Tier 4 lockdown: What are the rules, and how long will these restrictions last?

Tier 4 was extended across parts of England from December 26, to combat a more contagious strain of coronavirus. It was introduced in England for the first time on Dec 20 in London and the South East, imposing restrictions "broadly equivalent" to a full lockdown and cancelling their Christmas. Non-essential retail, hairdressers and indoor gyms are closed, and people are not be able to meet more than one person from another household in an outdoor public space. Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said: "From 00.01 on Boxing Day Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest will all be escalated to Tier 4." Furthermore, the chairwoman of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Devi Sridhar, has shared that the entire country is likely to enter Tier 4.  In an interview with the BBC, the Professor shared: "I think that's where it's heading, and it's better to be honest with people so they can plan the next few weeks to understand what might be coming." Hospitals have seen "a real rise in pressure" in Tier 4 areas including London and the South in the past days, NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery has said. Speaking on the BBC, she said: "We're seeing a real rise in the pressure for hospital services, but also other types of NHS services as well... ambulance trusts in particular are coming under extreme pressure, as are community and mental health services." Here's what we know about Tier 4 restrictions. Read more: Christmas 2020 lockdown rules Why do we need a Tier 4? A new variant of Covid-19, which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible, is spreading in London and the South East.  Cases of the new mutation of Covid grew “exponentially” during the November lockdown, the Government’s Nervtag committee minutes revealed, and even Tier 4 measures may not be able to stop its march. The committee's assessments indicate the new variant could increase the reproduction rate (R) of the virus by as much as 0.93. Matt Hancock confirmed on Dec 23 that two cases of a new variant had been identified in the UK. This second variant has been traced to South Africa, and the Health Secretary has stated that anybody who has travelled from South Africa in the last two weeks, or been in close contact with someone who has, must quarantine. Which areas are in Tier 4?  Areas in that were initially placed in Tier 4 include: This includes: All 32 London boroughs plus the City of London Bedford and Central Bedfordshire Berkshire  Buckinghamshire Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring). Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings Hertfordshire Kent Luton and Milton Keynes Peterborough Surrey (excluding Waverley) Which areas moved into Tier 4 on Boxing Day? Brighton and Hove Cambridgeshire Remaining parts of East Sussex not already in Tier 4 (Eastbourne Borough Council, Lewes District Council and Wealden District Council) West Sussex Remaining parts of Essex not already in Tier 4 (Colchester Borough, Tendring District, and Uttlesford District Councils) Hampshire (Basingstoke and Deane Borough, East Hampshire District, Eastleigh Borough, Fareham Borough, Hart District, Rushmoor Borough, Test Valley Borough, Winchester City Councils) Norfolk Oxfordshire Southampton Suffolk Waverley Borough What are the rules in Tier 4? Rules in Tier 4 are similar to those of the last national lockdown: Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be able to serve takeaway Hotels must close their doors  Indoor gyms and leisure centres must close Personal care services and non-essential retail must close People living in Tier 4 cannot bubble with other households over Christmas Residents should stay at home as much as possible Residents should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas unless for essential reasons Residents from Tier 4 areas should not stay overnight in other areas They cannot go abroad apart from "limited exceptions" such as work People should work from home if they can Communal worship may continue  Weddings and civil partnerships can only take place in exceptional circumstances, with a limit of six attendees How are tiers determined? Five categories are used to determine which level an area falls into: The rate of infection, particularly among the over-60s How quickly case rates are rising or falling Positivity in the general population Pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity Local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreaks When could Tier 4 restrictions end? The next review of local tier restrictions is expected to take place on December 30. These reviews determine whether areas will move down a tier, remain the same, or move up a tier.  However, Tier 4 restrictions could be toughened further and remain in place until close to Easter, Government

Tier 4 lockdown: What are the rules, and how long will these restrictions last?

Tier 4 was extended across parts of England from December 26, to combat a more contagious strain of coronavirus.

It was introduced in England for the first time on Dec 20 in London and the South East, imposing restrictions "broadly equivalent" to a full lockdown and cancelling their Christmas.

