Is It Okay To Visit Loved Ones In The Garden During Lockdown?

With news of a second lockdown, here's what you need to know.

We know we shouldn’t be visiting loved ones at home during the second lockdown, but what about in the garden? If you stay two metres apart, is it a problem?

The government guidelines state, “you can exercise or visit outdoor public places with the people you live with, your support bubble, or 1 person from another household”. It says outdoor public places include:

  • parks, beaches, countryside,
  • public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them), allotments
  • playgrounds.

It adds: “You cannot meet in a private garden.”

Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist based at the University of Sussex, says the problem is that we’re more likely to relax that distance in familiar environments with familiar people.

Entering the house or coming into physical contact with someone outside your household could put you or them at risk, she adds, particularly if you have asymptomatic coronavirus.

“Going over to someone’s garden or yard for a distancing cuppa may lead to you needing the loo or being relaxed when they pass you your drink and come close,” Dr Macciochi tells HuffPost UK. “There is also the issue of handling cups, or door knobs and gates, then accidentally touching your face soon after.”

If all closeness and contact is avoided, Dr Macciochi says garden visits “do not necessarily” increase what experts call our “R-value”, the number that represents how many people the average person with the virus infects. However, she says there hasn’t been enough research to make a definitive call.

Dr Macciochi’s concern with garden meet-ups is that they result in complacency about the rules, potentially sending us down a slippery slope. “The more people hear of this happening, the more likely they are going to also engage in these behaviours and it may erode away at the government guidelines, which could have impact on the improvements that are being seen,” she says.

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Of course, if you’re struggling with loneliness or poor mental health, staying away from friends and family is easier said than done.

“We know that lots of people find their friends and family are instrumental in managing mental health problems,” says Rosie Weatherley, information content manager at Mind.

To manage these feelings safely, Weatherley highlights the value of regularly catching up via text, email, phone call or video call. It’s also really important to look after yourself by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep and going outside to exercise once a day if you’re able to.

“Although it might be tempting to bend the rules, especially if you see other people disregarding them, we’d recommend everyone follows the government’s guidance and stays at home,” she says. “These measures have been imposed to save lives and are only temporary.”

If you think that lack of social contact is severely impacting your mental health, you should speak to your GP. “Lots of surgeries are offering phone or video consultations at the moment,” says Weatherley. “If you’re feeling suicidal, self-harming or worried you can’t keep yourself safe, call 999 for an ambulance – a mental health emergency is as important as a physical health emergency.”

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on