PPE mask

Restrictions on going out and shielding in England

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the Government has introduced a number of restrictions on people’s day to day lives to prevent the virus from spreading. Some of the rules introduced in March are being relaxed on Saturday 4 July. There are also changes to the rules for people who are shielding that will start from Monday 6 July and Saturday 1 August. We have outlined these changes, and the impact that they might have on autistic people and their families below.

Guidance from the Government

The Government has introduced guidance to help stop coronavirus from spreading, which says you should still stay at home as much as possible, and you should only leave for the limited reasons. They advise that you should try to stay two metres apart from people who don’t live in your household, but if you’re in a space where that’s not possible, it’s ok to just keep one metre apart. From 4 July:

  • You can meet in groups of up to two households in any location - public or private, indoors or outdoors. You do not always have to meet with the same household - you can meet with different households at different times. However, it remains the case - even inside someone’s home - that you should socially distance from anyone not in your household. This change also does not affect the support you receive from your carers.
  • When you are outside you can continue to meet in groups of up to six people from different households, keeping two metres distance if possible.
  • If you are an adult living alone or with children under 18 you can form a ‘support bubble’ with another household where the person also lives alone or with children. You can go visit them indoors and stay overnight without having to keep two metres apart. You can’t form a support bubble with a household that has more than one adult or change the household.
  • Restaurants, pubs, cinemas, visitor attractions, hotels, and campsites are be able to open. Other public places, such as libraries, community centres, places of worship, outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms will also be able to open
  • You can stay overnight away from your home with people from your own household or support bubble, or with members of one other household (where you need to keep two metres apart if possible)
  • It will be against the law to gather in groups larger than 30 people, except for a limited set of circumstances to be set out in law.

From 11 July you can:

  • Use an outdoor pool
  • Go to an outdoor performance

From 13 July you can:

  • Visit beauty salons, nail bars, tattoo and massage studios, physical therapy businesses and spas. However, you will not be able to get a treatment for your face, for example, an eyebrow wax, make-up application or facial.

From 25 July you can:

  • Go to an indoor pool, gym or leisure facility. However, there are new measures to ensure that these venues can maintain social distancing between their customers. You can find out more here.

Guidance for people who are shielding

Some people are at very high risk of getting ill from the coronavirus , because they have an underlying health condition. These people need to ‘shield’ by taking extra precautions. You can find our which conditions require you to shield here.
Up until this point, people who are shielding have been told to stay indoors. However, as the rate of infections has decreased, the Government says it is now safe to go outside as long as you continue to take precautions.
From 6 July you can:
  • Meet with a group of up to six people from other households outdoors while maintaining two metres distance.
  • Stop social distancing with others in your household.
  • Form a ‘support bubble’. If you are an adult living alone or with children under 18 you can form a ‘support bubble’ with another household where the person also lives alone or with children. You can visit them indoors and stay overnight without having to keep two metres apart. You can’t form a support bubble with a household that has more than one adult.

So long as the infection rate does not rise, the Government plans to stop the shielding restrictions on 1 August. This means that everyone who has been told that they are at high-risk of coronavirus will follow the same guidance as everyone else. If you are receiving food boxes and medicine deliveries, you will continue to receive this support until the end of July if you want it.

Face coverings You have to wear a face covering on public transport, and in shops and supermarkets unless you have a good reason not to. The Government has given some examples of when you don’t have to wear a face covering, including:


  • if you are younger than 11 years old
  • if you can’t put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • if putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are travelling with or helping someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury to yourself or others. 

This means that some autistic people who would struggle to keep a face covering on, or would get really distressed with one on are exempt. The Government’s list is not exhaustive, which means there could be other reasons why you don’t have to wear a face covering. We have told the Government that transport staff and the public need to know about these exemptions so that autistic people aren’t challenged unfairly. You might be asked why you are not wearing a face covering, and you can tell them about these exemptions. [We have produced an information sheet that you can share with transport staff if you are asked why you are not wearing a face covering and you can also download our I am Autistic Card. For parents we also have My Child is Autistic Card while This Person is Autistic Card, is for those who provide care and support to autistic adult.]

If you can wear a face covering, it is important that you do on public transport, as this could help stop the spread of coronavirus.

The Government also recommends you wear a face covering when you’re in an enclosed space (like a small shop) and you can’t keep two metres apart from people who don’t live in your household. This could be on public transport if you need to use it, or in a shop. This could be a home-made mask or bandana. It doesn’t need to be the type of mask hospital staff wear but it should cover your nose and mouth. You need to wash your hands before and after putting your face covering on and taking it off, and try not to touch it in between times.

Wash your hands regularly. This includes when you come into your house from outside.

Interactions with the police

The police are making sure that people follow the rules about going outside, so if you go out and are finding it difficult to tell them that you or the person you support might be struggling, you might find it helpful to use an I Am Autistic card.

We’ve asked the Government to clarify that the rules are still the same for autistic people – ie that you’re allowed to be closer than two metres from someone who does not live in your household because you’re autistic.

What we’re doing

We are telling the Government about your experiences of lockdown so it knows what life is like for autistic people and their families. If you want to share your experiences, and any worries or concerns you have, with us by emailing stories@nas.org.uk.