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Lockdown latest: England’s new post-lockdown tier system is announced

A new three-tier system will replace national measures

Lockdown latest: England’s new post-lockdown tier system is announced

Further details of England’s updated tier system have been announced, along with a breakdown of which areas have been assigned to each tier once lockdown lifts on 2 December.

The new three-tier system will be stricter than the one introduced in October, though non-essential shops will still be allowed to open under every tier.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s tighter measures have come into force today (27 November) – just one week after its previous lockdown restrictions were slightly loosened.

Here, Which? explains the rules in more detail, and reveals what is and isn’t open across the UK.

More coronavirus news and advice from Which?

Areas in each of England’s new tiers

See the lists below to find out which areas have been assigned to each tier from 2 December.

The government has launched a postcode checker if you want to see the restrictions in your area.

The tiers will be reviewed every two weeks.

Tier 1

Only a few places will be placed into Tier 1 after lockdown lifts:

  • Cornwall
  • Isles of Scilly
  • Isle of Wight

Tier 2

Any areas not listed under Tier 1 or Tier 3 will be put into Tier 2 – this is the case for the majority of areas in England.

Tier 3

Many places, mainly in the north east of England, will be under very strict restrictions from 2 December:

  • Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton
  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Blackpool
  • Bristol
  • County Durham
  • Darlington
  • Derby and Derbyshire
  • East Riding of Yorkshire
  • Gateshead
  • Greater Manchester
  • Hartlepool
  • Kent and Medway
  • Kingston upon Hull/Hull
  • Lancashire
  • Leicester and Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Middlesbrough
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • North East Lincolnshire
  • North Lincolnshire
  • North Somerset
  • North Tyneside
  • Northumberland
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)
  • South Gloucestershire
  • South Tyneside
  • South Yorkshire
  • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
  • Stockton-on-Tees
  • Sunderland
  • Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull
  • West Yorkshire

What will England’s new rules be in each tier?

The new regional tier system is scheduled to come into place from 2 December.

Non-essential shops will be allowed to open under every tier, as will gyms and hairdressers.

Schools and other childcare will remain open in all tiers.

The key difference between each tier is the number of people you’re allowed to meet, and the locations in which you can meet them.

People in England must continue to follow current lockdown rules for now, but here’s what to expect when the lockdown ends.

Tier 1 (Medium Alert)

Under the lowest tier, up to six people from different households can meet indoors or outdoors.

Pubs and restaurants can open with table service only, and last orders at 10pm with an 11pm curfew.

Venues such as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums, theme parks and bingo halls can reopen, but under an early 11pm closure – although cinemas, theatres and concert halls can remain open beyond 11pm to conclude performances that start before 10pm.

Indoor and outdoor spectator sports and live entertainment performances are allowed with limited audiences; whichever is lower of 50% capacity or 4,000 people outdoors and 1,000 people indoors.

Places of worship remain open, but you should not socialise in groups of more than six. Weddings and funerals can go ahead, but only 15 people can attend weddings, and a maximum of 30 people can attend funerals.

Organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue; but this can only take place indoors if the rule of six is followed.

If you travel to a Tier 2 area, you should abide by Tier 2 rules; avoid travel and overnight stays in Tier 3 areas unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Tier 2 (High Alert)

The ‘rule of six’ is still in place for meeting outdoors, but no indoor mixing with other households is permitted.

Hospitality venues still have 10pm last orders and an 11pm curfew, but alcohol can only be served as part of a ‘substantial’ meal, such as lunch or dinner.

Venues such as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums, theme parks and bingo halls can reopen, but under an early 11pm closure – although cinemas, theatres and concert halls can remain open beyond 11pm to conclude performances that start before 10pm.

Indoor and outdoor spectator sports and live entertainment performances are allowed with limited audiences; whichever is lower of 50% capacity or 2,000 people outdoors and 1,000 people indoors.

Places of worship remain open, but you should not socialise with anyone outside of your household while inside. Weddings and funerals can go ahead, but only 15 people can attend weddings, and a maximum of 30 people can attend funerals.

Organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue; but this can only take place indoors if you can avoid mixing with people you don’t live with.

If you travel to a Tier 1 area, you should continue to abide by Tier 2 rules; avoid travel and overnight stays in Tier 3 areas unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Tier 3 (Ultra High Alert)

Households cannot mix inside or outside, other than in public places like parks where the rule of six applies.

Pubs and restaurants are restricted to delivery and takeaway only.

The vast majority of other businesses must close, including accommodation such as hotels and B&Bs, indoor entertainment and tourist venues such as casinos and bowling alleys, and outdoor entertainment venues such as zoos, museums and theme parks.

Leisure and sports facilities can stay open, but without any group exercise classes, saunas or steam rooms. Organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue, as long as it’s not higher-risk contact sport.

Places of worship remain open, but you should not socialise with anyone outside of your household while inside. Weddings and funerals can go ahead, but only 15 people can attend weddings, and a maximum of 30 people can attend funerals.

You should avoid travelling to other places in the UK unless it’s deemed necessary, such as for work, to receive medical treatment or for caring duties.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has said the furlough scheme, which was previously set to end on 31 October, will continue until March 2021 to provide support for businesses that have to close.

Northern Ireland’s lockdown explained

New stricter measures came into force in Northern Ireland on 27 November, just a week after it began easing some of its restrictions following a ‘circuit breaker’ that started in October.

The current lockdown includes the following restrictions:

  • All non-essential retail will close
  • Close-contact services won’t be allowed
  • Hospitality will be takeaway only
  • Gyms, pools, leisure and entertainment venues will close
  • Places of worship will close other than for weddings and funerals
  • Schools will remain open

How does Scotland’s five-level system work?

Scotland launched its five-tier restrictions system on 2 November. Now, each area of the country is under a level from 0 to 4, with differing guidelines in place. Several areas were moved up to Level 4 – the strictest tier – on Friday 20 November. You can find out which level each region is under on the government’s website.

From Friday, the following areas will be under Level 4:

  • East Ayrshire
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • Glasgow City
  • North Lanarkshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • South Ayrshire
  • South Lanarkshire
  • Stirling
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • West Lothian

Level 4 restrictions are due to last for three weeks in these areas.

Here’s what’s open and who you can meet under each alert level:

Who can meet? What’s open? What’s closed?
Level 0 – Inside: up to eight people from three households
– Outside: up to 15 people from five households
– Most businesses
– Schools
– Adult entertainment
– Nightclubs
Level 1 – Inside: six from two households
– Outside: six from two households
– Most businesses but curfews may apply on hospitality
– Schools
– Adult entertainment
– Nightclubs
Level 2 – No socialising in homes
– Inside a pub or restaurant: six from two households
– Outside: six from two households
– Shops, pubs and restaurants, but pubs can only serve alcohol indoors with main meals and may have curfews
– Schools
– Adult entertainment
– Nightclubs
– Some leisure and entertainment, including soft play and theatres
Level 3 – No socialising in homes
– Inside a pub or restaurant: six from two households
– Outside: six from two households
– Shops, pubs and restaurants, but alcohol can’t be sold inside or outside and curfews may apply
– Close-contact services may need ‘additional protective measures’
– Schools
– All leisure and entertainment, including cinemas and arcades
Level 4 – No socialising in homes
– Outside: six from two households
– Essential retail
– Schools
– Pubs and restaurants
– Gyms
– Everything else except essential retail

What are the rules in Wales?

Wales’ firebreak lockdown is over, but things are definitely not ‘back to normal’.

Non-essential businesses can once again reopen, meaning you can go to shops, pubs and restaurants. Alcohol can’t be served or sold after 10pm and licensed venues have to close by 10.20pm.

Supermarkets can also sell non-essential items, after these were controversially cordoned off for the lockdown.

Schools have reopened and you can once again meet people socially by forming an exclusive ‘bubble’ with one other household. Any number of people from this bubble can meet inside a home, but only a maximum of four can meet in a pub or restaurant.

Despite this, the guidance still recommends meeting outdoors rather than indoors where possible, ‘even in circumstances where the law allows you to meet indoors’.

