What is a support bubble and what are the support bubble rules for tier 2 and tier 3 of lockdown?

The new lockdown easing measure was introduced yesterday...
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  • Support bubbles were made part of lockdown legislation months ago but the new tier system means familiarising ourselves once again with the support bubble rules for tier 2 and 3 of lockdown. 

    The new rules, which don’t allow for any household mixing indoors in tiers 2 and 3, come into effect on December 2. This means that different areas will be under different localised lockdowns and differing restrictions, depending on how high the rate of infection is in certain cities and towns.

    So, are there new rules around support bubbles now that the Government have introduced a new three-tier lockdown system in England?

    What is a support bubble and how does it work?

    Support bubbles were introduced back in June to allow single adults to join up with another household but now from December, they’ll be expanded to include more situations.

    Now, support bubbles can be made up of households of multiple adults as long as one of them has a child under the age of one or a disabled child with continuous care needs. The previous arrangement, with support bubbles made of two households with at least one being a “single-adult” household, is also still allowed if the set-up doesn’t meet the new requirements, however.

    Those in support bubbles, just like before, won’t need to follow the two-metre rule so they can share meals together, hug and be indoors within the same space.

    This means that single parents, single elderly people and anyone else finding themselves lonely during the second lockdown and through the new restrictions won’t have to face the next couple of months alone.

    The Prime Minister explained when support bubbles were first announced that they applied to adults living alone, in a single household. Support bubbles also include single parents, with children under the age of 18.

    Single adults could form a ‘bubble’ with one other household, for emotional and physical support, without having to maintain social distancing rules – even in the November coronavirus lockdown. This was to help try and tackle loneliness, and other issues such as childcare problems during lockdown.

    The PM explained at the time, “All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household, meaning they can spend time together inside each others’ homes and do not need to stay two metres apart.”

    This means that if you are a single person you will not have to wear a mask whilst at your support bubble household, can visit them indoors, and can stay overnight too.


    However, Boris Johnson explained that if you are a single adult who can benefit from the new rules, you should now treat the other household as your own, too, and stressed that you cannot connect with multiple households.

    The PM stated, “I want to stress that support bubbles must be exclusive, meaning you can’t switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households. And if any member of the support bubble develops symptoms, all members of the bubble will need to follow the normal advice on household isolation.”

    It means that you cannot switch the household with which you form a bubble – if you are a single adult who lives alone, you must pick wisely to ensure that you are happy seeing the same household regularly.

    Who do the lockdown support bubble rules apply to?

    The lockdown support bubble rules apply to:

    • Two single people who live alone and want to meet up inside the home – e.g two friends
    • A couple who do not normally live together – but only if they normally live alone
    • A grandparent who normally lives alone can now visit another household – but only one
    • Single parents (with children under 18) can now form a bubble with another household, which can help with childcare
    • Households who have a child under one year old (regardless of how many adults are in the other household)
    • Households with a child under 5 with a disability that requires continuous care (regardless of how many other adults are in the household)
    • Households made up of a single adult carer, who lives with any additional adults in the household that have a disability and need continuous care)

    A support bubble doesn’t not include grandparents who don’t live alone (e.g a couple) if there is no valid reason, such as a grandchild under one. It also does not include single people who live in shared houses, such as students or young professionals.

    However, the PM did explain that if you live alone, but your partner (boyfriend or girlfriend), has a flatmate, for example, you can form a bubble with that residence. But, the flatmate cannot then form their own bubble with another household.

    Couples who already live together cannot form a bubble with another household, nor can a family living together join with another family household.

    These rules apply if you are in tier 1 of lockdown and your area is classed as ‘medium risk’.

    A couple inside following the support bubble rules for tier 2

    (Credit: Getty)

    Support Bubble rules for tier 2 and tier 3 lockdown

    Support bubble rules for tier 2 and tier 3 lockdown areas are thankfully very similar to those for places still in tier 1 of lockdown.

    The UK self-isolation rules are also the same this time around for those in support bubbles.

    If you live in a tier 2 ‘high risk’ area or a tier 3 ‘very high risk’ area, and you are a single person living alone, you are still allowed to be in a support bubble.

    However, the rules do differ about who you can socialise with outside of you support bubble dependent on which tier you are in.

    Support bubble rules for tier 2

    The government advice for those in tier 2 of lockdown states: “You must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.”

    This means that if you are a single adult or single parent, you can continue to see those who are in your support bubble both inside and outside. However, you cannot then go and visit people who outside your support bubble at their homes or inside other public or private spaces.

    You can meet up with people who are not in your support bubble if you meet up with them outside. You must stick to the rule of 6 though.

    Support bubble rules for tier 3

    The government advice for those in tier 3 of lockdown states: “You must not socialise with anybody you do not live with or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events.”

    These rules are similar to those in tier 2 when it comes to support bubbles, but it also means that you can’t see people who are not in your support bubble at their home or in their private garden.

    As long as you stick to the rule of 6, you can still see people who are outside your support bubble as long as you see them outside in a public space such as a park.