New lockdown rules in full: What you can and can’t do in Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3

Shops, hairdressers and thousands of pubs will be able to open once more under a three-tier local lockdown from next Wednesday.

But almost all of England will have indoor gatherings banned when the government reveals which areas are in which tier at 11.30am.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will unveil in the Commons which areas are in which tiers, and most if not all are expected to be in the tougher tiers 2 and 3.

So as we wait to see which tier you’ll be in, what are the rules for each tier?

Earlier this week, Boris Johnson published the 56-page Covid Winter Plan outlining the new stricter three-tier local lockdown system that will come into force on Wednesday 2 December at 12.01am.



England is coming out of lockdown – but is going into tiers that will be stricter than before (stock photo)

Collective worship, small weddings and outdoor sports can also resume.

And the current lockdown ‘stay-at-home’ order will end. Instead gatherings will be limited to the Rule of Six, a limit of six people including children, unless rules are stricter in your tier.

It’s a bit like the three-tier system we had back in October. But it’s stricter than the October system – and more areas than before will be in the stricter tiers.

What’s more, apart from a brief break over Christmas we’re in it for the long haul. While individual tiers will be reviewed every 14 days, the whole system is in force until March.

In the new system the 10pm pub curfew has been axed but thousands more pubs must shut in return – including all hospitality venues in Tier 3.

All cinemas, soft play, bingo halls and more will also be forced to close in all Tier 3 areas for the first time.

And Tier 3 restrictions will be forced on local areas by the government with no right for the local council to refuse or appeal.

You’ll only find out which tier you’re in this Thursday, but in the meantime, what will be the rules?

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is changing in England?



Boris Johnson said several things will be different compared to the old three-tier system

England’s second nationwide lockdown will end at 12.01am on Wednesday 2 December.

That means non-essential shops, gyms and many pubs and restaurants can reopen, and people are no longer banned from leaving their homes without a «reasonable excuse».

However, there will still be strict rules as every region of the country returns to either Tier 1, Tier 2 or Tier 3.

Like in October, each region will be put in a Tier (to be named on Thursday) depending on how widespread the virus is locally.

Like in October, people can gather in the Rule of Six unless there are stricter rules in their local tier. (The limit of six people includes any children.)

But unlike in October, more regions are set to be in the higher tiers 2 and 3, and the tiers themselves will be stricter. This is because SAGE experts have concluded the original tiers weren’t strict enough to drive down the virus.

What’s changed in the Tier rules since last time?



Thousands more pubs will be forced to shut compared to the old tier system

Specific rules that have changed since October include:

  • More pubs must shut. Beforehand, hospitality venues could stay open in Tier 3 if they could operate as a restaurant. But now that restriction will apply to Tier 2; and all hospitality venues in Tier 3 must shut completely. This includes hotels.
  • 10pm curfew axed. Pubs and restaurants that remain open will now have to call last orders at 10pm but won’t have to shut completely at 10pm – drinkers will have until 11pm to leave.
  • Support bubbles expanded. There’s now a new exemption which allows two multi-adult households to form a support bubble no matter what, if one of them has a child under one, or a disabled child under five with continuous care needs.
  • Spectator sport, gigs, conferences and theatre shows can go ahead in Tiers 1 and 2. They will have severely reduced capacity.
  • Cinemas, bowling, bingo and soft play must close in all Tier 3 areas. This also includes any other ‘indoor entertainment’ venues.
  • Tier 3 rules will be the same everywhere in Tier 3. No more a-la-carte options on top.
  • Councils in Tier 3 will have no right to negotiate or appeal. However they will have the right to negotiate the details of mass testing and similar measures.
  • People in all tiers told to work from home and not travel unless necessary. This is slightly stricter than what existed before.
  • Tier 3 areas can get mass testing. The government hopes to expand rapid tests which covered everyone in Liverpool to other Tier 3 areas.

What about Christmas?



The Christmas question remains a live one

The whole of the UK will be given a brief break from lockdown rules over Christmas.

