Guidance

Tier 3: Very High alert

What you can and cannot do in an area in Tier 3 of local restrictions.

During the Christmas period (23 to 27 December) different rules on social contact will apply.

Find out what tier your area is in

See an overview of the rules for Tier 3

This guidance is for people who are fit and well. There is additional advice for:

Hands. Face. Space

Remember, ‘Hands. Face. Space’:

  • hands: wash your hands regularly and for 20 seconds
  • face: wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
  • space: stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings)

When meeting people you do not live with, it is important to do so outdoors where possible, or to make sure that any indoor venue has good ventilation (for example by opening windows so that fresh air can enter).

Meeting family and friends

Meeting indoors

You must not meet socially indoors with anybody you do not:

Unless a legal exemption applies.

‘Indoors’ means any indoor setting, including:

  • private homes
  • other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants

Meeting outdoors

You must not meet socially (in a private garden or at most outdoor public venues), with anybody you do not:

Unless a legal exemption applies.

However, you can see friends and family you do not live with (or do not have a support bubble with) in some outdoor public places, in a group of up to 6. This limit of 6 includes children of any age.

These outdoor public places include:

  • parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
  • public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
  • allotments
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • outdoor sports courts and facilities
  • playgrounds

You can continue to meet in a group larger than 6 if you are all from the same household or support bubble, or another legal exemption applies.

Support and childcare bubbles

There is separate guidance for support bubbles and childcare bubbles across all tiers. Support bubbles have been expanded. From 2 December you can form a support bubble with another household if you:

  • are the only adult in your household (any other members of the household having been under 18 on 12 June 2020), or are an under 18 year old living alone
  • live with someone with a disability who requires continuous care and there is no other adult living in the household
  • live with child under 1, or who was under 1 on 2 December 2020
  • live with a child under 5, or who was under 5 on 2 December 2020, with a disability

Meeting in larger groups

There are exceptions where people can continue to gather indoors or in private gardens, or in groups larger than 6, in outdoor public places:

  • as part of a single household or support bubble
  • in a childcare bubble (for the purposes of childcare only)
  • for work, or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes (read guidance on working safely in other people’s homes)
  • for registered childcare, education or training – meaning education related to a formal curriculum or training that relates to work or obtaining work
  • for supervised activities provided for children and those who were under 18 on 31 August 2020, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), children’s groups, activities for under-18s, and children’s playgroups
  • for parent and toddler groups – up to a maximum of 15 people. Under-5s do not count towards this limit. These cannot take place in private dwellings.
  • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
  • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
  • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
  • support groups of up to 15 participants – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support, where it is necessary for these to take place in person. These cannot take place in private dwellings. Under-5s do not count towards the 15 person limit for support groups
  • for birth partners
  • to provide emergency assistance, and to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
  • to see someone who is dying
  • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
  • for gatherings within criminal justice accomodation or immigration detention centres
  • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable, or to provide respite for a carer
  • for a wedding or equivalent ceremony where the organiser has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures. Receptions are not permitted to limit the risk of transmission of the virus – up to 15 people. These cannot take place in private dwellings, except for weddings that take place in exceptional circumstances where one of the parties is seriously ill and not expected to recover.
  • for funerals – up to a maximum of 30 people – and for commemorative events, such as wakes or stonesettings – up to 15 people. These cannot take place in private dwellings
  • to visit someone at home who is dying, or to visit someone receiving treatment in a hospital, hospice or care home, or to accompany a family member or friend to a medical appointment
  • for elite sportspeople (and their support teams if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) to compete and train
  • for organised outdoor sport and physical activity and organised sports for disabled people
  • to facilitate a house move

Where a group includes someone covered by an exception (for example, someone who is working or volunteering), they are not generally counted as part of the gatherings limit. This means, for example, a tradesperson can go into a household without breaching the limit, if they are there for work, and the officiant at a wedding would not count towards the limit.

