Tier 4 lockdown: what would the rules be, and what UK areas could be affected?

Boris Johnson has declined to introduce a fourth tier in his Covid winter plan, instead strengthening the three-tier system which will stay in place until spring.

The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced where each region falls in the three-tier system in England, with millions placed under the toughest measures when lockdown ends.

The new three-tier system passed through the House of Commons on the evening of December 1 with 291 votes to 78. However, despite the majority swinging in favour of the Prime Minister’s plans, 55 Tory rebels voted against the measures. This was the biggest rebellion against Mr Johnson to date.

Vast swathes of the country entered Tier 3, with stricter restrictions meaning pubs and restaurants must close in these areas except for takeaways.

Use our postcode tool to find out which Tier your area is in.

After Scotland introduced a fourth level across 11 of its local authority areas, there was speculation we would see a fourth tier imposed in some high-risk areas in England.

The Prime Minister’s announcement means Christmas is safe from a new Tier, but given the volatile nature of infection rates nothing is off the table, as the Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC’s Breakfast last month. 

Tier allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, with the Government keeping a close eye on infection rates, particularly in the over 60’s.

Here’s what we know about ‘Tier 4’ restrictions if the measure was ever put in place after Christmas.

Why might we need a Tier 4?

In August, the Department for Education published a four-tier structure, in which all educational institutions – including primary schools and early years settings – would be shut. 

On October 26, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told BBC Breakfast: "We’ve always said that we take nothing off the table. Having said that, we have seen the rise in the number of cases has slowed a bit.

"The problem is it’s still going up, and while it’s still going up we’ve got to act to get it under control. We rule nothing out, but at the moment the three-tier system is what we’re working to and it’s effective in slowing the growth of this virus but it hasn’t brought this curve to a halt."

Government scientists including Prof Chris Whitty (see video below), the chief medical officer, warned that the "base line" Tier 3 restrictions were unlikely to be enough to bring down the R rate alone.  

Which areas might go into Tier 4? 

Use our tool to track the infection levels in your local area. If they are significantly higher than the national average, it is likely that your area will fall into the highest tier. If a fourth tier is introduced, you might then face these restrictions. 

Are Covid-19 cases rising or falling in your area? All local authorities with lookup. Updates automatically

What are the rules in Tier 3? 

People must not meet anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space. The ‘rule of six’ applies in open public spaces such as parks and beaches.

Hospitality, such as pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes, are allowed to stay open for a takeaway service only. Previously, pubs and restaurants were allowed to stay open if they served substantial meals. 

Cinemas and theatres also have to close in Tier 3.

The other rules for Tier 3 are:

  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees (15 and 30 respectively), but wedding receptions are not allowed
  • Non-essential shops are allowed to stay open, including hairdressers and other personal care businesses
  • People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘very high’ area they are in, or entering a ‘very high’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit
  • Indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close, including cinemas, theaters, indoor play centres, concert halls, skating rinks and casinos
  • Leisure and sports facilities, such as gyms, can stay open, but group exercise classes (including fitness and dance) should not go ahead
  • Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue, however higher-risk contact activity should not take place
  • Hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses have to shut 
  • Places of worship remain open, but you must not attend with or socialise with anyone outside of your household or support bubble while you are there, unless a legal exemption applies
  • People are not allowed to attend spectator sports in Tier 3, as now permitted in Tiers 1 and 2
  • People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘very high’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘very high’ area if they are resident elsewhere

Will the vaccine prevent the introduction of Tier 4? 

The restrictions will expire at the end of March, with Mr Johnson saying he believed the vaccine would make Covid lockdowns "redundant" in the new year.

Government Ministers have praised that vaccine and labelled it as "a ray of light" which is expected to bring an end to the tiered lockdowns and reintroduce normality. The Government’s plans to vaccinate 44 million adults before April 2021 was praised by the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, who shared he was "more and more confident" that life will be closer to normality in the spring.

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