Coronavirus bubbles: How do they work and who is in yours?

Granddaughter and grandmotherImage copyright Getty Images

As lockdown restrictions are eased further, people in England and Northern Ireland can now set up support bubbles.

The aim is to help people who’ve been cut off from friends and family.

What is a support bubble?

A bubble is defined as a group of people with whom you have close physical contact.

From Saturday, in England, single adults living alone – or single parents whose children are under 18 – can form a support bubble with one other household.

The second household can be of any size.

Nobody who is shielding should join a bubble.

The independent advisory group Sage has been asked to examine if, when and how people might safely be allowed to expand their bubbles.

The idea was introduced in New Zealand and is being considered by the Scottish government.

What are the support bubble rules?

Support bubbles must be “exclusive”. Once in one, you can’t switch and start another with a different household.

People in each bubble can visit each other’s homes and go inside.

They won’t have to stay 2m (6ft) apart and can even stay overnight.

Anyone in the bubble contacted as part of England’s test and trace programme must stay at home. If they develop coronavirus symptoms, everyone in the bubble must self-isolate.

There is no limit on how far you can travel in England for your support bubble but local is best, the government says.

You can’t bubble with anyone in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

However, if you are single and live alone in Northern Ireland you can bubble with another household.

But what if…?

Social and family groups are complicated and might not fit bubble rules.


  • If you are single, you could bubble with one of your children’s households, but you must stick with them
  • Households of two grandparents cannot bubble if their children live with other adults

Single parents:

  • You could bubble with a friend, another single parent or a household with two adults
  • You could use a bubble to arrange unpaid childcare
  • If any children at home are over 18, you can’t form a bubble
  • If you already share childcare with your ex during lockdown, you can form a support bubble with another household

If you are single:

  • Two single people each living alone could bubble
  • Someone in a house-share could bubble – but those they share with wouldn’t be allowed to form their own bubbles

You can read the government’s guidelines in full here.

Image copyright Getty Images

What if I don’t live alone?

If you don’t live on your own, or you are not a single parent whose children are under 18, then the rules haven’t changed.

However, you can, of course, invite someone eligible to join a social bubble with your household.

Otherwise, you must meet people you don’t live with outside. The number of people you are allowed to meet depends on where in the UK you live.

Why are bubbles needed?

Basically, when people mix – especially in crowded places – coronavirus can spread.

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.

That’s why people have been asked to maintain social distancing when meeting anyone not from their household.

Bubbles allow some people more contact with others, while keeping other social distancing measures in place.

Who will be in your social bubble? Please share your experiences by emailing

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist.

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