Explained – rules on support bubbles in lockdown 3

Stay Home Save Lives advert at an Ipswich bus stop. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A Stay Home Save Lives advert at an Ipswich bus stop - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The third national coronavirus lockdown is designed to limit social contact as much as possible and limit the spread of the virus – but for some people, this poses particular difficulties around loneliness and isolation. 

As a result, the government allows some people to form support bubbles or extended households with others, in a bid to help those cut off from friends and family – but it is only for those in certain circumstances. 

What is a support bubble? 

The government defines a support bubbles as a “network which links two households”. 

However, it is not the case that any two households can form a support bubble.  

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The government is careful to say: “You have to meet certain eligibility rules to form a support bubble.  

“This means not everyone will be able to form a support bubble.” 

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However, the eligibility criteria for forming a support bubble was widened on December 2 – and still applies, in spite of the harsher restrictions. 

Stick With It Suffolk posters in Newmarket

Stick With It Suffolk posters in Newmarket - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Who can form one? 

If you live by yourself, you’re allowed to form a support bubble with another household. 

Even if carers visit you to provide support but you still live alone, you can form a support bubble. 

Single parents with children under the age of 18 can also form support bubbles, while parents with children aged under one or with disabled children requiring continuous care who are aged under five can be in a bubble. 

The government stresses that clinically extremely vulnerable people particularly should be shielding and limiting social contact as much as possible, but says those people can still meet with their support bubble. 

What are the rules?  

If you form a support bubble based on the above criteria, you effectively can act like a single household.  

This means that you can have close contact, for example by hugging and kissing, and do not need to socially distance. 

However, if you are in the shielding category, the government advises you try and stay two metres away from anyone else in your home. 

Can I stay overnight? 

Yes – even under the national lockdown restrictions, the government says: “You are permitted to leave your home to visit your support bubble (and to stay overnight with them).  

“However, if you form a support bubble, it is best if this is with a household who live locally. This will help prevent the virus spreading from an area where more people are infected.” 

What about childcare? 

Children who move between parents under shared custody arrangements can still continue to do so and do not need to form a support bubble in order to do so. 

Childcare bubbles are separate to support bubbles and allow one other household to provide informal childcare to anyone under the age of 14. 

If you have a childcare bubble, it does not stop you from also forming a support bubble, the government says. 

However, it also says: “You can only use a childcare bubble for childcare. You cannot use a childcare bubble to mix with another household for other reasons.” 

Walkers enjoy some fresh air in Felixstowe during the third national lockdown. Picture: SARAH LUCY

Walkers enjoy some fresh air in Felixstowe during the third national lockdown - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

What happens if I or someone within my bubble catches coronavirus? 

The government guidance says: “If someone in your previous support bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus up to 48 hours after members of the bubble last met, all members of the bubble must self-isolate for 10 days.  

“You must not form a new bubble until you have completed your self-isolation.” 

Can I change my support bubble? 

The government says that people should avoid changing a support bubble they have formed to help limit the spread of Covid-19 – but accepts that sometimes people’s circumstances change, which necessitates altering their arrangements. 

If that is the case, people are told to leave a 10-day gap between their bubbles. 

That means treating their previous bubble as a separate household and not having any close contact with them for 10 days, before forming a new bubble. 

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