If you break the rules

The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be given a fixed penalty notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

Keeping you and your friends and family safe

When meeting friends and family you should also:

Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus

If you have any of the following health conditions, you may be clinically vulnerable, meaning you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. If you are clinically vulnerable you:

  • can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low
  • can still go to school
  • should still access the social care and medical services you need
  • can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, whilst keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre plus other precautions, but consider doing so at quieter times of the day
  • should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
    • pregnant women

There is a further group of people who are defined, also on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions. At each tier, there is additional advice that clinically extremely vulnerable people must follow.

Businesses and venues

As well as specific exemptions set out below, any closed business can remain open for:

  • providing essential voluntary services or urgent public support services, including the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions, support in an emergency
  • for the making of a film, television programme, audio programme or audio-visual advertisement
  • for the purpose of voting or related activities

Hospitality

Hospitality settings, such as bars (including shisha bars), pubs, cafes, restaurants, and social clubs must close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services. This includes restaurants and bars within hotels or member’s clubs. Exemptions apply for the following settings:

Cafes and canteens at:

  • hospitals, care homes, or supported housing as part of extra care schemes
  • schools and providers of post-16 education and training, such as further education colleges
  • higher education accommodation, and at higher education providers (where there is no practical alternative for staff and students to obtain food and where alcohol is not served for consumption on the premises)
  • criminal justice accommodation or immigration detention centres
  • naval/military/airforce or MoD facilities
  • workplace canteens (where there is no practical alternative and where alcohol is not served for consumption on the premises)

Services providing food or drink to those experiencing homelessness can also remain open.

Businesses and venues selling alcohol for consumption off the premises can continue to do so as long as this is through takeaway, delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through

Food or alcohol purchased from a hospitality premises via takeaway or click-and-collect may not be consumed on any part of that premises, including beer gardens, as well as adjacent seating to the premises (with exceptions for motorway service areas, airports, seaports, the international terminal at Folkestone and public transport services although these places cannot sell alcohol after 11pm).

Businesses must not provide shared smoking equipment for use on the premises.

Accommodation

Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, holiday lets and guest houses must close. These premises can only open for a person, who:

  • is unable to return to their main residence
  • uses it as their main residence
  • needs it while moving house
  • needs it to attend a funeral, linked commemorative event or following a bereavement of a close family member or friend
  • is isolating themselves from others as required by law
  • is an elite athlete (or their coach) and needs it for training or competition
  • needs it for work purposes, or to provide voluntary or charitable service
  • was staying there immediately before the area entered Tier 3
  • needs it to attend education or training
  • is a carer for someone they live with and is seeking respite
  • needs to attend a medical appointment or treatment

They can also open:

  • to enable voting, including an overseas election
  • as a women’s refuge or a vulnerable person’s refuge
  • for any purpose requested by the Secretary of State, or a local authority

Businesses that remain open in law, but are located within accommodation, such as a spa within a hotel, can remain open.

These restrictions on accommodation do not apply between 22 to 28 December 2020. This means that accommodation may open during this period for people to stay in order to be located near their Christmas bubbles. However other restrictions, such as those on hospitality and social contact still apply – so people cannot mix with their Christmas bubble in a hotel, for example, unless a member of their bubble lives their permanently. Please see separate guidance for more information on the rules for social contact during the Christmas period (23 to 27 December).

Closed entertainment venues and visitor attractions

The following entertainment and tourist venues must close:

  • indoor play centres and areas, including inflatable parks and soft play centres and areas (other than for people who have a disability)
  • trampolining parks (other than for elite athletes, people with a disability, supervised activities for children and for formal education or training purposes)
  • casinos
  • bingo halls
  • bowling alleys
  • indoor skating rinks (other than for elite athletes, professional dancers and choreographers, people with a disability, supervised activities for children and for formal education or training purposes)
  • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
  • nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
  • laser quests and escape rooms
  • cinemas, theatres concert halls – other than drive-in events, broadcasting performances, training or rehearsal
  • circuses
  • snooker and pool halls (other than for elite athletes)

At the following outdoor entertainment venues, the indoor attractions must close:

  • zoos, safari parks, and aquariums
  • other animal attractions including farms
  • water parks and aqua parks
  • model villages
  • museums, galleries and sculpture parks
  • botanical or other gardens, biomes or greenhouses
  • theme parks, fairgrounds and funfairs
  • adventure playgrounds and parks, including ziplining
  • visitor attractions at film studios,
  • heritage sites such as castles, stately homes or heritage railways
  • landmarks including observation wheels and viewing platforms