That means the above tier system will be suspended in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will suspend their rules too.

Instead up to three households can form a Christmas bubble for up to five days – December 23-27. Read our full explainer on Christmas bubbles here.

Which tier am I in?

You’ll find out what tier you are in in England at 11.30am or so on Thursday.

You shouldn’t assume you’ll be in a certain tier now just because you were in it before. Ministers will look at virus rates as well as hospitalisations, the rate of growth or shrinking, and any local factors.

MPs are expected to be given a vote to approve the new system in the days before it comes into force.

Tiering allocations will be formally reviewed every 14 days. In reality it’ll be continuously reviewed though so places could move between tiers more often, e.g. weekly.

The first formal review is due by December 16.

How Tiers will be decided

Five factors will be used to decide which tier an area goes into:

  • Analysis of cases across all age groups
  • Analysis of cases specifically among the over-60s
  • Rate by which cases are rising or falling (and the R rate is key to that)
  • Percentage of those tested in local populations who are found to have Covid (e.g. cases per 100,000)
  • Current and projected pressures on the NHS.

But the government says there won’t be «rigid thresholds» and they’ll have to be «flexible».

This means for example considering hospital capacity in the light of the capacity in neighbouring areas.

Tier changes will also be decided by «broader economic and practical considerations».

Tier 1 rules explained



These are the restrictions for Tier 1 areas

Social contact: All social gatherings indoors and outdoors are governed by the ‘rule of six’. That means up to six people from up to six households can gather, but the six-person limit includes children and babies. You are still required to obey rules on wearing masks and social distancing.

Bubbles: Two households can form a ‘support bubble’ if one of them only has one adult; or a ‘childcare bubble’ if one of them has a child under 13. There’s also now a new exemption which allows a multi-adult household to form a support bubble no matter what, if that household has a child under one, or a child with care needs under five. If you’re in a bubble, you can behave as though you’re all in one household.

Shielding: ‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who shielded in Spring can return to school and work. There will be specific guidance for each tier.

Sex: It’s not illegal, but in terms of guidance, you are supposed to follow social distancing rules. That means sex with someone you don’t live with is off the table. There is an exemption if you’re in an «established relationship».

Pubs and restaurants: Hospitality venues must operate table service only and call last orders at 10pm, though people only have to leave at 11pm.

Schools, universities and childcare: Remain open in all circumstances, but universities must reflect wider restrictions in the area.

Travel and holidays: Walk or cycle where possible, but holidays are allowed. Don’t travel into Tier 3 areas unless necessary for things like work or education.

Work: The advice is to work from home if you can.

Weddings and funerals: 15 guests can attend marriage ceremonies and receptions. Funerals can have up to 30 mourners, with only 15 people allowed at the wake.

Shops: All retail – including non-essential shops – can stay open.

Gyms, pools, hairdressers, and ‘personal care’ (e.g. nail salons): These can stay open.

Cinemas, bingo, bowling, soft play and other indoor entertainment: These can stay open.

Sports: Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided rule of six is observed.

Spectator sports: Allowed outdoors with a maximum crowd size of either 50% occupancy of the stadium or 4,000 spectators, whichever is smaller. Allowed indoors with 1,000 spectators or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller.

Mass events, theatres, gigs and conferences: Allowed indoors with 1,000 spectators or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller.

Religious services: Can go ahead as long as the sub-group you’re in the venue with is consistent with social gathering rules for your tier.

Driving lessons and tests: Can go ahead.

Tier 2 rules explained



These are the restrictions for Tier 2 areas

Social contact: You cannot meet anyone socially indoors, unless they are from your household or support bubble . This applies at home or in a public setting. Rule of six limits apply outdoors.

Bubbles: Two households can form a ‘support bubble’ if one of them only has one adult; or a ‘childcare bubble’ if one of them has a child under 13. There’s also now a new exemption which allows a multi-adult household to form a support bubble no matter what, if that household has a child under one, or a child with care needs under five. If you’re in a bubble, you can behave as though you’re all in one household.

