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Lockdown restrictions are easing, with changes aimed at reducing loneliness among people who live alone.

Each of the four UK nations has different rules. So what can you do now?

What is a support bubble?

In England and Northern Ireland, single adults living alone – or single parents with children under 18 – can form an “exclusive” support bubble with one other household.

The second household can be of any size – but nobody who is shielding should join a bubble.

People in each bubble can visit each other’s homes and go inside.

They will not have to stay 2m (6ft) apart and can stay overnight.

It means, for example, that a single grandparent could pair up with one of their children’s households. An adult living alone could mix with their parents, or two single friends living apart could get together.

If anyone in the bubble develops coronavirus symptoms, everyone in both households must self-isolate.

If you don’t live on your own, or live with a child or children aged over 18, then the rules haven’t changed for you.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that anyone who lives on their own – or only with children under 18 – will be able to form an “extended household group” with one other household from 19 June.

How many people can I meet outdoors?

In England, groups of up to six people from different households can gather outside, in parks or private gardens.

In Scotland, two separate households – up to a recommended maximum of eight people – can meet outdoors, ideally travelling no more than five miles. From 29 June people will be able to meet outdoors with two other households at the same time rather than just one, but again only up to a maximum of 8 people.

In Wales, any number of people from two different households can meet each other outside. As in Scotland, families should aim to travel no more than five miles. Beauty spots remain closed.

In Northern Ireland, groups of up to six people who do not live together can meet outdoors.

In all countries, children are included in the headcount and social distancing guidelines – remaining 2m (6ft) apart from each other – apply.

What sports can I play now?

People in England can exercise outside with up to five others from different households. In Scotland, people from two households, in groups of up to eight people, can exercise outside.

So having a kickabout with a football in the park is allowed in both countries, as long as people stay 2m (6ft) apart.

However, full games with someone from outside your household are still not allowed because of the physical contact involved.

Small groups of sports teams can also resume fitness sessions.

Individual sports permitted in England, with social distancing, include athletics, golf, horse riding and tennis, where doubles is also allowed with someone from outside your household.

Tennis, can also be played in Scotland and Northern Ireland – but not yet in Wales. However, golf can be enjoyed everywhere.

From 29 June, outdoor playgrounds and sports courts will open in Scotland.

Who has to still stay at home?

People with certain underlying health conditions, or who are pregnant or aged over 70, are deemed to be clinically vulnerable. If you are in this category, you are advised to stay at home as much as possible.

Another group, of about 2.5 million people, is categorised as clinically extremely vulnerable.

This group had been strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid face-to-face contact – so called “shielding”.

Now those people in England and Wales are being told they can spend some time outdoors again – either with members of their household, or by meeting someone else at a social distance.

People shielding in Scotland have also been told they can now spend time outdoors.

Why is social distancing necessary?

Social distancing is important because coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs small droplets – packed with the virus – into the air.

These can be breathed in, or can cause an infection if you touch a surface they have landed on, and then touch your face with unwashed hands.

Virus transmission is less likely when ”fresh” air is involved – usually when people are outside.

What if I have symptoms?

If you show symptoms of coronavirus – such as a dry cough, high temperature or loss of taste – you must take extra precautions.

You should self-isolate – stay at home and not leave it for any reason. Ask others to drop off food and medicines.

If England’s NHS Test and Trace team contact you because you’ve been close to someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you must self-isolate for up to 14 days – even if you feel fine.

The people you live with don’t have to self-isolate, but must take extra care regarding social distancing and hand washing.

There are similar tracing systems in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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CoronaVirus translator

What do all these terms mean?

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  • Antibodies test

    A medical test that can show if a person has had the coronavirus and now has some immunity. The test detects antibodies in the blood, which are produced by the body to fight off the disease.

  • Asymptomatic

    Someone who has a disease but does not have any of the symptoms it causes. Some studies suggest some people with coronavirus carry the disease but don’t show the common symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature.

  • Containment phase

    The first part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which involved trying to identify infected people early and trace anyone who had been in close contact with them.

  • Coronavirus

    One of a group of viruses that can cause severe or mild illness in humans and animals. The coronavirus currently sweeping the world causes the disease Covid-19. The common cold and influenza (flu) are other types of coronaviruses.

