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National lockdown: Frequently Asked Questions

Last reviewed on 8 January

Here are some answers to questions you may have about the national lockdown announced by the government, which began on Tuesday 5 January.

We'll continue to update and add to these questions in response to your queries.

 The main restrictions in place from Tuesday 5 January are:

  • Stay home - only leave for specific purposes such as work, essential shopping, exercise or medical appointments.
  • Exercise is allowed outdoors once a day, in your local area. You can exercise with your household, support bubble or, when on your own, with one other person.
  • Colleges, primary and secondary schools will remain open for vulnerable children and the children of critical workers. All other children will learn remotely until February half term.
  • You must not mix with other households indoors or outdoors, unless they're in your support or childcare bubble.
  • Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues are closed.
  • Pubs and restaurants are closed except for takeaway food.

Read the full guidance on the government website.

You may leave the home to:

  • shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person.
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home.
  • exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person; this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
  • attend education or childcare - for those eligible.

The full list of businesses required to close can be found in the government's guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:

  • Non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods. These venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services.

  • Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.

  • Accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes.

  • Leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and gyms, swimming pools, sports courts, fitness and dance studios, riding arenas at riding centres, climbing walls, and golf courses.

  • Entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks.

  • Animal attractions (such as zoos, safari parks, aquariums, and wildlife reserves).

  • Indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open for outdoor exercise.

  • Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes.

  • Community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services.

The full list of businesses that can stay open can be found in the government's guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:

  • Essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
  • Market stalls selling essential retail
  • Businesses providing repair services, where they primarily offer repair services
  • Petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses
  • Banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
  • Funeral directors
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • Medical and dental services
  • Vets and retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
  • Animal rescue centres, boarding facilities and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)
  • Agricultural supplies shops
  • Mobility and disability support shops
  • Storage and distribution facilities
  • Car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
  • Outdoor playgrounds
  • Outdoor parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
  • Places of worship
  • Crematoriums and burial grounds

No, playgrounds will remain open – families using the facilities should follow the guidance, including keeping distance from others outside of your own household and making sure to wash hands after using the equipment.

The national lockdown in England is due to last until at least mid-February.

You cannot leave your home to meet socially with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with (if you are legally permitted to form one).

You may exercise in a public outdoor place:

  • by yourself
  • with the people you live with
  • with your support bubble (if you are legally permitted to form one)
  • in a childcare bubble where providing childcare
  • or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household

You should not meet other people you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, unless for a permitted reason.

Stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household.

People should only come inside your home for specific purposes:

  • Where everyone in the gathering lives together or is in the same support bubble
  • To attend a birth at the mother’s request
  • To visit a person who is dying – the visitor can be someone the dying person lives with, a close family member, friend or, if none of those is visiting, anyone else
  • To fulfil a legal obligation
  • For work purposes, or the provision of voluntary or charitable services
  • For the purposes of education or training
  • For the purposes of childcare provided by a registered provider
  • For the purposes of childcare for children under the age of 14 or vulnerable adults, when it is necessary for caring purposes
  • To provide emergency assistance
  • To enable one or more persons in the gathering to avoid injury or illness or to escape a risk of harm
  • To facilitate a house move
  • To provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
  • To continue existing arrangements for access to, and contact between, parents and children where the children do not live in the same household as their parents, or one of their parents

You must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (for example, for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:

  • work, where you cannot reasonably work from home
  • accessing education and for caring responsibilities
  • visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • buying goods or services that you need, but this should be within your local area wherever possible
  • outdoor exercise. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of an animal, or veterinary services

You should follow all relevant transport guidance when making a journey on public transport. Try to plan your journey to avoid peak times wherever possible.

You must wear a face covering on public transport, taxis and private hire vehicles and in substantially enclosed areas of transport hubs in England (as well as other indoor premises).

You will be breaking the law if you fail to do so and could be fined. Some people do not have to wear a face covering including for age, health or disability reasons.

You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or overnight stays unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed.

