Prime Minister Boris Johnson took to the podium once again yesterday evening (10 June) for the latest of Downing Street’s coronavirus press conferences.
As part of the briefing, the PM announced a major new change to lockdown rules, designed to “support the loneliest and most isolated.”
So-called ‘support bubbles’ will allow adults who live alone or with dependent children only to mingle with another, similar household from Saturday 13 June, without the need to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
The new rules only apply in England – the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own rules.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What is a ‘support bubble’?
Under the new guidelines, single adult households – adults who live alone or with dependent children under the age of 18 only – can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household.
This means they will effectively be treated as a single household for the purpose of the lockdown rules.
The Government describe the changes as “a targeted intervention”, designed to “provide extra support to some of those most impacted by the most difficult effects of the current social restrictions, while ensuring we continue to keep the rate of transmission down.”
There is no limit on the distance between households in a bubble, although officials are suggesting people should try to "stay local" where possible. Bubbles do not have to be formally registered.
You must not form a support bubble with another household if neither you nor they are in a single adult household.
Who will benefit from the changes?
Elderly people living alone could form a bubble with the household of an adult son or daughter enabling them to visit and even hug their grandchildren for the first time since lockdown.
Single parents could pair up with their own parents allowing them to share childcare duties, and couples who do not live together will be able to visit and to stay with each other.
What if someone in the bubble gets ill?
If someone in a bubble develops coronavirus symptoms, all members of both households in the bubble must self-isolate for 14 days.
Who can't form support bubbles?
At the moment, officials say it is too soon for people who are shielding due to their age or health to be able to join support bubbles.
In households where both grandparents are still living, only if their son or daughter is the only adult in the other household in the bubble can they now visit their children and grandchildren.
Downing Street has acknowledged not everyone will benefit from the change although officials have hinted a further loosening of the rules if the coronavirus outbreak continues to decline.
When do the new rules come into force?
Despite the announcement of the new measures last night, they don’t come into force until Saturday 13 June.
Until then, lockdown rules prevent people from socialising (or gathering) with others from outside of their household in a private space.
Do I have to practise social distancing?
All those in a support bubble will be able to spend time together inside each others’ homes, including overnight, without needing to stay two-metres apart.
However, the Government still requests that those in social bubbles continue to ‘stay alert’ when meeting those from your support bubble, limiting contact with others in the bubble where you can.
Some things you still can’t do from 13 June:
- meet other people indoors – including in their home or your home – outside of your support bubble
- meet outdoors in a group of more than six with people who are not in your household or support bubble
- stay overnight in another household that is not in your support bubble
What else did the Prime Minister announce?
During the same press briefing, Boris Johnson announced a few more changes to the lockdown measures in England.
Zoos, safari parks and other attractions will be allowed to open from next week. All shops will also be permitted to open from Monday.
The Government are also considering reducing the two-metre social-distancing restriction to allow schools in England to reopen fully by September.
For more information on support bubbles, head to the Government's website