Adults living in different households in the UK and separated by a public health order known as the “sex ban” will be allowed to meet up if they adhere to certain conditions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson says.
He announced the easing of coronavirus gathering restrictions on Wednesday night, acknowledging how “difficult” lockdown has been for those cut off from their loved ones.
Members of a two-household bubble can meet from June 13 without having to stay two metres apart however one of the adults involved must live alone.
The change allows couples that don’t live together to legally see each other again indoors, including for overnight stays, and grandparents who live alone to hug their grandchildren.
“We’re making this change to support those who are particularly lonely as a result of lockdown measures,” Mr Johnson said.
“It’s a targeted intervention to limit the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions.
“It is emphatically not designed for people who don’t qualify to start meeting inside other people’s homes because that remains against the law.”
People meeting up indoors must choose their “support bubble” carefully as members will be treated like one household, meaning adults cannot chop and change who they decide to visit.
“There are too many people, still too many people, particularly those who live by themselves, who are lonely and struggling with being unable to see friends and family,” Mr Johnson said.
“So from this weekend (June 13-14), we will allow single adult households – adults living alone or single parents with children under 18 – to form a support bubble with one other household.
“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 other’s homes and do not need to stay two metres apart.
“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.
“If any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the normal advice on household isolation.”
England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty noted single-adult households had fewer contacts.
“The reason for making the bubbling relatively specific is that it reduces the risk that you’re joining together several households,” he said.
The lockdown changes are believed to affect 8.2 million people in the UK, The Sun reports.
The specific “sex ban” public health regulation only came into force on June 1.
It prohibited gatherings of two or more people “present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”.
“No person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living,” it said.
Before then, a person visiting another house would have been in breach of “stay at home” lockdown rules, from March 23, which stated people should avoid non-essential travel.
Also on June 1 in the UK, the rules around outdoor gatherings were relaxed to allow groups of six people to come together if they adhered to social distancing regulations.
“We did so in the knowledge that transmission of the virus is much lower outdoors, so we could make this change in a safe way,” Mr Johnson said.
Britain has the world’s second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths, behind the US.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Social Care confirmed the country’s toll had risen by 245 to 41,128. There have been almost 300,000 infections recorded in the UK.