This weekend, millions of people in London, Essex, York and other areas will face tougher Tier 2 Covid-19 measures.
Under this high alert level, households will be banned from mixing indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and in each other’s homes.
The UK government explained: “You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them. This includes private homes, and any other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.
“You may continue to see friends and family you do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with) outside, including in a garden or other outdoor space. When you do so, you must not meet in a group of more than 6.”
But why is so important that household visits are banned?
Here are four key reasons why stopping household visits can help to curb Covid-19 in the UK.
1. Coronavirus thrives indoors
The coronavirus has been shown to thrive indoors, in unventilated conditions – including in our homes.
One study by researchers in Japan found that the odds of an infected person transmitting the virus indoors was 18.7 times greater than outdoors.
Meanwhile, another study examined 318 outbreaks in China, and found that all but one involved the virus jumping between people indoors.
Speaking to Business Insider, neurosurgeon Dr Erich Anderer said: “The general principle should be: Outside is better than inside; open is better than closed; fewer is better than more people; and stay away from sick people.”
2. The virus can linger on surfaces for weeks
Recent studies have warned that coronavirus can survive on surfaces for far longer than thought.
Researchers from Australia’s National Science Agency found that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on a range of surfaces for 28 days, including on phone screens, stainless steel and banknotes.
The agency said: “SARS-CoV-2 can remain infectious for significantly longer time periods than generally considered possible.”
While many people have taken to cleaning the surfaces of their homes more rigorously amid the pandemic, it’s tricky to ensure all shared surfaces are clean.
For example, the virus has been shown to linger on door handles, light switches and even toilet seats – surfaces you may not think to clean while having guests in your home.
3. Social distancing is more difficult indoors
UK guidelines currently suggest staying two metres apart from people you do not live with.
The UK government website advises: “When with people you do not live with, you should also avoid: physical contact; being close and face-to-face; and shouting or singing close to them. You should also avoid crowded areas with lots of people; and touching things that other people have touched.”
However, maintaining your distance is easier said than done in your home.
Writing for The Conversation, Lena Ciric Associate Professor in Environmental Engineering at UCL, explained: “It is very unlikely that you would be exposed to infectious droplets outdoors because of rapid air flow and dilution, but enclosed crowded indoor spaces are much more of a risk.
“We all need to do our bit to stop the spread of coronavirus, so keep your distance, preferably as far as you can.”
4. Older people are at significantly higher risk
For many people, being unable to see your family has been one of the hardest part of the Covid-19 pandemic.
While you might be tempted to visit your parents or grandparents at their homes, it’s important to remember that you could be putting them at risk.
The CDC explained: “As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s.
“Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.”
Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you could still have the virus, and may unknowingly pass it on to elderly loved ones.
The CDC added: “In general, the more people you interact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”