After a month of nationwide lockdown, the country has started to ease restrictions over the holiday season. Whether you are planning on going abroad or staying home, it is important to follow the current Covid-19 guidance. From 2nd December 2020 a new tier system was introduced in England which determines the restrictions in your area. This new tier system will be stricter than the previous system to prevent and limit the spread of the coronavirus. Whilst the government continues to promote the ‘Hands. Face. Space’ initiative, stricter rules apply to ensure the public’s safety. Different rules apply between 23rd December to 27th December to enable people to enjoy Christmas with their loved ones. In the meantime, the government continue to encourage people to work from home if possible, however schools and universities will be open throughout the country.

There will be three tiers to the new system: Tier 1 – Medium alert; Tier 2 – High alert; and Tier 3 – Very High alert. The government website provides a useful Postcode Checker so you can easily check which Tier you are in. There are some rules which apply across all tiers which include: everyone wearing a face covering in indoor places (unless exempt); following social distancing rules (i.e. keeping 2 metres apart); and avoiding public transport during peak times where possible.  Most businesses will also be allowed to remain open across all tiers including all essential and non-essential retail, leisure and sporting facilities (although group activities and classes may not be permitted in all tiers), personal care services, public buildings & toilets, allotments and recycling centres, places of worship and essential public services. Businesses such as night clubs must remain closed across all tiers.

Tier 1

If you are in the lowest tier, you will be subject to minimal restrictions. These include meeting with a maximum of six other people, either indoors or outdoors which means that you will be able to visit family and friends as long as there is no more than six of you together. This also means that small exercises classes and group activities can go ahead. You may also attend a place of worship with six other people however should not socialise outside your group.

Businesses, other than those legally closed, can remain open so long as Covid-19 measures are in place. These measures are different depending on the business or service offered. For example, shops will have to limit the number of customers on the premises at one time, encourage customers to use hand sanitiser upon entry and to avoid touching items they do not intend to purchase. This is likely to result in long queues outside which they are also responsible for managing and should encourage shoppers to shop alone where possible.

You will also be able to enjoy a meal out in a restaurant or pub however last orders must be taken before 10pm and closing time is 11pm. Bars and pubs must only provide table service to minimise contact between customers.

Furthermore, you are allowed to attend indoor and outdoor events including going to see a football match, however 50% capacity rules apply. If you are planning your wedding, fifteen people may attend your ceremony and reception (including the bride and the groom) and thirty people are allowed to attend funerals.

Tier 2

If you live in a tier 2 area then you will not be able to socialise with those you do not live with or who are not within your support bubble in any indoor setting.

A support bubble is a link between two households which has the effect of being one household for social distancing purposes. If you live alone, or you are the only adult in your home (i.e. you live with children), or your live with a child under the age of one, or a child under the age of five who has a disability, or you are a child living without any adults (e.g. 16 years old) then you may link with another household and make a support bubble.

The ‘rule of 6’ applies to all outdoor areas including private or public spaces.  If you are visiting a place of worship which is indoors you must not socialise from people outside of your bubble. Indoor exercise classes and group activities shall only run for people within the same bubble.

All other rules are the same as tier 1. This means you can do your shopping and enjoy a family dinner with your support bubble inside.

Tier 3

This is the strictest tier and you cannot meet socially indoors or outdoors (with some exceptions) with anybody you do not live with or who is not in your social bubble. Fortunately, you will still be able to visit outdoor spaces such as a park with up to six other people. Organised outdoor activities such as exercise classes are allowed unless there is a high risk of contact between participants.

All hospitality venues will be closed however to help people have access to their favourite goods, many retailers have expanded their online platforms to allow for delivery and extended returns. This also applies to many restaurants who now offer takeaway and delivery services.

Most accommodations will also be closed including hotels and Airbnb however exemptions do apply. Although leisure and sporting facilities may remain open, group exercise and activities should not take place. Additionally, sporting events may go ahead without spectators therefore you will not be able to attend unless participating.

Weddings and funeral restrictions remain the same as previous tiers with the exception that no wedding receptions may take place.

Crossing Tiers

If you live in a tier 1 area, you must comply with local restrictions when visiting higher tiers. Furthermore, you should avoid staying overnight in any tier 3 areas if possible.

If you live in a tier 2 area you must follow tier 2 restrictions when visiting tier 1 area. You should also avoid staying overnight in a tier 3 area.

If you live in a tier 3 area you should avoid all unnecessary travel outside your area.

Separated Families

If you share custody of your child and you do not live with them then your child may move freely between both parents’ households. You may also be able to form a support bubble, if you meet the criteria.

You may also be able to make a childcare bubble which differs from a support bubble (you may be able to make one childcare bubble and one support bubble). A childcare bubble is where one household links with another to provide (unpaid and unregistered) childcare to a child or children under the age of 14. Once all the children have reached the age of 14, the childcare bubble must end. The purpose of the childcare bubble is solely to provide childcare. If you decide to change childcare bubble you must treat your initial childcare bubble as a separate household for 14 days before forming your new childcare bubble.

A child moving between their parents’ household does not constitute a childcare bubble. Additionally, registered childcare providers, paid in-home childcare providers and people in your support bubble are all able to attend your home to provide childcare.

Christmas bubbles

For the week of Christmas (between 23rd and 27th December) you will be able to form a Christmas bubble which consists of people from up to three households. You are allowed only one Christmas bubble which cannot be changed. You are able to travel between the tiers to meet your Christmas bubble which you can meet in your home, places of worship or at a public outdoor space. You will not be able to meet your Christmas bubble in any other indoor setting. Once you make a Christmas bubble you are not allowed to have people outside your bubble in your home or garden. You will be able to meet other people outside of your home so long as you follow your tier restrictions.

Existing support bubbles count as one household meaning you can join another two households. You may also keep your childcare bubble solely if it is reasonably necessary however if you want to meet your childcare bubble socially then you should include them in your Christmas bubble. Children under eighteen not living with their parents may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles. If you are a university student who lives outside of their family home – you will be counted as part of the household you are staying with rather than your term-time household. Call John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart of Audley Chaucer on 01372 303444 to discuss any of these matters.

Larissa Bourgi

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