Non-essential retail, hairdressers and indoor gyms are closed, and people are not be able to meet more than one person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said: "From 00.01 on Boxing Day Sussex, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4, Waverley in Surrey and Hampshire including Portsmouth and Southampton but with the exception of the New Forest will all be escalated to Tier 4."

Furthermore, the chairwoman of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, Professor Devi Sridhar, has shared that the entire country is likely to enter Tier 4. 

In an interview with the BBC, the Professor shared: "I think that's where it's heading, and it's better to be honest with people so they can plan the next few weeks to understand what might be coming."

Hospitals have seen "a real rise in pressure" in Tier 4 areas including London and the South in the past days, NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery has said.

Speaking on the BBC, she said: "We're seeing a real rise in the pressure for hospital services, but also other types of NHS services as well... ambulance trusts in particular are coming under extreme pressure, as are community and mental health services."

Here's what we know about Tier 4 restrictions.

Read more: Christmas 2020 lockdown rules

Why do we need a Tier 4?

A new variant of Covid-19, which is up to 70 per cent more transmissible, is spreading in London and the South East. 

Cases of the new mutation of Covid grew “exponentially” during the November lockdown, the Government’s Nervtag committee minutes revealed, and even Tier 4 measures may not be able to stop its march.

The committee's assessments indicate the new variant could increase the reproduction rate (R) of the virus by as much as 0.93.

Matt Hancock confirmed on Dec 23 that two cases of a new variant had been identified in the UK. This second variant has been traced to South Africa, and the Health Secretary has stated that anybody who has travelled from South Africa in the last two weeks, or been in close contact with someone who has, must quarantine.

Which areas are in Tier 4? 

Areas in that were initially placed in Tier 4 include:

This includes:

  • All 32 London boroughs plus the City of London
  • Bedford and Central Bedfordshire
  • Berkshire 
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
  • Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
  • Hertfordshire
  • Kent
  • Luton and Milton Keynes
  • Peterborough
  • Surrey (excluding Waverley)

Which areas moved into Tier 4 on Boxing Day?

  • Brighton and Hove
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Remaining parts of East Sussex not already in Tier 4 (Eastbourne Borough Council, Lewes District Council and Wealden District Council)
  • West Sussex
  • Remaining parts of Essex not already in Tier 4 (Colchester Borough, Tendring District, and Uttlesford District Councils)
  • Hampshire (Basingstoke and Deane Borough, East Hampshire District, Eastleigh Borough, Fareham Borough, Hart District, Rushmoor Borough, Test Valley Borough, Winchester City Councils)
  • Norfolk
  • Oxfordshire
  • Southampton
  • Suffolk
  • Waverley Borough

What are the rules in Tier 4?

Rules in Tier 4 are similar to those of the last national lockdown:

  • Pubs, bars and restaurants will only be able to serve takeaway
  • Hotels must close their doors 
  • Indoor gyms and leisure centres must close
  • Personal care services and non-essential retail must close
  • People living in Tier 4 cannot bubble with other households over Christmas
  • Residents should stay at home as much as possible
  • Residents should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas unless for essential reasons
  • Residents from Tier 4 areas should not stay overnight in other areas
  • They cannot go abroad apart from "limited exceptions" such as work
  • People should work from home if they can
  • Communal worship may continue 
  • Weddings and civil partnerships can only take place in exceptional circumstances, with a limit of six attendees

How are tiers determined?

Five categories are used to determine which level an area falls into:

  1. The rate of infection, particularly among the over-60s
  2. How quickly case rates are rising or falling
  3. Positivity in the general population
  4. Pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity
  5. Local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreaks

When could Tier 4 restrictions end?

The next review of local tier restrictions is expected to take place on December 30. These reviews determine whether areas will move down a tier, remain the same, or move up a tier. 

However, Tier 4 restrictions could be toughened further and remain in place until close to Easter, Government sources have admitted.

Ministers believe at least 20 million people will need to have been vaccinated against coronavirus before any significant relaxing of the measures can be considered, it is understood.

