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.
The PM also announced a new national “catch-up programme” for school pupils in England, after it was confirmed most children will not return to classrooms until September.
Mr Johnson told the daily Downing Street briefing the new “support bubbles” apply 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, safari parks and drive-in cinemas.
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.
There were 8.2 million people living alone in the UK last year, according to the Office for National Statistics , with just under half aged 65-and-over. There were also 2.9 million single-parent households.
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 aged 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 BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg asked why children will soon be able to go and look at lions in a zoo but may not be able to return to the classroom until September.
Mr Johnson said the government had wanted to get the remainder of primary pupils back before the summer holidays.
But the circulation of coronavirus was “not quite down far enough to change the social distancing measures that we have in our schools”.
“What we’ll be doing is a huge amount of catch-up for pupils over the summer months,” he pledged, adding that Education Secretary Gavin Williamson “will be setting out a lot more next week about the catch-up programme”.
He defended the approach on schooling by comparing England’s policy to other European countries.
And he said a return for all pupils in September depended on progress continuing in controlling the virus. BBC News