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On Saturday 17 October (at 00:01), millions more people will find themselves living under ‘Tier 2’ restrictions. This includes the entire population of London. What is ‘Tier 2’, and what does the change mean for your family.
What Are The Rules Of Tier 2?
London and the south-east have up to now been living under Tier 1 rules -- the most permissive of the Government’s three-tier structure. This now changes to Tier 2, bringing in tighter regulations about socialising.
INDOORS: Your household can no longer mix with any other household indoors (except for those in your support bubble). This applies to any setting. You can’t socialise in a home, inside a pub, in a restaurant, nor anywhere else with a roof. Children’s parties and playdates, already very restricted, are no longer possible indoors.
OUTDOORS: You can still mingle with people from another household, so long as you’re outside (that includes pub gardens and outdoor areas at restaurants). You must still obey the rule-of-six (no more than six people in any outdoor group, if those people are from more than one household).
GARDENS: You can still meet in groups of up to six in private gardens (but not in the house).
SCHOOLS: Schools, nurseries and other educational settings are unaffected by the change. They remain open as normal.
GOING OUT: You can still visit restaurants, pubs, cafes and other venues, but only with members of your household or bubble.
SHOPPING: Tier two imposes no new rules on going to the shops (other than no mixing with other households while doing it). Existing rules about facemasks and social distancing remain unchanged.
TRANSPORT: Public transport should only be used for necessary travel, including work, volunteering or education. Family days out on the train, or leisure trips into town are to be avoided -- use bikes or walk if you can.
OTHER VENUES: The rules concerning gyms, exercise classes, religious gatherings and leisure facilities are unchanged (though different households should not mix).
Can I Still Get Childcare?
Yes. Exceptions have been made to allow all existing forms of childcare to continue. You may use breakfast clubs, after school clubs, childminders, childcare bubbles, nannies and other childcare facilities in the same way as before.
What About Half Term Holidays?
If you’ve booked a few days away over half term, then the new rules should not bar you from going. There are some exceptions, however.
- You’re advised NOT to travel to an area at the highest alert stage (Tier 3). Nor should you leave if you live in a Tier 3 area.
- Wales is considering (though has not yet implemented) a ban on visitors from areas of Tier 2 or 3. So if you’re planning a holiday there, keep a close eye on the situation.
- If you’d planned a holiday in which you’d be sharing accommodation with another household, then you can’t do that within a Tier 2 area. Separate hotel rooms in the same hotel would be allowable, but you should avoid mixing indoors.
Wherever you’re planning to go, it would be sensible to check with the hotel or accommodation provider that everything is OK before you set off. The new measures are likely to have repercussions throughout the hospitality industry.
Can I Travel To A Tier 1 Area To Socialise?
No. The rules are clear on this point. You have to adhere to the alert level where you live, even if you leave that area. So if, for example, you live in London (Tier 2) and cross the border into Hertfordshire (currently Tier 1), then you’re still not able to socialise indoors (even though two Hertfordshire households could enjoy this freedom, subject to rule-of-six).
Which Areas Are In Tier 2
The biggest new addition to the Tier 2 rules is London, including all 32 boroughs and the City of London. In addition, Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock), Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash have also been added to the tier. They join many other areas in the Midlands and North of England.
What counts as ‘London’ can be a grey area for some people. Residents of Bromley often write their address as Kent, for example, while those in Kingston may identify with Surrey. Both are technically part of London and have been since the 1960s. The bottom line is that if you pay your council tax to a London Borough, then you’re in London and the new tier 2 rules apply to you and your household.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.