2020-05-31

The new rules (England, June 2020) - Barnard Castle trip definitely legal now!

We heard a lot on the news of the rules being relaxed, but in practice the actual rules are what is in the law, and finally we can see that here from tomorrow (1st June).


Firstly, from me personally: The virus is still out there, you can spread it and have no symptoms, and people can die if you do, including people you care about! Please wash hands as much as you can! Please stay away from other people as much as you can! Please try and do work from home if you can!

So, what are the key changes?
  • Relaxed rules: The previous restrictions on "leaving home" and "being away from home" have gone, replaced with restrictions on "staying overnight somewhere away from home". There are a similar list of exceptions with a few minor changes. This basically means "going outside" is allowed, no need for reasonable excuse now.
  • Enhanced rules: The previous restrictions on "gatherings" has been extended to cover private as well as public, and has been better defined. It covers "indoors" of 2 or more people (yes, 2 people is a gathering), and "outside" of more than 6 people. The definition has been cleaned up. Previously private gatherings were not restricted as long as you were away from home with reasonable excuse (including, to everyone's amusement, to "exercise" with one person from another household).
  • Changes: The exception for work purposes is now just that - no longer says you should work from home if you can. We also see elite athletes allowed in various exceptions. Several additional types of venues are now allowed to open.

What this means...
  • We should have seen the end of random police stops, and road blocks, as being outside is allowed as normal now, unless a gathering of more than 6 (so the Westminster Bridge clap remains illegal).
  • You can gather with up to 6 people outside even if all from different households, and social distancing is still not a legal requirement (but please do it!). This means you can gather in someone's garden as that is outside.
  • You cannot "gather" in someone else's house, even as just 2 people not from same household, without one of the excuses/exceptions applying.
  • Employers may be asking more people to come back to offices and work, as the requirement to work from home where possible no longer exists. They still need to meet normal Health and Safety rules, but how that plays out is not as clear cut. It is quite possible that an employer could make an assessment that means temperature check, masks, and hand sanitisers is all they need, who knows.
  • There is no issue with travelling, even to Barnard Castle, as leaving home and being outside is simply allowed now. The only issue is if you travel far enough that you would have to stay overnight in a place other than your home - though simply driving over night is probably allowed.
  • This is ENGLAND ONLY which creates odd effects on the border.
It is also worth noting that whilst section 6 has a non-exhaustive list of "reasonable excuse", allowing some wiggle room (e.g. a drive to check your eye sight), section 7 does not. The allowed reasons for a gathering are a complete list, meaning no wiggle room.
Is it sensible? Maybe, from what I have been reading (on the Internet) the risk of transmission is way lower outside, the fresh air, wind, UV light, and more space, all helping reduce transmission risk. So the restrictions being on "inside" does make more sense, so maybe we have more sane rules at last. We'll have to see.

6 comments:

  1. Interestingly it looks like Caravaning and Wild Camping are banned, after being badly covered by the previous regulations (Commercial campsites and van parks were closed, along with anywhere you might be able to conventionally stay. But there was no explicit regulation on overnight stays).
    It's been a bit of a problem in Cornwall and Devon, with lots of news reporting that it's illegal, and then it turning out to be far more to do with bylaws on overnight camping in carparks than anything covid related).

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  2. Interesting question came up is that of a car. Indoors is defined by section 2 of the Health Act 2006(4), under the Smoke Free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations. Under that regulation "except for doors, windows and passageways, are wholly enclosed either permanently or temporarily."

    A car is mostly door.. so counts as outdoors, so you can have 6 people in a car.

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    Replies
    1. I wondered about that too.
      I am pretty sure that a car is not a "premises", so a car is not inside.
      I was pondering, maybe even a cruise ship is a vehicle not a premises?

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  3. I find it strange that under both these amended rules and the previous version, we are allowed to enter other people's houses for work or voluntary/charitable services, just not for social reasons.

    I think this means that we can visit our family members if they pay us to vacuum their floors (or we do it for free as "charitable services"), but if we go there for a cup of tea, it's illegal.

    Perhaps they are worried that social events will involve closer contact or more conversation which will spread aerosolised saliva, but it still seems pretty arbitrary, not to mention needlessly cruel. If it's safe to have a socially distanced builder in your house, I don't see why it should be unsafe to have a socially distanced friend or relative.

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    Replies
    1. It's also utterly impossible to enforce, so might as well not exist as a rule on a practical level.

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    2. Try to avoid thinking of things as a binary 'safe' or 'unsafe' - it's all a matter of risk, and trying to minimise that as far as possible.

      Having a tradesman in is a risk, but in most cases you will be leaving the tradesman to it and likely be in a different room etc most of the time, and so as long as you observe sensible social distancing and stay a decent distance apart when explaining what needs doing or what have you, the risk is minimal.

      Having a friend / relative in to have a cup of tea likely involves you being in the same room as them for a reasonable period, and the longer you are 'close' to someone (particularly indoors where you've not got the same airflow etc as outside), the higher the chance of passing it on.

      Even if you stay 2m apart in the house, remember that 2m is not a magic distance where it's 100% safe, it's just a compromise between the typical distance that viable virus particles can travel, and what's actually achievable in most situations. You also have the issue that in some way one party is going to be touching some sort of item the other person has (the mug, or the kettle if they make it themselves etc), so there is risk of passing it through contact even if not directly...

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