As lockdown restrictions are eased, the government has announced a new plan for people in England to set up “support bubbles”.
The scheme, aimed at people who’ve been cut off from friends and family during the coronavirus pandemic, is also referred to as “bubbling”.
What are support bubbles?
A bubble is defined as a group of people with whom you have close physical contact.
Coronavirus spreads when people mix – be it at work, in shops, pubs and clubs, or on buses and trains.
In lockdown, to try to control the spread of Covid-19, people have been asked to maintain social distancing from anyone who is not in their household. That means staying 2m (6ft) apart from each other
Limiting interactions with others is the best defence against coronavirus.
The virus is transmitted by droplets from infected people when they talk, cough and sneeze. These can enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, either directly or after touching a contaminated object.
Who can you share a bubble with?
In England from 13 June a single adult living alone (or with children under the age of 18) will be able to form a “support bubble” with one other household (of any size).
This means they can act as if they are one household – for instance, they can go into each other’s houses, stay the night and don’t have to maintain social distancing.
You can only have one bubble per household – you can’t change the arrangement and add other households.
People who are already shielding – with underlying health conditions – will not be able to take part.
Some examples of those who would be able to benefit from “bubbling” are:
- A grandparent living alone would be able to form a support bubble with one of their children, which means they could go to see them and interact with their grandchildren
- A single parent could form a support bubble with a parent or friend so they could interact as normal
- Two single people who each live alone could form a support bubble
- A couple who don’t live together could form a bubble if they both live alone or one of them lives with someone else (in this case the person who they live wouldn’t be allowed to form another bubble).
If anyone in the bubble gets coronavirus symptoms all of the people in the group will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
The government had asked the independent advisory group Sage to examine if, when and how people might safely be allowed to expand their bubble.
The bubble concept is already being used in New Zealand and is being considered by the Scottish government.
Apart from support bubbles in England, social meetings are supposed to take place outside.
From 1 June in England, groups of up to six people from different households have been able to gather outdoors, in parks or private gardens. And on the same date in Wales, any number of people from two different households have been allowed to meet each other outside.
In Northern Ireland, groups of up to six people who do not live together can meet outdoors.
In all cases, social distancing guidelines must be followed, with people keeping at least 2m (6ft) apart.
Wash and dry your hands when you return home and keep up good hygiene and cleaning practices.