politics

Families in England can travel cross-country from today – but no hugs allowed


Families in England are now allowed to travel across the country to meet up – but can’t stay overnight, meet indoors or hug.

Lockdown changes mean the legal “stay at home” order has been dropped and there are no legal limits on travel within England.

People can meet in groups of up to six people or two households, whichever is greater, in any outdoor space such as a garden.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he’s going to Suffolk on Easter Sunday, telling ITV: “If you want to travel to go and see friends and family, that’s absolutely fine – no matter where they are in England.”

Yet at the same time, government guidance is urging people to “minimise travel where possible” and “avoid taking unnecessary trips”.

Tory minister Nigel Huddleston tried to explain the contradiction today – saying it’s down to families showing their common sense.



You can meet up with family from any distance away - but don't hug
You can meet up with family from any distance away – but don’t hug

And he warned there is still a long list of rules that mean today’s changes are not a free-for-all, even if you travel cross-country.

“It is allowed, but it needs to be outside in the garden,” he said. “If people are travelling they need to think very carefully about how they travel. Where they fill up with petrol – if they need food and so on, probably get that locally before you go on the journey.

“Because what we don’t want is people inter-mixing in different parts of the country to any greater degree than necessary. And when you do go and visit a friend or a relative, make sure you stay in those gardens or stay outdoors.”

Mr Huddleston urged families not to hug – and said they should pack food before they travel to avoid mingling in service stations.

People are also banned by law from gathering indoors with multiple households or bubbles, which means they should not stay overnight. Those indoor meetings will only be allowed from May 17 at the earliest.



There's no legal limit on how far you can travel in England - but don't stay overnight
There’s no legal limit on how far you can travel in England – but don’t stay overnight

The minister urged Brits to “call out” family and friends if they take the rules too far.

“If you see somebody behaving in a slightly odd way then maybe call them out on it in a respectful way, because sometimes some people just forget,” he said.

“If you see a loved one say ‘look, let’s just make a little bit more careful here – sorry, would love to give you a hug, but not at the moment’.



Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he's going to Suffolk on Easter Sunday, telling ITV: "If you want to travel to go and see friends and family, that's absolutely fine - no matter where they are in England"
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he’s going to Suffolk on Easter Sunday, telling ITV: “If you want to travel to go and see friends and family, that’s absolutely fine – no matter where they are in England”

“I think people are sensible about this, actually you do see people a little bit with caution, you see people all the time getting close to each other then suddenly thinking ‘well you know what I can’t do that, let’s just keep the distance’.

“I know it’s a little bit awkward, but actually in these circumstances, it’s the right thing to do.”

Here are the rules and what the minister said this morning.

You’re still being asked to minimise travel – it’s just not the law

England’s legal stay-at-home order, which only let people leave their home for limited exemptions like work and shopping, has ended. That means people are now legally allowed to travel anywhere in England.

However, you cannot stay overnight away from home, unless it is for an exemption like caring for a dying person or work.

Government guidance says: “You should minimise travel where possible. This means you should avoid making unnecessary trips and combine trips where possible.”

If you need to travel, “walk or cycle where possible, avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport”.

You should also regularly wash or sanitise your hands and wear a face covering on public transport, unless exempt.

If you do cross the country, do not go indoors

Lockdown laws still ban people in England from meeting socially in groups of more than one household indoors.

The only gatherings allowed until at least May 17 are up to six people or two households, whichever is greater, outdoors.

You’re allowed to pop indoors to use the toilet.

Do not stay overnight

Overnight stays are still banned in guidance. It appears they would essentially count as an illegal indoor gathering.

Indoor gatherings are allowed but only under strict exemptions – such as work or caring for a dying relative.

Pack food and drink before you set off

Mr Huddleston said: “If people are travelling they need to think very carefully about how they travel. Where they fill up with petrol – if they need food and so on, probably get that locally before you go on the journey.”

Do not hug

Government guidance still warns people to “stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings or increasing ventilation indoors).”

That means no hugging unless the person is in your household or bubble.

Social distancing rules will only be reviewed from May 17 at the earliest.

Mr Huddleston urged Brits “please do not do the hugging”. He said: Please don’t risk the health of your loved one by hugging them and risking the spread of the disease. When you’re hugging somebody you’re in incredibly close proximity to them – so please just be sensible.”

Sir Mark Walport, former government chief scientific adviser and a member of SAGE, told Times Radio hugging should only happen “when the evidence shows that the case numbers are really really low indeed.”



Nigel Huddleston said people had to be cautious
Nigel Huddleston said people had to be cautious

Think carefully about where you stop

Mr Huddleston appeared to suggest people should not be stopping at service stations if possible – by saying they should pack food before they set off.

But this is not a legal restriction – it’s simply a case of showing common sense and restraint.





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