Covid: England’s new post-lockdown tier system explained

$64,000 question: which tier will East Devon be in?

Simon Murphy www.theguardian.com 

While the end of the month-long Covid-19 lockdown 2.0 in England will come as welcome news to many, the strengthened tier system with which it is to be replaced could leave some people scratching their heads as they grapple with a fresh set of complex rules. Here we explain how some of the key aspects of the new system – due to be imposed when restrictions end on 2 December – compare with the old one.

Tier 1

From 2 December

Under the new system hospitality businesses in England can stay open until 11pm with table service only but last orders must be made by 10pm, in an effort to stagger departures. The “rule of six” will also remain in place indoors, meaning social household mixing is still allowed.

Spectator sport is set to resume, albeit with limits on numbers and abiding by social distancing. In tier 1, there will be a maximum crowd capacity outdoors of 50% of occupancy of the stadium or 4,000 people, whichever is smaller. Indoors, the maximum capacity is 1,000.

In tier 1, people will be encouraged to minimise travel and work from home where possible. Support bubbles – which allowed a single household to join with another household – are also being broadened across all tiers. Parents with a child under one will be able to form a support bubble, as well as those with a child under five who needs continuous care, such as a child with a disability. Also, in cases where there is a single adult carer, for a partner with dementia for example, they would also be able to form a support bubble.

How was it before?

In the least restrictive tier, also known as alert level “medium”, the rule of six applied indoors and outdoors, meaning up to half a dozen people from different households could gather. Hospitality businesses, such as pubs and restaurants, could stay open but were forced to shut by 10pm – a move that prompted much criticism, including from Conservative backbenchers.

Tier 2

From 2 December

Under the new system, although hospitality venues will be allowed to stay open until 11pm – with last orders at 10pm – only those that serve substantial meals can operate. It means pubs and bars that do not will have to close.

As before, social mixing outside of households or support bubbles will not be allowed indoors. The rule of six will apply outdoors.

Spectators will be allowed to watch sport in tier 2, with a maximum crowd capacity outdoors of 50% of the capacity of the stadium or 2,000 people, whichever is smaller. Indoors, the maximum capacity is 1,000.

Indoor entertainment venues, such as cinemas, casinos and bowling alleys, must also close.

How was it before?

In the “high” alert level tier, faced by Londoners and others, people were prohibited from mixing socially indoors with anybody outside of their household or support bubble but the rule of six remained in place outdoors. Hospitality businesses, such as pubs and restaurants, could open until 10pm but people were only allowed to visit with their household or support bubble.

Tier 3

From 2 December

Hospitality venues will have to close, except for delivery and takeaway service. In tier 3, hotels and other accommodation providers must also close, except for specific work purposes where people cannot return home. Outdoor sports, including golf and tennis, will be allowed to continue in all tiers, as will amateur team sports such as football. Unlike the first two tiers, spectators will not be allowed to watch sport in tier 3.

Across all tiers, shops, personal care, gyms and the wider leisure sector are set to reopen. Collective worship and weddings – with a maximum of 15 in attendance – can also resume.

How was it before?

In the most restrictive tier, known as the “very high” alert level that was endured by vast swathes of the north of England, mixing socially indoors between households – unless a support bubble was in place – was banned. Under baseline measures hospitality venues serving substantial food could remain open until 10pm. Up to six people from different households could socialise outdoors in public spaces, such as parks, beaches or public gardens.

 Boris Johnson sets out ‘tougher’ tiered restrictions for England during Commons debate – video