Tier 1 lockdown rules: what are the Covid restrictions for ‘medium risk’ alert areas?

Only the Isles of Scilly entered Tier 1 at 00.01 on December 26, according to an announcement from Matt Hancock.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on December 23, the Health Secretary announced further restrictions which see much of England facing Tier 3 and 4 from Boxing Day. 

Previously, four regions in England were placed under the lowest coronavirus measures, as Herefordshire joined Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly on Dec 19.

These restrictions were subject to change after a new variant of coronavirus was discovered in the South East and the rate of infection increased.

For now, people in Tier 1 can enjoy a slight relaxation of the 10pm curfew in pubs and restaurants, and households are allowed to mix indoors and outdoors.

Now lockdown has expired, a “uniform set of measures” applies by tier across the country until spring, rather than negotiations with individual local authorities. Use our postcode tool to find out which Tier your area is in. 

Despite a rebellion from dozens of Tory MPs at the House of Commons vote on the tiers, and backlash from businesses, Matt Hancock said the restrictions were here to stay for the “forthcoming few months.”

With the news that a vaccine has been approved in England, Mr Hancock encouraged people to “hold their nerve” and stick to the rules.

Tier allocations will be reviewed every 14 days, with the Government keeping a close eye on infection rates, particularly in the over 60’s. The next review will be on Dec 30.

Boris Johnson also told MPs at the Commons vote on Dec 1 that tiers would be decided on a more “granular” basis after the review in mid-Dec, after facing pressure from backbenchers. 

Isolation for contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, and those returning from abroad was cut to 10 days from Monday, Dec 14.

Here’s what the new restrictions in Tier 1 mean for you.

What are medium level/Tier 1 lockdown rules?

In Tier 1 areas, people must abide by the “Rule of Six” when meeting other households both indoors and outdoors.

People are still advised to continue to work from home where possible.

Last orders in hospitality venues serving food and drink will be called at 10pm and customers are allowed to stay until 11pm. 

Spectator sports are allowed to resume both indoors and outdoors in Tier 1, with Covid-safe measures and social distancing in place.

The public are allowed to attend performances and shows in theatres and other entertainment venues, both indoors and outdoors, at a limited capacity.

The limits for sports and events is 4,000 people or 50 per cent of the usual capacity outdoors. Indoors, the limit is 1,000 people.

The other rules are:

  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • Hospitality businesses serving food and drink should close between 11pm and 5am (hospitality venues in airports, ports, on transport services and in motorway service areas are exempt)
  • The 11pm closure also applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, concert halls, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities and bingo halls
  • Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open (For the latter, groups attending religious services are expected to follow the rule of six – with larger families exempt)
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees (15 and 30 respectively)
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the “Rule of Six” is followed (There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing)

International travel is allowed in Tier 1, but the advice is still not to travel unless necessary, and to check FCO restrictions for your destination.

Many countries, including Denmark, Italy and Austria have issued a travel ban, pausing all flights to the UK.

Travel, both domestic and international, is off the cards for the majority of the UK until at least December 30. 

The ban on passenger flights and freight transport from the UK threatened to disrupt food supplies, Christmas gifts and even the Covid vaccine as well as hitting the festive travel plans of an estimated 250,000 Britons.

Health officials said the confinement for close contacts of positive cases and those returning from countries not on the travel corridor list will be reduced from 14 days to 10.

This puts it in line with the isolation period for those diagnosed with the virus. This requirement is expected to remain in place for anyone suffering symptoms and those with a positive test result.

There are hopes that the system for such cases will be abolished in the new year, replaced with daily tests for those at risk.

Tier 2 lockdown rules: what you can and can’t do in ‘high’ alert areas

Tier 3 lockdown rules explained: what you can and can’t do in ‘very high’ risk alert areas

Tier 4 lockdown: What are rules and which areas are affected?

How many people are affected by Tier 1 restrictions?

From December 26 only the Isles of Scilly remain under the lowest restrictions. 

Previously, as little as 714,000 people in England were under the lowest level of restrictions, accounting for 1.3pc of the population. 

From December 2, South Hams in Devon entered Tier 2, despite having the lowest infection rate in the country at the time. This was an example of how some neighbouring areas can be placed into tiers which do not match the pattern of the suggested case rates. 

You can use our post code tool to see which tier your area has been placed into below:

When will the tier restrictions end? 

The restrictions are due to expire at the end of March, with Mr Johnson saying he believed the vaccine would make Covid lockdowns “redundant” in the new year.

They are reviewed every fortnight. The next review is expected to be on Dec 30.

In a letter to Tory MPs, Boris Johnson said he would allow the House of Commons to vote on the new tiers in late January, saying the regulations “have a sunset of 3 February.”

The Government’s plan 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.

However, the Health Secretary has stated that the tier system could be in place for a couple of months more until the vaccine has been rolled out. This is due to the increase in cases of the new variant of the coronavirus, which will make the next few months an “enormous challenge”, according to Mr Hancock. 

Read more: How long will it take for life to return to normal after the Covid vaccine rollout?​

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