors.

  • Pubs, restaurants and cafes must record customers’ contact details.

  • People are encouraged to work from home where possible.

  • Proof of vaccine status is required at nightclubs and other venues.


Northern Ireland

  • Indoor parties of more than 30 people are banned.

  • Face coverings are mandatory on public transport, and in shops, indoor seated venues and visitor attractions.

  • Pupils over 13 must must wear a face covering in school and on school transport. Teachers are encouraged to wear masks in schools.

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