Stay alert or stay home? How Covid-19 lockdown rules differ across UK | World news

The UK’s approach to Covid-19 now very much depends on what part of the union you live in after Downing Street’s decision to drop the “stay at home” slogan in favour of “stay alert” and its plans to begin lifting the lockdown this week.

The devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and at Stormont have all – in their own ways – opted to stick with “stay at home” while Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has described the move by Boris Johnson as “potentially catastrophic”.


A new five-tier alert system ranking the threat from coronavirus has been applied first to England, where the government is encouraging outdoor exercise, with respect to social distancing rules.

People who can work from home have been told to continue to do so for now but those who cannot have been told to travel – avoiding public transport if they can.

Alert system

A 60-page document, Our Plan to Rebuild, advises the public to wear face coverings in crowded places. From Wednesday, people can socialise in open spaces or play one-on-one sport such as tennis, as long as participants stay two metres apart. Sunbathing and outdoor picnics are allowed in local parks, but just with members of a household.

Children returning to schools in England as early as next month will be taught in “protective bubbles” of no more than 15.


Lockdown has been extended to 28 May by the Scottish government, which has been promoting a fresh message: “Please continue to #StayAtHome. By staying at home, you are saving lives.”

In a relaxation, the once-a-day outdoor exercise rule has been lifted but Scots have been warned to avoid meeting up in groups in parks and avoid sunbathing or picnics.

Scottish Government

Please continue to #StayAtHome.

By staying at home, you are saving lives.

You are respecting workers on the frontline. You are making a difference.

May 10, 2020

Differing from the guidance in England, the Scottish government says that businesses whose employees cannot work from home should only open if their role is essential for the wellbeing of society or as part of efforts to tackle Covid-19.

A blueprint, Covid-19: Framework for Decision Making, Further Information, holds out the possibility that people may be permitted meet up with a small defined group of people “in a group or ‘bubble’ that acts as a single, self-contained unit.”

Sturgeon does not envisage schools being able to open as early as 1 June.


The Welsh government has sought to continue the slogan ditched by Downing Street by promoting its own message urging the public to “please continue to stay at home”.

Garden centres are being allowed to reopen while people are able to exercise more than once a day although the Welsh government has avoided giving a green light to sunbathing and having picnics in parks.

Welsh Government

Everything you’re doing, from social distancing to careful hygiene measures, is helping to stop the spread of coronavirus.

We must continue to follow these guidelines to avoid a second wave.

We know it’s hard, but please continue to stay at home.


May 10, 2020

While Wales has not followed Downing Street on the economy, first steps have been taken in the form of a law compelling employers to ensure workers keep 2 metres apart.

There are no plans to fully reopen schools in Wales on 1 June. The first minister, Mark Drakeford, also says there is not enough evidence to encourage people to wear face coverings in public.

Northern Ireland

Stay Home remains an official slogan but a five-stage plan for easing lockdown has been published by the power-sharing executive at Stormont – albeit without a timetable of the sort in place in England.

The first stage of the blueprint, Coronavirus – Executive Approach to Decision-Making, allows for groups of four to six people who do not share a household to meet outdoors while maintaining social distancing.

Those unable to work from home will be encouraged to return to work on a phased basis if the reproductive rate at which the virus spreads continues to stay below one.

The document permits what it describes as “drive-through church services” along with the opening of places of worship for private prayer. Stormont’s education minister has said he doesn’t envisage a a phased return of schools until September.

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