Other restricted venues

Conference centres and exhibition halls are closed for the purposes of hosting conferences, exhibitions, trade shows, private dining events or banquets

Venues which can remain open

The following outdoor venue can remain open:

  • outdoor tourism and entertainment venues can remain open subject to following the relevant rules and guidelines
  • outdoor cinemas, theatres and concert venues can remain open for drive-in only, but must close at 11pm, other than for the purposes of concluding a performance which began before 10pm
  • outdoor events, such as funfairs can continue to happen in line with COVID-secure guidance – other than large outdoor performance events (performances, shows and screenings), which must be drive-in only
  • leisure and sports facilities may continue to stay open, but group exercise classes (including fitness and dance) should not go ahead
  • retail premises may open, other than shops situated inside closed premises that cannot be accessed directly from the street – retail premises within accommodation may also stay open
  • personal care and close contact services such as hairdressers and barbers, beauty salons, tattoo parlours, nail salons, spas and beauty services, saunas, steam rooms, massage parlours and tanning salons can remain open.
  • community centres and halls, and libraries can remain open. Group events should not take place, unless there’s a specific legal exemption to the social contact rules e.g. support groups, supervised activities for children.
  • recycling and waste centres, car parks, and public toilets may continue to stay open

All businesses and venues should follow COVID-secure guidelines to protect customers, visitors and workers.

In certain indoor settings, staff and customers must wear face coverings, unless they have an exemption.

Businesses must ensure that if their workers need to self-isolate, they do not work outside their designated place of self-isolation.

Some businesses have to collect customer, visitor and staff data to support NHS Test and Trace.

If businesses fail to comply with these restrictions, they can face fines of up to £10,000, prosecution or closure.

Going to work

Everyone who can work from home should do so.

Where people cannot do so – including, but not limited to, people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, or manufacturing – they should continue to travel to their workplace.

Public-sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary.

The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19-secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable you can go to work as long as your workplace is COVID-secure. Gatherings for work purposes are only allowed where they are reasonably necessary. If meetings take place in the workplace, workplaces should be set up to meet the COVID-secure guidelines. Meals to socialise with work colleagues are not permitted.

For more information, read the guidance on how to return to work safely.

Going to school, college and university

The government has prioritised ensuring all children and young people can attend school and college safely, to support their wellbeing and education and help working parents and guardians. All pupils should continue to attend school and colleges, unless required to self-isolate, when their school and college should provide them with high quality remote education.

Universities

Universities should follow guidance on reopening buildings to ensure they have safety measures in place to minimise the spread of the virus.

If you’re a student, you can meet in groups of more than your household as part of your formal education or training. Students should expect to follow the guidance and restrictions. You should socially distance from anyone you do not live with wherever possible.

University students are allowed to change their household temporarily once after 2 December to return home for Christmas. After that point they should comply with the social contact limits above as if their family home is their household. This will not affect any support bubble arrangements their family home is part of. Where available, students should take advantage of a free test from their university before departing.

Schools

In schools and colleges where year 7 and above are educated, face coverings should be worn by adults (staff and visitors) and pupils when moving around indoors, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Read the guidance for teachers, school leaders, carers and parents on education and childcare.

Childcare

There are several ways that parents and carers can continue to access childcare in tier 3. You can get childcare support from:

  • registered childcare providers
  • professional childcare providers in the home such as nannies (read guidance on working safely in other people’s homes)
  • other supervised activities provided for young people (including anyone who was under 18 on 31 August 2020) – including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
  • people in a childcare bubble – parents are able to form a childcare bubble with one other household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under
  • people in a support bubble – some households will also be able to benefit from being in a support bubble

Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home to help with childcare. Childcare bubbles are to be used to provide childcare only, and not for the purposes of different households mixing where they are otherwise not allowed to do so. Read guidance on making and using a childcare bubble.

