social distancing – still just a polite request ….


You can’t stand within 2 metres (from 4th July 1 meter) of anyone except those in your own household. You have to keep that separation queuing outside a shop. You can’t hug your grandparents.


In England, this distancing rule has remained guidance only. Consenting citizens can hug each other if they wish. Always could. Still can. The government guidance is in nature of a request only but not a direction or obligation on anyone to observe. (The same principle applies to wearing of masks and registering to enter a pub, about which we will comment in other posts.) For those individuals and businesses prepared to say no to the request, they may find life returns to more normal rather more quickly.

It may be conceded that some restrictions will may prevent close social contact, but these arise from other new laws set out in regulations, not the distancing request. In particular, these are the restrictions on the numbers of people, currently [6] in England, who may gather in public or private (regulation 7), and the requirements to close premises and businesses (regulation 4 and 5).

There are also laws to take into account on this issue and protect citizens generally, but that law existed pre-lockdown as an aspect of ‘normal’ life. For example, under existing health and safety laws going back decades, employers and controllers of premises have always had to keep risk of injury as low as is reasonably practical. Their (and we can include their insurers’) knowledge and perception of the risk of injury from Covid-19 will influence what steps they considered necessary to respond to the risks from Covid-19.  In this respect, the government’s decision to control behaviours through fear has, for a long time at least, been as effective as any law by ensuring that employers and controllers of premises have in practice become the enforcers of the 2m guidance as if it were law.

Outside shops in public spaces, the shops don’t have the right to control your behaviour.  However, the shop can control who is or is not allowed on its premises and will have the right to refuse entry if they so choose, provided the refusal is not an unlawful act of discrimination.

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The Welsh Assembly Government, led by First Minister Mark Drakeford, sought to ensure the guidance could be enforced by law. As a result, since 7 April 2020, employers and owners of business premises have been required to enforce 2m distancing and could be fined, and potentially closed, for not doing so.

This does not, however, apply to public spaces where the 2 metre guidance remains, as in England, guidance only.

Also, there is no limit on numbers (6 in England) who may gather together, except that they cannot be from more than two households.


Warning: Law and circumstances can change very quickly.  Please note the date of publication of any blog post and check for any updates on the issues addressed. In any event, we do not condone or encourage breaching the law and neither the above nor any information posted on this website constitutes legal advice. It must not be relied upon as such and specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances. Please read our disclaimer.

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3 thoughts on “social distancing – still just a polite request ….”

  1. Is the rule to quarantine for 14 days after a potential exposure to the virus a legal requirement, enforceable in law, or a ‘request’? And, if it is a legal offence, is it a criminal one?

  2. Regulations are made by an UNELECTED department heads, therfore not law and has no legitimacy! Has anyone addressed this yet, that is the tyranny right there!!

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