AS PUBS and shops in England once again begin to open their doors, motorists across the UK are beginning to wonder what the rules are for driving during the national coronavirus lockdown.
Today has seen the implementation of the second stage of the government’s “roadmap” out of the third set of national restrictions, an exit Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described as “cautious, but also irreversible”. Rules first began to ease in England in early March, with further controls lifted on March 29.
The allowances come amid the continued rollout of the coronavirus vaccination programme. At the time of writing (April 12), 32 million people across the UK have received the first dose of their vaccination, with 7.5 million of those having received both shots.
While the government in Westminster has worked with devolved regions regarding the UK’s exit from lockdown, all four countries have their own strategies and will return to normal life at different paces. The next stage of the plan in England, which will see nearly all restrictions on meeting outside lifted, will not come into effect until May 17 at the earliest.
When am I allowed to drive my car during lockdown?
The allowances announced by the Prime Minister in February, March and April have massively extended the list of reasons to drive your car.
Almost all journeys, other than a few exceptions including essential shopping trips, and journeys by care workers, key workers and NHS staff, were prohibited for most of the first few months of the year. However, On March 29, the “stay at home” mandate was lifted in England, meaning that drivers no longer need to have a valid excuse to be out and about in their car.
Current advice issued by the government says that people shouldn’t make “unnecessary journeys” and that people should combine trips where possible. However, when contacted by Driving.co.uk, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: “you are able to go for a leisurely drive now the stay at home regulations have been lifted”.
The “rule of six” also made a return on March 29 — a date designed to coincide with the Easter holidays — meaning that motorists can drive to an outdoor spot, including private gardens, to join a group of six in total, as long as they comprise no more than two households.
From today (April 12), you can also drive to non-essential shops and pubs, which have reopened — but, of course, you shouldn’t drive if you have been drinking. Government advice also says that you should not be sharing a car with anyone not from your household or support bubble. If you are planning a trip to the pub, then, you might want to book a taxi back (this is allowed, according to current advice).
Scotland is still under national lockdown restrictions, and people are being told to “stay local”. Non-essential retail outlets and the hospitality industry will remain closed until April 26, when outdoor socialising will also be extended to allow six people from three households to meet. Under current rules, four people from two households can meet outside. From the same date, travel within all of mainland Scotland will be permitted.
Like those in England, shops in Wales will be allowed to open today, while schools have fully reopened, meaning that you can drive to do the school run or some recreational shopping. However, as in Scotland, hospitality will not be allowed to reopen until April 26, the same date that outdoor visitor attractions will be allowed to resume business.
Northern Ireland’s message has today changed from “stay at home” to “stay local”, and restrictions have been lifted allowing 10 people from two households to meet in outdoor spaces including private gardens. All non-essential shops must remain closed, but can now operate click-and-collect services.
When will I be allowed to drive for a holiday?
As well as beer gardens, zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas, today also marks the opening of self-catered holiday lettings, with people from the same household allowed to drive to a “staycation” spot within England and Wales.
In Scotland, domestic holidays will not resume until April 26. In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, staycations will not be allowed until the third stage of the country’s roadmap out of lockdown is implemented — a date for this has not yet been given.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that international travel will not resume until May 17 at the earliest. Countries will be graded according to a traffic light system indicating their risk level, an approach recommended by the government’s Global Travel Taskforce. A list of countries and risk designations is expected to be published in the next couple of weeks.
Can I travel in someone else’s car during lockdown?
If you don’t have your own car then walking or cycling are encouraged over use of public transport. As stated above, when the use of a car is necessary, the government says that you should avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or social bubble.
If you do have to share a car, you should make efforts to reduce the risk of transmission. These might include:
- Asking the driver/ passengers to wear a mask
- Facing away from one another
- Sharing transport with the same people each time, and minimising group size
- Opening windows for ventilation
- Considering seating arrangements to maximise social distance
- Cleaning the car between journeys using standard cleaning products, paying special attention to areas people are likely to touch like handles and seat belts
Cyclists should always be given room by drivers but where possible, you should allow maximum social distance between you and others — for example, give cyclists ample room at traffic lights.
If you visit a petrol or service station, keep your distance from other drivers and pay using contactless if possible. You should always sanitise your hands when entering or exiting your vehicle. If you can find disposable gloves to use when handling the pump, that could also help avoid spreading the virus.
- Not planning on driving your car during the lockdown? Here’s how to take care of your vehicle.
- Don’t panic if your car breaks down, breakdown services are available during this lockdown, as they were last time.
- If you’re planning on buying a car during the lockdown, read about how car sales were affected during the first during the first lockdown.