Matt Hancock said on December 20 that Britain faces a “very difficult” few months, warning that the spread of the virus across swathes of England is now “out of control”.

Tory MP Mark Harper, the chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), described the changes as a “a very sad day” for the country and demanded that Mr Johnson come forward with a “clear exit strategy from this nightmarish cycle of damaging lockdowns and restrictions.”

“Lockdowns and increasingly severe tiered restrictions have failed in their goal of slowing the transmission of Covid,” he added.

“And now the Government is expecting people to sacrifice the chance to share Christmas with family, friends and loved ones, just a few days after promising the opposite.”

Read More: What exactly is the Pfizer vaccine, who will get it, and is it safe?

Travel, holidays and work

Anyone living in a Tier 4 area will not be allowed to leave to travel to lower-prevalence cities, towns and villages.

Those who have booked holidays abroad will also need to cancel them, with Mr Johnson stating that the only foreign travel permitted will be for workers who have a business exemption. Anyone returning home would still have to quarantine.

Mr Johnson urged people to "carefully consider whether they need to travel abroad." No outright ban was indicated, as per the first lockdown.

The WHO have called on its members in Europe to step up their own measures against coronavirus in the face of the new variant circulating in Britain.

The first to do so was the Dutch government, which banned all passenger flights from Britain until January 1 after finding a case in the Netherlands of the new coronavirus strain.

50 countries followed suit including Italy, Austria, France and Spain, all banning all flights from the UK.

EU countries held discussions on 22 Dec and decided to lift the compete travel ban, allowing national citizens, foreign residents and key workers to travel from the UK to their home country, if they have a negative Covid test.

Belgium imposed a 24-hour ban on flights and rail links while it assessed the situation. Now, between 23 and 31 December, only those who are resident in Belgium, Belgian citizens and a limited number of strictly necessary journeys will be allowed from the UK.

Italy prohibited entry to the country by anyone who had been in the UK in the last 14 days while flights are banned until January 6. Now, only Italian citizens in the UK are allowed to return to Italy and those who need urgent entry.

Austria and the Czech Republic are also imposing restrictions, with Prague announcing stricter quarantine rules with anyone arriving in the country having spent at least 24 hours in UK territory required to self-isolate.

France imposed a 48-hour travel ban from the UK. Those restrictions came into force at midnight on Dec 20 causing mass disruption at ports. Now,  French citizens, British nationals living in France and hauliers are able to travel again - if they have had a recent negative test.

In Ireland, passengers arriving by plane or ferry from England, Wales and Scotland, with the exemption of essential workers, are banned until 31 December, regardless of nationality. 

The German government implemented a travel ban on flights from the UK as of midnight (Berlin time) on Dec 20. Flights and passenger transport by rail, bus and ship is banned until 6 January. From 1 January 2021, transport operators can apply to the German authorities for an exemption to transport people who are resident in Germany.

The Prime Minister chaired a COBR meeting on Dec 21 to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK. 

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told the Downing Street press conference that anyone in Tier 4 who had begun packing their bags for Christmas should now “unpack” them.

Exemptions to the "stay at home" message which applied in the November lockdown, will also apply in the new Tier 4 - including support bubbles, childcare bubbles and children whose parents are separated.

People will be allowed to travel for education, childcare and to go to work if they cannot work from home and they will be permitted unlimited outdoor exercise.

A police car patrols along the stacks of Freight lorries and goods vehicles queuing on the M20 motorway which leads to Dover, after a string of countries banned travel including accompanied freight arriving from the UK Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP

Non-essential retail and hospitality

All non-essential shops in Tier 4 areas will be forced to close until restrictions are lowered.  

In a hammer blow to the high streets of London and towns across the South East, the return to lockdown-style closures will affect fashion and department stores, toy, gadget and electrical shops.

Supermarkets, green grocers, newsagents and corner shops will remain open. Stores in lower tier areas will be unaffected by the changes.

