People living alone in England will be able to stay at one other household as part of a further easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, from Saturday, single adults can spend the night at another house in a “support bubble”.
No 10 said the change aims to help combat loneliness and that people are being trusted to observe the rules.
The relaxation does not apply to those who are shielding, or other UK nations.
Mr Johnson told the daily Downing Street briefing the new rule applies to single adult households or single parents with children under 18.
“All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household, meaning they can spend time together inside each others’ homes and do not need to stay two metres apart,” he said.
He added: “I want to stress that support bubbles must be exclusive, meaning you can’t switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households.
“And if any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the normal advice on household isolation.”
In addition to the new “support bubbles”, the PM also confirmed non-essential shops can reopen on 15 June alongside outdoor zoos and safari parks.
How might “support bubbles” work?
The government gave examples for how the new “support bubbles” might work for single adults in England:
- A grandparent who lives alone would be able to form a bubble with one of their children, which means they could go to see them and interact with their grandchildren as normal
- A single parent could form a bubble with a parent or friend so they can interact as normal
- Two single people who both live on their own could form a bubble
- And a couple who do not live together could form a bubble, but only if they both live alone
No 10 also said that if a person lives alone but their partner has a flatmate, for example, then they can form a bubble but the flatmate cannot then form their own with another household.
If anyone within a bubble develops coronavirus symptoms, everyone within the bubble must self-isolate for 14 days.
Who can’t create a “support bubble”?
Mr Johnson said the new rule is “not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside because that remains against the law”.
One part of the bubble has to be a single household, or be a single parent to children under 18.
It does not apply to grandparents who live together, people living in houses of multiple occupancy, such as flat shares, or to couples who already live together.
Those who are shielding cannot be advised to form a bubble, the PM said.
He added: “However, I want to say I know how hard it is for those of you who are shielding and we will say more next week about the arrangements that will be in place for you beyond the end of June.”
The UK government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the R number – the number of people an infected person passes the virus on to – remains “just below one”.
“The epidemic is shrinking, but not fast,” he said. “Numbers are coming down but are not yet very low.”
Mr Johnson confirmed there have been a further 245 coronavirus deaths across all settings in the UK, taking the UK death toll to 41,128.