The U.K. introduced a three-tier system for restricting travel movements and social mixing/distancing–that of medium (tier 1), high (tier 2) and very high (tier 3).

Here’s an explainer of what they mean, what you can and can’t do in each tier and how to find out which tier is which.

Why have the new measures been introduced?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he had introduced these new measures because the constant changes in restrictions was making it difficult for people to know what they were allowed to do where and with whom.

It was also brought in to try to avoid a national lockdown of the type implemented on March 23 and to try to avoid the closure of shops, universities and schools.

With rising infection rates, major British cities are in flux, with London moving up in risk from a tier one (medium) to a tier two (high) category on Friday 16 October. Sadiq Khan, quoted in The Telegraph, warned Londoners that they face a “difficult winter ahead” adding that “no one wants to see restrictions, but these are necessary”.

This means that 9 million people in the U.K. will be under a much stricter lockdown from 12.01 Saturday morning.

Rules which apply to all parts of the U.K.

The U.K. has seen spiralling rates, much likes its EU counterparts, and many hospital beds are full (more so now than at the time of the national lockdown in March).

There are several rules that must be followed all over the country:

  • people must wear a face mask where they see signs to do so;
  • social distancing rules should be followed at all times;
  • people should work from home where it is at all possible; and
  • if people must travel, walking or cycling are preferable. Otherwise, people are advised to plan ahead, avoiding busy times and routes.

Tier 1, medium restrictions

These rules are the baseline for most of the country, except where rates are very high or the highest. These are the minimum requirements:

  • people can travel to amenities that are open and for work/education (schools and universities are open) but should aim to reduce the number of journeys made;
  • people must not socialise in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors (other than where a legal exemption applies);
  • businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law;
  • certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am;
  • businesses and venues selling food after 10pm must be for click-and-collect or for delivery only;
  • places of worship remain open, subject to the rule of 6;
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead (with restrictions on numbers of attendees);
  • exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, or indoors if the rule of 6 is followed.

Most major U.K. cities are operating under medium restrictions with everyone following the “rule of six”, regardless of whether they know each other or if they are indoors or out.

Tier 2, high restrictions

This is for areas with a higher level of infections where some additional restrictions are in place.

People must follow the restrictions provided for tier one, medium restrictions (such as for businesses and journeys) but there are differences in that people in this tier can only mix indoors if they are from the same social/household bubble (whilst still following the “rule of 6”). Crucially:

  • people must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place;
  • you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other spaces like beaches or parks;
  • exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport

In addition, the government can work with local authorities to put in place additional restrictions, such as preventing the sale of alcohol, closing tourist attractions, gyms and leisure centres and other public buildings such as libraries and community centres.

London will be given a tier 2 categorisation from midnight Friday 16 October as well as other U.K. areas–Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness and North-East Derbyshire.

Tier 3, very high restrictions

For towns, cities and regions where Covid-19 infection rates are very high, the rules regarding movement are much more strict. Whilst schools and universities remain open, almost all other movement is restricted.

At a minimum, this means:

  • people must not socialise with anybody they do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events;
  • people must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park or beach, the countryside, a public garden or a sports venue;
  • pubs and bars must close. They can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal;
  • places of worship remain open, but household mixing is not permitted;
  • weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees. However, wedding receptions are not allowed;
  • exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with), or for youth or disability sport;
  • people should try to avoid travelling outside the very-high alert level area they are in or entering a very-high alert level area, other than for things like work, education or youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are travelling through as part of a longer journey;
  • they should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a very-high alert level area, or avoid staying overnight in a very-high alert level area if they are resident elsewhere.

The Liverpool City region is the only place currently under tier 3, the very highest Covid-19 restrictions, although Manchester is currently very close.


If you are in any doubt, the U.K. government has a website to check local Covid-19 restrictions currently in place–by entering a local postcode, it provides up-to-date details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *