How are the tiers decided?
Decisions on tiers are made by ministers based on public health recommendations informed by the following factors:
If these indicators are not improving, an area may be moved up a tier and if the trajectory improves, the area may move to a lower tier.
Can I see family and friends at Christmas?
Families will be able to stay together and form a “Christmas bubble” from Dec 23 to Dec 27.
Travel restrictions are also being lifted, allowing people to visit families in other parts of the UK.
In particular Northern Ireland has negotiated a seven-day suspension of the Christmas rules to help people who need to catch flights or ferries to the mainland. It will run from Dec 22 to Dec 28.
However, on December 14, when asked whether the relaxation of rules over Christmas would be re-assessed, the Health Secretary refused to answer definitively.
Instead, he shared: “Our messages around Christmas are really clear. We understand why people want to see their loved ones, especially at this time of year, especially after this year. But it must be done in a way that is careful and responsible, and I think people understand that too”.
“If you are planning to meet up with loved ones at Christmas, then being careful now, two weeks ahead, making sure you minimise the chance of both catching the disease and passing it on is the right thing to do – actually, that’s the right thing to do all the time.”
On December 1, Matt Hancock announced that residents in care homes across all three tiers are allowed to see their families over the Christmas period. On providing a negative test, families can meet inside one again over the festive period. The earliest visits began on December 2.
Grottos allowed, but no sitting on Santa’s lap
Grottos are allowed to open across all tiers, new government guidance has confirmed, but sitting on Santa’s lap is banned.
Venues must put in place appropriate Covid-secure measures and families are required to maintain social distancing from Father Christmas.
Door-to-door carol singing is permitted as long as groups are outdoors and keep apart from each other.
However, those in Tier 3 are not able to attend school nativity plays and will have to live stream or watch a recording instead.
Performances need to be within existing school bubbles, with no mixing across groups.
In Tiers 1 and 2 audiences are able to attend “subject to appropriate safeguards being in place”.
When will tiers be reviewed?
The first review point for the current tier allocations will take place on December 16.
This allows for the possibility of areas which continue to make progress in slowing the spread of the disease to be moved down a tier in advance of Christmas.
What about the rest of the UK?
In Scotland, on November 26, the Government set a cap of eight people over 12 years old for Christmas gatherings. They also emphasised that households should remain two metres apart while inside. Scotland has imposed a country-wide travel ban and imposed Tier 3 restrictions across 20 of its central and western areas, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tier 4 restrictions on 11 local authorities were lifted on December 11.
Wales is set to introduce a four-tier traffic light lockdown system from the week commencing December 14 as cases continue to rise. The First Minister warned in a government briefing that Wales will enter full lockdown from December 28 if cases do not decrease. This news comes as Covid patients in Welsh hospitals surpassed 1,900 for the first time during the pandemic. Secondary schools have also been closed.
Northern Ireland lifted a circuit-break lockdown on Dec 11, after a fortnight of closures for non-essential retail, restaurants and hairdressers.
Got a question about the new tiers system? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org for your questions to be answered by our experts.