  • Covid-19

    The disease caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. It primarily affects the lungs.

  • Delay phase

    The second part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, in which measures such as social distancing are used to delay its spread.

  • Fixed penalty notice

    A fine designed to deal with an offence on the spot, instead of in court. These are often for driving offences, but now also cover anti-social behaviour and breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

  • Flatten the curve

    Health experts use a line on a chart to show numbers of new coronavirus cases. If a lot of people get the virus in a short period of time, the line might rise sharply and look a bit like a mountain. However, taking measures to reduce infections can spread cases out over a longer period and means the “curve” is flatter. This makes it easier for health systems to cope.

  • Flu

    Short for influenza, a virus that routinely causes disease in humans and animals, in seasonal epidemics.

  • Furlough

    Supports firms hit by coronavirus by temporarily helping pay the wages of some staff. It allows employees to remain on the payroll, even though they aren’t working.

  • Herd immunity

    How the spread of a disease slows after a sufficiently large proportion of a population has been exposed to it.

  • Immune

    A person whose body can withstand or fend off a disease is said to be immune to it. Once a person has recovered from the disease caused by the coronavirus, Covid-19, for example, it is thought they cannot catch it again for a certain period of time.

  • Incubation period

    The period of time between catching a disease and starting to display symptoms.

  • Intensive care

    Hospital wards which treat patients who are very ill. They are run by specially-trained healthcare staff and contain specialist equipment.

  • Lockdown

    Restrictions on movement or daily life, where public buildings are closed and people told to stay at home. Lockdowns have been imposed in several countries as part of drastic efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Mitigation phase

    The third part of the UK’s strategy to deal with the coronavirus, which will involve attempts to lessen the impact of a high number of cases on public services. This could mean the NHS halting all non-critical care and police responding to major crimes and emergencies only.

  • NHS 111

    The NHS’s 24-hour phone and online service, which offers medical advice to anyone who needs it. People in England and Wales are advised to ring the service if they are worried about their symptoms. In Scotland, they should check NHS inform, then ring their GP in office hours or 111 out of hours. In Northern Ireland, they should call their GP.

  • Outbreak

    Multiple cases of a disease occurring rapidly, in a cluster or different locations.

  • Pandemic

    An epidemic of serious disease spreading rapidly in many countries simultaneously.

  • Phase 2

    This is when the UK will start to lift some of its lockdown rules while still trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

  • PPE

    PPE, or personal protective equipment, is clothing and kit such as masks, aprons, gloves and goggles used by medical staff, care workers and others to protect themselves against infection from coronavirus patients and other people who might be carrying the disease.

  • Quarantine

    The isolation of people exposed to a contagious disease to prevent its spread.

  • R0

    R0, pronounced “R-naught”, is the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person. If the R0 of coronavirus in a particular population is 2, then on average each case will create two more new cases. The value therefore gives an indication of how much the infection could spread.

  • Recession

    This happens when there is a significant drop in income, jobs and sales in a country for two consecutive three-month periods.

  • Sars

    Severe acute respiratory syndrome, a type of coronavirus that emerged in Asia in 2003.

  • Self-isolation

    Staying inside and avoiding all contact with other people, with the aim of preventing the spread of a disease.

  • Social distancing

    Keeping away from other people, with the aim of slowing down transmission of a disease. The government advises not seeing friends or relatives other than those you live with, working from home where possible and avoiding public transport.

  • State of emergency

    Measures taken by a government to restrict daily life while it deals with a crisis. This can involve closing schools and workplaces, restricting the movement of people and even deploying the armed forces to support the regular emergency services.

  • Statutory instrument

    These can be used by government ministers to implement new laws or regulations, or change existing laws. They are an easier alternative to passing a full Act of Parliament.

  • Symptoms

    Any sign of disease, triggered by the body’s immune system as it attempts to fight off the infection. The main symptoms of the coronavirus are a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.

  • Vaccine

    A treatment that causes the body to produce antibodies, which fight off a disease, and gives immunity against further infection.

  • Ventilator

    A machine that takes over breathing for the body when disease has caused the lungs to fail.

  • Virus

    A tiny agent that copies itself inside the living cells of any organism. Viruses can cause these cells to die and interrupt the body’s normal chemical processes, causing disease.

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