What are the new rules on bubbles?

The government has said it wants to alleviate the loneliness and isolation of people most affected by social restrictions. Ministers emphasise it is a “targeted intervention” directed at those who have been cut off from family and friends during lockdown.

What do the changes mean? What is happening? If you live by yourself or are a single parent with dependent children – in other words, if there is only one adult in your home – you can expand your household to include one other household of any size. These are support bubbles.

Can grandparents now visit their grandchildren and have them to stay in their own homes?

Yes and no. One grandparent who lives on their own can form a bubble with one of their grown-up children. But families with two lone grandparents need to choose which grandparent they link up with.

Can my partner stay the night with me? Yes, if you live alone and you are in an exclusive bubble.

What about parents who have separated but who have children under 18? You are already allowed to operate as though you are in a bubble.

Can I be in a bubble if I’m clinically vulnerable or have a higher risk of catching coronavirus? If you are at a higher risk of exposure (for example, if someone in your house is a healthcare or care worker), you should take particular care when deciding whether to form a bubble and with whom.

What can I do in a bubble? You can behave as though you live under the same roof with the other people in your bubble: you’re one big family. You can also share things such as sport or garden equipment.

Are bubbles safe? The risk of infection rises with the number of people in a bubble and the number of interactions you have with people you do not live with. Good hygiene remains important even for those in the same bubble: keep washing your hands and sneezing into a tissue.

How can I get to those in my bubble? There is no limit on how far you can travel, avoid using public transport and cycle or walk if possible.

 I have chosen my bubble. Is there anything I can’t do?

You cannot change your mind. You can’t swap bubbles or expand them to include more than one household.

What happens if someone in my support bubble develops coronavirus symptoms or we meet someone else who does? You all must stay at home. If you or a member of your bubble is contacted as part of the test-and trace programme, the individual contacted must stay at home. If the individual becomes symptomatic, everyone in the bubble must then isolate.

I’ve just returned to the UK from abroad. Can I form a bubble or immediately re-join my previous bubble? No. You need to self-isolate in one place for 14 days’ rest.

I’m not eligible to form a bubble. Can I still see my friends and family? This is a targeted intervention for those who really need it. The safest thing is for us all to continue limiting our contact with others by staying at home. You can continue meeting outdoors in a group of up to six people, including those you do not live with, as long as you keep at least 2 metres apart.

What happens if I break the new law? The relevant authorities, including the police, have the powers to enforce it through fines and dispersing gatherings.