This includes staying in a second home or caravan, if that is not your primary residence. This also includes staying with anyone who you don’t live with unless they’re in your support bubble.

You are allowed to stay overnight away from your home if you:

  • are visiting your support bubble
  • are unable to return to your main residence
  • need accommodation while moving house
  • need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event
  • require accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services
  • are a child requiring accommodation for school or care
  • are homeless, seeking asylum, a vulnerable person seeking refuge, or if escaping harm (including domestic abuse)
  • are an elite athlete or their support staff or parent, if the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home for training or competition

If you are already on holiday, you should return to your home as soon as practical.

You can go to public outdoor locations with people from your household or support bubble.

Otherwise, you can meet with one other person in outdoor public spaces. There are exemptions – those with children under school age, as well as those who need round-the-clock care, such as those with severe disabilities, who are with their parents will not count towards the limit on two people meeting outside.

You may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home.

Where people cannot work from home – for example, infrastructure, construction or manufacturing – they should continue to travel to their workplace.

Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary.

The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if Covid-secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.

Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, or behind windows. Close-contact indoor visits are not allowed. No visits will be permitted in the event of an outbreak.

You should check the government guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19 to find out how visits should be conducted. Residents cannot meet people indoors on a visit out (for example, to visit their relatives in the family home).

Hospitality venues cannot operate as a bar or restaurant; however, they can provide food and non-alcoholic drinks for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect and drive-through. All food and drink (including alcohol) can continue to be provided by delivery.

Support groups such as therapy groups (not to be confused with a support bubble) can continue to meet but are limited to 15 people in attendance.

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are allowed with strict limits on attendance, and must only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.

They must only take place with up to 6 people. Anyone working is not included. These should only take place in exceptional circumstances, for example, an urgent marriage where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover, or is to undergo debilitating treatment or life-changing surgery.

Social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

Up to 20 people can attend a funeral within St Helens Crematorium chapel.

A maximum of 30 people are permitted to attend grave-side burial services, observing social distancing.

Interment of cremated remains or appointment to scatter cremated remains, and headstone ceremonies is now set at a maximum of 6 people.

Anyone working at these ceremonies or events are not included as part of the person limit.

A free webcasting service is available for ceremonies at St Helens Crematorium. Ask your funeral director for more details.


You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble. You should maintain strict social distancing at all times.

You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.

Yes, but only until 11pm. However, premises can open after this time for drive-through or delivery if you place an order by phone or online.

Indoor gyms and sports facilities will remain closed. Outdoor sports courts, outdoor gyms, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding arenas must also close. Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue.

Gyms and leisure centres are closed.

Go Active – the council’s health and fitness provider – will again be offering online activity programmes via Zoom and Facebook Live, featuring classes such as yoga, inferno and Pilates – just search 'GoActiveSTH' on Facebook.

Free workouts, suitable for all ages and abilities, are also available for residents to do from the comfort of their own home through St Helens Sports Development’s social media.

Go Active members who pay via a monthly direct debit can be assured that payments will be automatically frozen. Annual memberships will also be extended to reflect the time lost due to closure.

If you live in England, you cannot travel overseas or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons.

Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed - including holidays in the UK and abroad.

This includes staying in a second home or caravan, if you own one, or staying with anyone from outside your household/support bubble.

You can still move home. People outside your household or support bubble should not help with moving house unless absolutely necessary.

Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work and people looking to move home can continue to undertake viewings.

Follow the national guidance on moving home safely, which includes advice on social distancing and wearing a face covering.

If you are clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. There is additional government advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus.

Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work, school, college or university, and limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.

We are reminding residents that support is available through #StHelensTogether. 

There is an online service that clinically extremely vulnerable people can use to register for support. Support is available in accessing priority supermarket delivery slots, and other forms of supermarket deliveries, in collecting and delivering medication and for those who need support to manage their wellbeing and mental health.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable and you need to register your needs by telephone, or you have an urgent need, the St Helens Together helpline number 01744 676767 remains in operation 7 days a week from 8am – 10pm, or email contactcares@sthelens.gov.uk.