What are the Tier 4 rules, how long will they last, and how will they affect Christmas?
23 December 2020, 16:19 | Updated: 23 December 2020, 16:22
What is Tier 4? A number of areas will move into the fourth Tier on Boxing Day - Here's your need-to-know on what it is, what the rules are and how long it will last.
Last weekend, Boris Johnson announced that parts of England will be moved into a new Tier 4 in response to a spike in coronavirus cases due to a new variant of the virus.
Areas currently in Tier 3 in London and the East and Southeast of England have now adopted tougher restrictions - meaning that they will be in place over the Christmas period.
He said that the decision was taken in response to a new strain of coronavirus prominent in these areas, that appears to be spreading more quickly than the previous form.
The Prime Minister said: "It seems that the spread is now being driven by a new variant of the virus. Our advisory group has spend the last few days analysing this new variant. There’s no evidence that it causes a more severe illness of higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily."
He added that we know enough about the virus to know that we must 'act now', saying: "First we will introduce new restrictions in affected areas - parts of London, East, South East that are in Tier 3 - these will enter Tier 4. Residents in those areas must stay at home apart from limited exemptions set in law."
On 23 December, Matt Hancock announced that a number of areas will be added to the Tier 4 list on Boxing Day - these include Sussex, Oxfordshire and Suffolk.
What are the Tier 4 rules?
For people in Tier 4, rules will resemble the full lockdowns seen in in the Spring and November.
The 'stay at home' message will apply, and people will only be able to leave home for essential reasons like exercise, medical reasons, food shopping, and to go to work.
People must not leave Tier 4 areas, other than for essential reasons like work, and individuals can only meet one person from another household outdoors.
Those in Tier 4 should work from home if possible, but those who cannot will be able to go to work.
Unlike in the November lockdown, communal worship will be allowed.
People in Tier 4 cannot travel abroad, other than for work purposes.
Will non-essential shops be open in Tier 4?
All non-essential retail and businesses like hairdressers must close.
What areas are currently in Tier 4?
The following areas are currently in Tier 4.
Surrey (excluding Waverley)
The boroughs of Gosport
Rother and Hastings
All 32 London boroughs and the city of London
Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring)
What areas will move into Tier 4 on Boxing Day?
On 23 December, Matt Hancock announced that a number of areas would move into Tier 4 on Boxing Day.
Parts of Essex currently not in Tier 4
Waverley in Surrey
Hampshire, with the exception of the New Forest
What are the Christmas rules for Tier 4?
The original 'Christmas bubble' plan will not apply for those in Tier 4, and people will not be able to mix with anyone from outside their household indoors on the 25th.
Mr Johnson said: "Given the early evidence we have on new variant of the virus. We cannot continue with Christmas as planned. Those living in tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their household at Christmas, but support bubbles will remain in place."
International travel and overnight stays between households is also banned.
Until further notice, people can meet only one person from another household in an outside space.
While people in Tier 4 are not allowed to mix with people outside their household, other tiers must follow existing rules, and are being encourage to just have household bubbles on Christmas Day only.
Full list of areas going into Tier 4 from midnight TONIGHT
- Surrey (ex Waverley)
- Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth
- Rother and Hastings
- East of England
- Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough
- Essex (ex Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring)
What are the Christmas rules in Wales?
In a statement the Welsh government said it has taken the "difficult decision to bring forward the alert level four restrictions for Wales, in line with the action being taken in London and the South East of England".
It continues: "These new restrictions will come into effect from midnight tonight instead of during the Christmas period."This will mean non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres and hospitality will close at the end of trading today.
"Stay-at-home restrictions will also come into effect from midnight."
Unfortunately, we must also look again at the arrangements for Christmas – we cannot expose people to the risk of this new, more virulent strain of coronavirus.
"We will therefore change the current rules, which allow two households to come together to form a Christmas bubble over a five-day period, so that they will apply on Christmas Day only."
What are the Christmas rules in Scotland?
Nicola Sturgeon says there will be a strict travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK, right throughout the Christmas period.
"That means people from Scotland not visiting other parts of the UK and vice versa," she says.
She added that people should "lift their guard again" if they have been a bit more lax in following the rules recently.
The first minister announces there will be a "strict travel ban" between Scotland and the rest of the UK throughout the festive period.Ms Sturgeon adds the government will also be looking at the rules around international travel.
On Christmas, the first minister says the rules will now only be relaxed for one day only, on Christmas Day itself.
Ms Sturgeon says she feels like crying, having to announce these changes.
"I know how harsh this sounds", she continues, but she says the virus is unfair and doesn't "care about Christmas".
Level 4 measures will be applied to all of mainland Scotland for three weeks from Boxing Day.
The majority of schools in Scotland will now not return until 11th January, with online learning extended until the 18th.There will be an earlier return for the children of key workers.
How long will Tier 4 be in place?
It is not known how long it will last, but the next Tier review is on 30 December.
What is the new strain of coronavirus?
There have been concerns over a new strain of coronavirus that appears to be spreading more quickly than the previous form.
Speaking earlier today, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said: "there is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments" but further study would be needed to assess this."
He added:"As a result of the rapid spread of the new variant, preliminary modelling data and rapidly rising incidence rates in the South East, the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) now consider that the new strain can spread more quickly.
"We have alerted the World Health Organization and are continuing to analyse the available data to improve our understanding.
"There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this.
"Given this latest development it is now more vital than ever that the public continue to take action in their area to reduce transmission."