Chronicles

How new Three Tier Covid-19 rules will be tougher than before

The North East will be under Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions when lockdown ends next week.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed the region will fall into the ‘very high alert’ level from December 2. Follow updates and reaction here.

The December Three Tier restrictions will be tougher than the three-level regulations in place across England before the November lockdown.

There is good news for retailers, gyms, barbers and hairdressers, which will be allowed to open in every tier. But with Christmas approaching, bars and pubs will stay closed in Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland and around the region, and restaurants have to remain shut too.

The new Tier system will require restaurants and pubs which serve food to remain closed in Tier 3, while in Tier 2 pubs and bars will only be allowed to open if they serve food with alcohol. Under the previous system, pubs could open in Tier 2, as long as households did not mix inside them, and restaurants were allowed to accommodate dine-in customers in Tier 3, as could pubs which served substantial food.

Back in October, England was split into three groups of Covid-19 alert level: Medium Alert, known as Tier 1; High Alert or Tier 2; and the Very High Alert Tier 3.

Tier 1 areas, which included much of the south of England while the Tier system applied, were subject to the lightest restrictions. Households could mix in groups of up to six indoors, so friends and relatives could socialise together.

Tier 2, which the North East was under initially, kept pubs, restaurants and cafes open, but people were banned from mixing with other households unless they were outside.

Tier 3, which included Liverpool and Manchester, saw pubs closed unless they served substantial food. Gyms were initially closed in Liverpool too but were later allowed to reopen before the lockdown brought in tighter regulations.

Shops, markets, barbers, hairdressers and beauticians will be allowed to open in every tier, the Government has confirmed.

How the new Three Tier system will be different

The December Tier system will be tougher than the October restrictions. This time, the Very High Level of Tier 3 rules ban restaurants from opening to dine-in customers, while pubs will not be allowed to open in Tier 2 unless they serve food.

Indoor entertainment venues like cinemas, theatres, bowling alleys and casinos will remain closed in Tier 3 but can open in Tier 2.

All shops and markets can reopen in every Tier, as can personal care services like barbers, hairdressers and salons.

Gyms, golf courses, leisure centres, swimming pools and outdoor playgrounds can reopen in all tiers, but indoor group activities and classes can not take place in Tier 3. Libraries and community centres can reopen in all tiers, but they can not be hired out for events in Tier 3.

While restaurants and cafes can open in Tier 2, and pubs can in Tier 1, they must call last orders at 10pm and close by 11pm. Table service is essential.

Indoor socialising between households is banned in Tier 2 and Tier 3, with exemptions for social and care bubbles. The ‘rule of six’ will apply in Tier 1 areas and allow people from different households to meet inside. Tier 1 is very unlikely for the North East, as the area still has high coronavirus rates.

In Tiers 2 and 3, groups of up to six can meet up outdoors. In Tier 3 that must be in a large public space, although Tier 2 does allow for people to meet up outside in gardens.

When did they announce what Tier Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham, Northumberland, Gateshead and rest of the North East is in?

Matt Hancock made an official announcement on Thursday, November 26.

The whole of the LA7 – Newcastle, Gateshead, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Durham and Sunderland – were put into Tier 3.

On Wednesday, there were 279 coronavirus cases per 100,000 in the North East, compared to 195 per 100,000 across England as a whole. Earlier this month, Northumberland’s Director of Public Health, Liz Morgan, warned that without significant falls in infection rates, the region was likely to be placed in the higher tier.

The new system will apply from Wednesday, December 2.

How long will the new Three Tier system last for?

The Government is optimistic that restrictions can be gradually relaxed in the run-up to spring, providing vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing a plan for the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.

But with no vaccines having been approved it is still not clear exactly when the rollout will be able to begin.

There is a chance the North East could be moved to a lighter Tier before Christmas, as the regulations will be reviewed before December 16.

Will England’s lockdown definitely end in December?

The Government has emphasised that it wants to see England exit its four-week lockdown on December 2.

This is its legal endpoint, with any extension requiring a vote in Parliament.

But what comes next will depend on a review of Covid-19 case data to assess if the lockdown has had an effect.

Will MPs approve the Three Tier system?

We don’t know, as there is a notable rebellion from backbench Tory MPs who oppose restrictions.

During a vote on the current four-week system earlier this month, 32 Conservatives rebelled to oppose the measures and 17 more, including former prime minister Theresa May, abstained.

A “Covid recovery group” led by former chief whip Mark Harper and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker has been formed to resist new measures, with suggestions 50 Tories have enlisted.

What’s happening at Christmas?

Groups of up to three households could be allowed to create a bubble over the Christmas period.

Some reports say this will allow for five days of mixing between those households over Christmas, others claim five days. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but the Prime Minister is set to make an announcement on Monday, November 23.

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What’s happening in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland will go into a strict two-week lockdown from Friday, with non-essential retail, the hospitality sector and close-contact services required to shut.

Tougher restrictions were imposed for parts of Scotland on November 20, requiring non-essential shops, the hospitality sector, gyms and beauty salons in 11 council areas to close for three weeks.

The Level 4 restrictions, which apply to parts of west and central Scotland, will be in place until December 11.

Meanwhile, the 17-day “firebreak” lockdown in Wales ended on November 9.

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