January 2021: Latest lockdown rules explained


As of midnight, Bedford and the rest of England have been placed under a national lockdown to help curb the rise of Covid-19 (coronavirus).

At a press briefing on Monday (4 January), Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the toughest restrictions in England since March 2020.

From today, the guidance is as follows:

Stay at home

You must stay at home. You may only leave for the following specific reasons:

  • To go to work or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home – this includes key workers and those in the construction industry
  • To shop for food and/or medicine for yourself or a vulnerable person
  • To provide care or help to a vulnerable person
  • To exercise – see below for specific rules
  • To seek medical care or an appointment or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm, including domestic abuse
  • To meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • To attend education or childcare if you are eligible (children of key workers or vulnerable children)
  • Outdoor exercise with one person from another household. This should be limited to once a day and you should stay in your local area. You can meet a personal trainer outside.
  • Socialising outside is allowed only with people from your household or bubble. Stay 2 metres from anyone not in your household.
  • Sporting venues including pools, gyms, tennis courts and golf courses will close, but playgrounds will remain open.

Exercise and shopping should be done locally.

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Education, exams and childcare

With immediate effect, schools, colleges and universities will close. Schools will be open to vulnerable children and the children of key workers only.

Nurseries will be able to stay open.

Despite earlier hopes, A-levels and GCSEs will not be going ahead.

College and university teaching will remain online until mid-February. In-person university teaching will take place only for those training to be critical workers eg: medical students.

Support and childcare bubbles will remain as they are.

Children of divorced or separated parents can continue to move freely between both parents’ homes.

Retail, hospitality and tradespeople

If not already shut, all non-essential retail, hospitality and personal care services (such as hairdressers and salons) must shut immediately. They must remain closed.

Essential retailers including supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, and builders’ merchants, are permitted to stay open.

Takeaway venues and restaurants can continue to offer click-and-collect services. They can no longer sell alcohol.

The government is expected to outline financial support packages for businesses later today (Tuesday).

Tradespeople such as cleaners can still visit people’s homes.

Dentists and opticians can stay open, however driving lessons are suspended.

Public events

Grassroots sport will be put on hold, but elite sporting events (eg: the Premier League) will be able to continue with restrictions.

Communal worship can continue, with social distancing.

Weddings will be allowed – with up to six guests – only in exceptional circumstances, such as when one of the couple is seriously ill.

There are so far no plans to postpone the local elections.

Older and vulnerable people

Close-contact indoor visits in care homes will not be allowed. Visits involving screens, pods and through windows can go ahead.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you should only go out for medical appointments, for exercise, or if it is essential. You should not attend work.


Police will have powers similar to those in last year’s lockdown to arrest or fine those who breach the rules.

The plan is to return to a tier system after mid-February.

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