Shielding: ‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who shielded in Spring can return to school and work. There will be specific guidance for each tier.

Sex: Indoor recreational gatherings are banned unless you live together or are in the same bubble. Outdoors, such as in a garden, it’s not illegal but you’re supposed to follow social distancing guidance.

Pubs and restaurants: Hospitality venues must shut unless they serve food, and you can only buy alcohol if you are also consuming a «substantial meal». They must call last orders at 10pm, though people only have to leave at 11pm.

Schools, universities and childcare: Remain open in all circumstances, but universities can do more online learning.

Travel and holidays: You should reduce the number of journeys where possible, but holidays are allowed. Don’t travel into Tier 3 areas unless necessary for things like work or education.

Work: The advice is to work from home if you can.

Weddings and funerals: 15 guests can attend marriage ceremonies and receptions. Funerals can have up to 30 mourners, with only 15 people allowed at the wake.

Shops: All retail – including non-essential shops – can stay open.

Gyms, pools, hairdressers, and ‘personal care’ (e.g. nail salons): These can stay open.

Cinemas, bingo, bowling, soft play and other indoor entertainment: These can stay open.

Sports: Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can happen outdoors, but not indoors if anyone from different households interacts with each other.

Spectator sports: Allowed outdoors with a maximum crowd size of either 50% occupancy of the stadium or 2,000 spectators, whichever is smaller. Allowed indoors with 1,000 spectators or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller.

Mass events, theatres, gigs and conferences: Allowed indoors with 1,000 spectators or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller.

Religious services: Can go ahead as long as the sub-group you’re in the venue with is consistent with social gathering rules for your tier.

Driving lessons and tests: Can go ahead.

Tier 3 rules explained



These are the rules that will apply in Tier 3 areas

Social contact: You cannot meet anyone socially, unless they are from your household or support bubble, either indoors or in outdoor spaces like private gardens, beer gardens, hospitality or ticketed venues.. However, rule of six limits still apply in outdoor open spaces, such as a park, forest, or beach.

Bubbles: Two households can form a ‘support bubble’ if one of them only has one adult; or a ‘childcare bubble’ if one of them has a child under 13. There’s also now a new exemption which allows a multi-adult household to form a support bubble no matter what, if that household has a child under one, or a child with care needs under five. If you’re in a bubble, you can behave as though you’re all in one household.

Shielding: ‘Clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who shielded in Spring can return to school and work. There will be specific guidance for each tier.

Sex: Indoor recreational gatherings are banned unless you live together or are in the same bubble. The same applies to outdoor spaces like gardens or beer gardens. Gatherings are still technically allowed in parks, but you’re supposed to socially distance. And, er, there’s a little thing called public indecency law.

Pubs and restaurants: Hospitality venues must shut and can only remain open as «click and collect» or takeaway services. This includes hotels. Drive-throughs can stay open.

Schools, universities and childcare: These remain open in all circumstances, but universities can do more online learning.

Travel and holidays: You should limit any journeys made outside your local Tier 3 area – except for work and school run journeys. This is guidance, rather than the law. People are advised against overnight stays outside the area or having visitors to stay from elsewhere. This means no holidays.

Work: The advice is to work from home if you can.

Weddings and funerals: 15 guests can attend marriage ceremonies but receptions are banned. Funerals can have up to 30 mourners, with only 15 people allowed at the wake.

Shops: All retail – including non-essential shops – can stay open.

Gyms, pools, hairdressers, and ‘personal care’ (e.g. nail salons): These can stay open.

Cinemas, bingo, bowling, soft play and other indoor entertainment: These must shut in Tier 3.

Sports: Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place outdoors, but not indoors unless it’s just one household or bubble.

Spectator sports: Not allowed in Tier 3, indoors or outdoors.

Mass events, theatres, gigs and conferences: Not allowed.

Religious services: Can go ahead as long as the sub-group you’re in the venue with is consistent with social gathering rules for your tier.

Driving lessons and tests: Can go ahead.


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