Visiting relatives in care homes

Visits to care homes can take place with arrangements such as substantial screens, visiting pods, and window visits. Regular testing will be offered to up to two family members or friends per resident by Christmas, which – when combined with other infection-control measures such as PPE – will support indoor visits with physical contact. Detailed guidance will be published shortly.

Travel

You can continue to travel within your area for reasons such as:

  • travelling to venues that are open
  • for work
  • for education
  • to access voluntary, charitable or youth services
  • because of caring responsibilities
  • for moving home
  • to visit your support bubble
  • to receive medical treatment

You should avoid travelling outside your area and reduce the number of journeys you make wherever possible.

Walk or cycle where you can and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. Where that is not possible and you need to travel. Read safer travel guidance.

Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble – read guidance on car sharing.

You must not travel if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms, are sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms, or have been told to self-isolate after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Travelling into or out of a Tier 3 alert level area

Avoid travelling outside your area, including for overnight stays, other than where necessary, such as:

  • for work
  • for education
  • to access voluntary, charitable or youth services
  • because of caring responsibilities
  • for moving home
  • to visit your support bubble
  • for a medical appointment or treatment

Where necessary, you can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.

If you live in a Tier 3 area, you must continue to follow Tier 3 rules when you travel to a Tier 1 or Tier 2 area. You must not stay with anyone you do not live with elsewhere in the UK or visit their home (unless you share a support bubble).

Overnight stays

If you are travelling, you should only do so alone or with members of your household or support bubble, and should follow the safer transport guidance.

If you live in a Tier 3 area, you should avoid staying overnight outside of your area other other than where necessary, such as:

  • for work
  • for education
  • because of caring responsibilities
  • to visit your support bubble
  • for moving home
  • to access voluntary, charitable or youth services
  • for a medical appointment or treatment

If you live elsewhere, you should avoid staying overnight in a Tier 3 area other than for this type of reason.

This means you should not leave a Tier 3 alert level area to stay in a second home.

You must not stay with anyone you do not live with from a Tier 3 alert level area, or visit their home, unless you share a support bubble.

In a Tier 3, you should avoid travelling outside of your area. If you do need to travel abroad see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Travel Advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.

When travelling, it is important that you respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where your intended activities there would be prohibited by legislation passed by the relevant devolved administration.

There is guidance on what to do if you’ve booked holiday accommodation in a local restriction area.

During the Christmas period (23 to 27 December) different rules on travel will apply.

Weddings, civil partnerships, religious services and funerals

Weddings, civil partnership ceremonies and funerals must only take place in COVID-secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances.

You can have up to:

  • 15 people for wedding or civil partnership ceremonies – but receptions are not permitted
  • 30 people for funerals
  • 15 people for wakes or linked ceremonial events (such as stone-settings) before or after the funeral

The limits above are the maximum number for all attendees at the event, for example at a wedding or civil partnership ceremony to include the couple and guests. Anyone working at a wedding, civil partnership ceremony, funeral or linked ceremonial event is not included in the limit. Within these larger gatherings, social distancing should still be followed between people who do not live together or share a support bubble.

Read the guidance on small marriages and civil partnerships and managing a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic.

Places of worship

You can attend places of worship for a service. However, you must not mingle with anyone outside of your household or support bubble.

You should follow the national guidance on the safe use of places of worship.

Sport and physical activity

In line with guidance from sporting national governing bodies, you can take part in organised sport and physical activity outdoors with any number of people. However, you should avoid contact in training and, for some sports, avoid contact in all activities. Read the guidance on what this means for your sport.

Gyms and sports facilities will be open for individual exercise and exercise in single households or support bubbles only. Indoor group activities and exercise classes should not take place.

You can continue to do unlimited exercise alone, or in an outdoor public place in groups up to 6.

There are exceptions for the following, which can take place in any number:

  • disability sport
  • sports as part of the curriculum in education
  • supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s (including those who were under 18 on 31 August 2020)

You should follow the guidance on:

Moving home

You can still move home.

Estate and letting agents and removals firms can continue to work. If you’re looking to move home, you can go to property viewings.

 Follow the national guidance on moving home safely, which includes advice on social distancing and wearing a face covering.

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