You can meet people from outside your bubble, but only outdoors in public places and only in groups of four.

Holidays within Wales are permitted, but you can only leave Wales for ‘essential’ travel. People who don’t live in Wales can’t visit the nation for a holiday.

You can read the Welsh government’s full list of guidelines here.

What about travel and holidays?

In recent months, the new rules have caused confusion around what people should do if they want to cancel their holidays.

Those living in Level 3 or 4 areas of Scotland can only leave these areas for essential reasons, so that doesn’t include holidays. People in Level 0 to 2 areas are allowed to go on holiday, but the Scottish government still advises against it. The full guidance is here.

During England’s current lockdown, overnight stays away from home – including holidays in the UK, abroad and in second homes – are not allowed. Under the forthcoming tier system, only those in Tiers 1 and 2 are allowed to travel, but should avoid anywhere in Tier 3.

People in Wales can go on holiday locally, but only essential travel is allowed outside of Wales.

In Northern Ireland, ‘stay at home’ guidance will be in place from Friday.

All of this means you should be offered a refund if your flight is cancelled or hotel is closed. But if your flight goes ahead, you may not be able to get your money back.

While many insurers now offer ‘coronavirus cancellation cover’, this often only means if you or someone you’re travelling with catches the virus. Only one insurer (Nationwide) will cover you for cancelling due to a new lockdown.

Where are pubs and restaurants open?

  • Where are they open? Scotland (excluding Level 4), Wales

In England, pubs, bars and restaurants are closed, though they will reopen with 10pm last orders and an 11pm curfew in tier 1 and 2 areas once the lockdown ends.

Cafés and coffee shops in Northern Ireland reopened on Friday 20 November with an 8pm curfew, but they are now closed again under the new lockdown measures which started on Friday 27 November.

Pubs and restaurants can stay open in areas of Scotland under Levels 0 to 3, with different restrictions depending on which level the local area is under.

They have also reopened in Wales, with alcohol sales banned after 10pm and venues serving alcohol closing by 10.20pm.

Where are non-essential shops open?

  • Where are they open? Wales, Scotland (excluding Level 4)

Non-essential shops are closed in England under current lockdown restrictions, though they are set to reopen across the nation when the current lockdown ends.

They are open in areas of Scotland under Levels 0 to 3, and in Wales. They are closed in Northern Ireland as of 27 November.

In all four nations, face coverings must be worn inside shops that are open, and retailers must implement social distancing measures to protect customers and staff.

Where are hairdressers and beauty salons open?

  • Where are they open? Wales, Scotland (excluding Level 4)

These businesses are currently closed under England’s national lockdown, but they are due to reopen under every tier when the new regional system begins on 2 December.

In Scotland, they’re open under Levels 0 to 3 – though ‘additional protective measures’ may be needed at Level 3.

Wales is the only UK nation where hairdressers and beauty salons can open everywhere. Here, they’re expected to collect customers’ contact information.

Beauty parlours, barbers and hairdressers have closed in Northern Ireland, as of 27 November due to its latest lockdown.

hairdressers set up for social distancing

Where are gyms, pools and leisure centres open?

  • Where are they open? Scotland and Wales

Gyms are closed in England as part of the national lockdown, but they can reopen under every tier from 2 December.

They’re open in Wales, and much of Scotland – but indoor gyms are closed in areas under Level 4. Gyms in Northern Ireland are closed as of 27 November due to its stricter lockdown rules

Where they are open, operators have been advised to use timed booking systems, limit numbers, and encourage showering and changing at home, although changing rooms are allowed to be open.

When will cinemas, theatres and music venues reopen?

  • Where are they open? Scotland (Levels 0 to 2), Wales

Cinemas and performance venues are closed in Northern Ireland and England under the current lockdowns. They also have to close under Level 3 and 4 of Scotland’s new system.

In Wales, cinemas are open. Customers must wear face coverings and provide contact details when asked.

Empty theatre seats


This story was first published on 23 June 2020 and has been updated. The latest update was on 27 November to include new guidelines.

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