How do Covid rules compare across the UK?

The home nations have issued different Covid guidance, as the Omicron variant surges through the UK. Credit: PA

Further changes to Covid rules were made in February 2022, for the latest information read our updated article here.

The four nations of the UK reacted in different ways when the Omicron variant led to a large rise in Covid cases at the end of 2021.

The government ruled out announcing new restrictions for England before New Year, but England, Scotland and Northern Ireland all reintroduced some limits on society amid coronavirus fears.

In the first month of 2022, these rules have begun to ease once more. Here's how the restrictions compare across the four nations of the UK. What are the rules in Wales?

Wales began a phased lifting of its Omicron restrictions from January 21, scrapping limits on the numbers of people able to attend outdoor events.

On January 28, attendance limits for indoor events were lifted, including for nightclubs, cinemas, and theatres.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford Credit: PA

Covid passes, however, will still be required in all cinemas, theatres and concert halls, and will be needed for entry to larger outdoor events attended by more than 4,000 people, if unseated, or 10,000 people when seated.The rule of six and working from home have also been lifted, but employers must show that they are taking reasonable measures to limit the spread of coronavirus. Some baseline measures remain in place, including wearing face coverings on public transport, and in public indoor settings, as well as self-isolating after travelling from abroad.

What are the rules in England? England's Covid-19 Plan B restrictions have been scrapped as of Thursday 27 January. It means the end of mandatory mask-wearing in any settings and having to show a Covid pass to enter large indoor venues.

Mask-wearing in classrooms was also scrapped from January 20.

As of Monday January 31, care home residents in England can receive unlimited visitors in an easing of the rules.

Although the PM announced face coverings will no longer be mandatory in any setting, he said people are "encouraged" to continue wearing them in enclosed spaces or when coming into contact with people you do not usually meet.

What are the rules in Scotland? All of Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions introduced on Boxing Day were brought to an end on January 24 as the country "turns the corner on the Omicron wave". First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that:

  • Nightclubs can open again

  • Non-professional indoor sports can resume

  • Indoor public events can eschew limits on attendance

  • The requirement for table service in hospitality will be scrapped

  • More than three different households can meet indoors

However, some baseline coronavirus measures which were in place before the Omicron wave will remain.

This includes wearing face coverings in public indoor settings and on public transport.

Scotland's 'work from home' guidance, introduced in early December as Omicron cases began to rise, has been partially eased as of Monday January 31 with the government encouraging a "phased return" to the office.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

What are the rules in Northern Ireland?

A range of Covid measures were relaxed from January 21:

  • the requirement to remain seated in hospitality venues

  • the limit of six per table in restaurants, pubs and bars

  • the cap on the number of households meeting in homes

  • the requirement to provide proof of exemption from wearing face masks

  • and guidance on working from home was reverted to working from home where you can.

Nightclubs reopened on Wednesday, January 26, having been closed since late December. Dancing and indoor standing events resumed from that date, with the requirement for workplace offices to take reasonable measures for two-metre social distancing to also be removed.

The legal requirement for Covid certification, however, continues in nightclubs and indoor unseated or partially seated events with 500 or more. For other settings, the certification is no longer be required - but its use encouraged. Remaining Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland, such as the legal requirement to wear face coverings, will be reviewed by the Stormont Executive on February 10.

They also include the legal requirement for recording visitor information in prescribed settings, the remaining legal requirements in relation to Covid certification, and guidance on the use of lateral flow testing in particular before meeting others.