In a separate letter to vice-chancellors, the minister said she wanted all students to have “some form of face-to-face learning” where possible, as they had not seen evidence of increased transmission within teaching environments on university campuses.
The University and College Union (UCU) called on vice-chancellors to move all non-essential activities online to keep students and staff safe and to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
The Department for Education (DfE) also offered guidance on what universities and students in England should do under the current restrictions, saying face-to-face teaching should continue where it can be done safely.
The guidance said “commuter students” – those who live at their family home and travel to the university campus for lessons – would still be allowed to attend the university for educational purposes during this lockdown.
It also advised that face coverings should be worn in all university learning environments, providing that they do “not impact teaching and learning.”
Libraries and study spaces on campus have remained open during the current lockdown; however, students are not allowed to gather in these spaces unless it is part of a scheduled in-person seminar or tutorial.
Are gyms closed?
All gyms in England closed on 5 November in accordance to the new lockdown restrictions.
Gyms will only reopen under the rules of the previous tier system, with some gyms only opening under the approval of the local authority.
If the tier system resumes in early December, it is expected that gyms will follow the same strict regulations as before the lockdown. This included the debate of whether gym goers need to wear a mask.
Can I play sport outdoors? What about golf, tennis and fishing?
All organised sport is banned under the current rules, including community events like Sunday league football.
Sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls, archery and shooting ranges are all closed.
As in the first lockdown, two people from different households are allowed to meet outdoors to exercise together, such as by going for a run or playing with a football in a park.
The Lawn Tennis Association has said indoor tennis will cease, but it is “making the case to Government for outdoor tennis activity for two individuals from different households to continue”.
Angling, on your own, with members of your own household or with one other individual is allowed.
People may exercise more than once per day, providing their exercise is within the rules and does not involve household mixing beyond the limited exceptions.
Officially there is no advice requiring people who are exercising in a wide open space to wear a mask. As long as you are practising social distancing, it shouldn’t be necessary to wear a face covering while exercising.
Can I visit a relative in a care home?
Close family and friends of care home residents are allowed to continue visiting them during England’s second national lockdown.
Families of elderly care home residents had called for visits to be permitted, describing them as “essential” for mental health, while more than 60 organisations and experts had also called on the Government to enable visits to continue.
Matt Hancock said on November 16: “Our goal is to ensure that we have the testing available in every care home by Christmas, to make sure that people can take a test and therefore see their loved ones safely.”
Mr Hancock also said that he is “working closely with the social care sector” to ensure that happens.
The regulations, published on November 3, state that the exception comes under medical need, and that it is reasonably necessary for someone to leave their home to visit a person staying in a care home where they are a member of that person’s household, a close family member, or a friend
Visits to care homes were also banned during the first lockdown in March, as it became clear they had become hotspots for the spread of the disease. Visits to homes were only allowed in exceptional circumstances.
If the tier system resumes in early December, visits are only allowed in tiers 2 and 3 in circumstances such as end-of-life care, and care home staff should facilitate visits over video call instead. However, Mr Hancock’s plan for Covid testing in care homes may change this.
Can I still use a childminder?
Parents can continue to use childcare services where “reasonably necessary to enable parents to work”.
That includes childcare centres and in-home childminders.
There is also additional flexibility in the rules allowing parents and children to travel for childcare purposes, and childcare bubbles can be used to allow one other friend or relative to help, even if they are in a different household.
The Government’s guidance says “most youth clubs and groups will need to cease for this period”, so informal childcare through clubs will not be allowed.
Who can come into my house?
The current lockdown rules ban households from mixing, except in specific circumstances.
People in the same household can see each other indoors, plus anyone in the same support bubble. Support bubbles are formed of one household of any number of people, plus one other person who lives alone.
The rules permit people who work in other people’s homes to enter – including cleaners, carers and tradespeople. Most food delivery services are offering socially-distanced drop-offs, so drivers do not have to enter other households.
Overnight stays in another household are not allowed except for support bubbles, and nor is visiting second homes elsewhere in the UK.
Can I go to the optician, dentist or vet?
Opticians and dentists have remained open.
Before the restrictions began, a government spokesman said “medically necessary care and treatment may continue,” including mental health services.
Dentists initially avoided conducting procedures that generated aerosols, although that restriction has since been lifted.
Vets are open, providing they continue to follow Covid-secure guidelines.
Do I have to shield again?
People who were told to formally shield during the first lockdown have been advised that they should not leave their homes unnecessarily, as they are vulnerable to more serious effects from Covid-19.
But they are not shielding in the same way as they were in March – when vulnerable people were told not to leave their homes for any reason.
In addition, Boris Johnson said people who are over 60 or who are clinically vulnerable should be especially careful mixing with other people in public spaces or in the workplace.
Professor Chris Whitty said there were “downsides” to the first shielding programme, including “significant problems with loneliness and feeling completely cut off from society”.
People who are most at risk have been told to minimise their contact with others as much as possible.