Explainer

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

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 last year.

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.

Here's how the restrictions compare across the four nations of the UK. What rules were introduced in Wales?

The Welsh Government announced it will ease restrictions from January 14 over a two period.

If the public health situation continues to improve, the First Minister hopes Wales will move back to Covid alert level zero.

Mark Drakeford will announce details of his plans to reduce restrictions during a press conference on Friday.

This comes after a strengthening of the rules in Wales from Boxing Day 2021.

The rule-of-six in regulated premises, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres, was reintroduced.

Additionally, face coverings had to be worn at all times except for when seated.

There was also a return to table service in premises such as bars and restaurants, with staff once again required to take customers' contact details for contact tracing purposes.

Nightclubs closed from Boxing Day, a day earlier than had been previously announced.

Large events, both indoors and outdoors, were banned. Indoor events were capped at 30 people while up to 50 people were allowed to attend outdoor events. However, there was an exception for team sports with up to 50 people able to gather in addition to those taking part.

The Welsh government announced a £60 million fund to support any businesses affected by the restrictions.

From December 27, two-metre social distancing was made mandatory in offices, and measures including one-way systems and physical barriers were introduced in businesses to protect customers and staff.

Regulations also changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.

First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured) announced new Covid guidance and restrictions on Thursday. Credit: PA

What are the rules in England? England has the most relaxed rules in the UK at the moment as the government has committed to not introducing any new restrictions before New Year.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson was briefed on the Covid data after Christmas, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced no further coronavirus restrictions will be introduced in England before the new year.

But he added that “people should remain cautious”.

Mr Javid's announcement means several New Year's Eve gatherings across the country can go ahead as planned, although he advised those marking the start of 2022 to consider testing themselves beforehand and to celebrate outside.

Current Covid measures in England include Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues. It is mandatory for nightclubs and large venues to check the Covid status of visitors over the age of 18. People have to show proof of being double-vaccinated or of a negative test.

Covid passes are needed to be shown to gain entry to:

  • Nightclubs

  • Indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move around, such as music venues

  • Outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, such as music festivals

  • Any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoors or outdoors, such as sports stadiums

New Covid rules in England mean fans now have to show their Covid Pass at sports stadiums. Credit: PA

Face coverings are also compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport, and people have been told to work from home if they can.

Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go in to work – but is encouraged to consider taking lateral flow tests regularly.

What are the rules in Scotland? The 500-person cap on outdoor events in Scotland introduced in the wake of the Omicron Covid variant will be lifted from Monday January 17.

It means that spectators can attend outdoor sporting events once again.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the green light for football clubs to open their grounds to full capacity when the cinch Premiership campaign resumes next week following a three-week winter break.

In addition, Murrayfield will be able to hold a full house when the Scotland rugby team host England and France in the Six Nations.


Coronavirus: What you need to know


But limits on indoor events, table service in hospitality and social distancing in public places will remain in place until at least January 24.

People will also still be asked to wear face coverings in indoor public places, to work from home when possible, and to only meet indoors in groups of a maximum of three households.

The rules surrounding Covid passports will be tightened. Event organisers will now be asked to review 50 per cent or 1,000 vaccine passports of attendees, whichever figure is higher.

The definition of fully vaccinated as pertains to the certification scheme will also be updated from Monday to mean those who are eligible for a third dose and have received it.

People in Scotland will need to have a booster if their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine was more than four months ago.

What are the rules in Northern Ireland? Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said nightclubs had to close from 6am on December 26.

Dancing is also prohibited in hospitality venues, but this does not apply to weddings.

For the rest of the hospitality sector, people must remain seated for table service, while table numbers are limited to six.

Ministers also agreed that sporting events can continue with no limits on capacity, while the work-from-home message is being bolstered and legislation was introduced to require social distancing in offices and similar workplaces.

Weddings are exempted from the latest measures.

From December 27, the guidance is for mixing in a domestic setting to be limited to three households.