Mr Johnson was unable to say whether additional financial support would be provided by the Treasury.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "The consequences of this decision will be severe.

“For businesses, the Government's stop-start approach is deeply unhelpful - this decision comes only two weeks after the end of the last national lockdown and right in the middle of peak trading which so many are depending on to power their recovery.

"Faced with this news - and the prospect of losing £2 billion per week in sales for the third time this year - many businesses will be in serious difficulty and many thousands of jobs could be at risk.”

Pubs and restaurants will remain shut in Tiers 3 and 4, except for takeaway. In Tier 2 last orders are 10pm with closing time at 11pm, and you can only dine with people in your own household. In Tier 1, rule of six applies indoors.

Personal care and entertainment

Hairdressers, other close personal care services have also been closed in Tier 4, including beauticians, nail salons and tattoo shops.

The restrictions will also apply to entertainment venues such as cinemas, bowling alleys, bingo halls, casinos, indoor skating rinks and amusement arcades.

The changes mirror the two previous lockdowns.

The changes will not affect lower tiers in England, although Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, has confirmed that they will also apply as part of Wales’s post-Christmas lockdown due to come into effect on December 20.

Gyms and leisure centres

Just weeks after reopening, gyms and leisure centres have been shut again in areas placed into Tier 4.

Outdoor sports courts, outdoor gyms, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges, riding centres and playgrounds can remain open for individual exercise, and for people to use with others within your household, support bubble, or with one person from another household. Organised outdoor sport for under 18s and disabled people will be allowed.

The measures announced do not appear to have any impact on professional sport, as spectators are still not allowed to enter stadiums and other sporting venues in Tier 3.

The changes do not affect lower tiers, meaning people can continue to use gyms and leisure centres.

Professional football, rugby and other matches will still take place with limits on crowd sizes, which are a maximum of 4,000 in Tier one, dropping to 2,000 in Tier two.

Churches

People will still be able to attend services in all areas of the country, although it is thought that those in Tier 4 will have to remain within their own households.

In the lower tiers, people attending church will be required to observe the restrictions on household mixing indoors as set out for their tier.

The decision to keep places of worship open for communal worship differs from previous lockdown restrictions, with Government sources stating that they recognise the importance that religion plays for many people at Christmas.

Weddings

Couples in Tier 4 will now be forced to postpone their plans unless they meet an exceptional circumstances exemption, which normally only applies for someone who does not have long to live.

However, in the lower tiers people will still be able to tie the knot, albeit with strict limits on their size.

Under the Government’s ‘Covid Winter Plan’, civil partnerships and wedding ceremonies can go ahead with up to 15 guests and under social distancing requirements. However, receptions remain banned in Tier 3.

Shielding

People who were asked to “cocoon” themselves at home for weeks on end could be asked to do so again, Prof Whitty indicated.

While the Government relaxed the rules due to concerns over the impact on people’s mental health, the chief medical officer revealed that the guidance around shielding was now being reviewed as the virus continues to surge.

“The shielding patterns are actually being re-looked at,” he told the Downing Street press conference.

"The view about shielding is that, in the first wave, shielding did many things that were useful but also did many things that were actually actively harmful.

"And we therefore changed the model of shielding since the first wave, and that includes people being able to get out more in many situations, and also areas around work.

"But this is something which people are keeping on looking at, to try and get the optimal balance between isolating people too much and isolating them enough from the virus."

Schools 

Pupils will be asked to continue attending school in all tiers, despite growing concern that children and teenagers are contributing to a surge in cases in the South East. 

Downing Street confirmed that schools in Tier 4 areas are still expected to reopen after the Christmas holidays. 

However, like lower tiers, they will also be required to stagger the return of secondary school and college pupils during the first week of January while mass testing is rolled out. 

Under the plans, announced earlier this week, only pupils in Year 11 and Year 13 who are preparing for GCSEs and A-levels will be allowed back as usual on Jan 4.

Do you have any questions on Tier 4 restrictions or the new coronavirus strain? Email yourstory@telegraph.co.uk and your questions will be answered by our experts.