Tier 4 rules and exemptions: What you can and can’t do explained

MILLIONS in London and the south east are living under Tier 4 lockdown restrictions – and more areas followed on Boxing Day.

Boris Johnson imposed tougher measures to combat a rogue new strain of Covid – known as VUI202012/01. On December 23, Matt Hancock also announced that a raft of areas in the South and South East of England would be plunged into the highest tier.

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Will more areas go into Tier 4?

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on December 23 that a raft of new areas across the East and South East of England would also join the highest tier from Boxing Day.

And on December 30, Mr Hancock will review the tiers again.

Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire were put into even tighter restrictions as a result of the mutant Covid.

Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Northamptonshire have gone into Tier 3, and Cornwall and Hereforshire have been bumped up from Tier 1 to 2.

An additional six million people are now in Tier 4 of the Government's Covid-19 restrictions since Boxing Day.

This means a total of 24 million people will now be in Tier 4, or 43 per cent of the population of England.

A list of the areas in Tier 4 at present are:

  • Kent
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Berkshire
  • Surrey (excluding Waverley)
  • The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings
  • All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.
  • Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough
  • Hertfordshire
  • Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).

A full list of the areas that joined Tier 4 on Boxing Day are:

  • Sussex
  • Oxfordshire
  • Norfolk
  • Cambridgeshire
  • Those parts of Essex not yet in Tier 4
  • Waverley
  • Hampshire


Health chiefs in Cumbria have said the variant is in the county and could be behind the sharp increase in cases there.

There is also a "high likelihood" the virus is in Lancashire, the county's director of public health has said.

Meanwhile the number of positive tests in London has doubled – and 60 per cent of those are the new strain.

Areas already living under tough Tier 4 restrictions include Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), the boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings, all 32 London boroughs and the city of London.

Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough,
Hertfordshire and Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring) are also in Tier 4.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced Wales will fall under the same measures, which began on midnight on December 20 – and warned people were now facing "a pandemic within a pandemic, a crisis within a crisis".

And Scotland is restricting household mixing to Christmas Day only, while a travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK will stay in place over Christmas and the whole of mainland went into a level 4 lockdown from Boxing Day.

What does life look like under Tier 4?

For those affected, Tier 4 is essentially a return to the full lockdown which ended in England on December 2.

It began on December 20 and was set to be reviewed on December 30, however, it was revealed that more of England will be plunged into the strictest tier as soon as Boxing Day.

The PM's key message for those in these regions was to stay at home unless it's for essential reasons.

There have been real concerns about the new strain, which is blamed for a sudden surge in hospitalisations.

And there are fears people are catching the virus despite wearing PPE and socially distancing.

A health source said: “The last 48 hours have changed everything.”

Mr Drakeford told residents in Wales: "We cannot expose people to this new, more virulent strain of coronavirus."

Anyone who breaks the rules below could be hit with a £200 fine in the first instance. That doubles for further offences, up to a maximum of £6,400.

Those who hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people, will be fined £10,000.

When can people leave their homes?

Just like in full lockdown, Brits in Tier 4 can only leave their homes for essential reasons.

All exercise is unlimited – unlike in the first lockdown, when it was initially restricted to just an hour a day.

Travel for some reasons – including education, childcare or an emergency – will be allowed.

When it comes to education, the Government says it must be formal provision – as in, going to class – rather than extracurricular classes such as music or drama tuition.

Communal worship can however still go ahead.

And people can still go to work – but only if they cannot work from home.

People can leave home for any medical reason, including to get a Covid test, to be with someone who is giving birth, to escape domestic abuse, or to get treatment for a pet.

People can also leave home to visit someone who is dying or someone in a care home, hospice, or hospital, or to accompany them to a medical appointment.

But those in Tier 4 won't be allowed to leave their area to travel elsewhere, unless it's for one of the reasons above.

Similarly, no one from Tiers 1, 2 or 3 can enter a Tier 4 area.

However, support bubbles will still be in place in Tier 4.

Those who are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable should not go to work.

They should also limit time outside of their homes, the Government says.

People can also leave home to buy food, or to collect any items – including food or drink – ordered through click-and-collect or as a takeaway.

People in all tiers are advised to stay local, and “think carefully” about whether they need to travel abroad.

Can people meet inside or stay overnight?

No. Brits living in these areas will not be allowed to meet other households inside or stay overnight anywhere else.

The Government says those in these areas must stay in their homes to help combat the spread of the adapted virus.

The only way people can meet is outside – and the rules are strict.

One person can meet one other person outside in a public place.  

So, that means that on Christmas Day, two households can't meet for a walk together.

Support bubbles will continue in Tier 4, and overnight stays are permitted.

People can form a support bubble if they're the only adult in their household, are under 18 and living without adults, are living with a disability which requires continuous care, or are living with a child under one.

You may need to change your support bubble if your circumstances change. Find out more about changing your support bubble.

The Government's specific guidance is that people in Tier 4 "can exercise or meet in a public outdoor place with people they live with, their support bubble – or as part of a childcare bubble – or with one other person".

Children under five, and up to two carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care are not counted towards the outdoors gatherings limit.

Public outdoor places include parks, beaches, forest, public gardens, allotments and playgrounds.

What services will stay open?

This is a short list.

In Tier 3 and 4, pubs, restaurants and bars are all shut, although they can offer delivery or take-out options.

But the rules are much stricter in Tier 4.

Non-essential shops had to shut from midnight on December 20, putting an end to Christmas shopping.

What counts as ‘non-essential’?

These businesses will shut in Tier 4

  • Clothes shops
  • Electronics stores
  • Car showrooms
  • Travel agents
  • Betting shops and adult gaming centres
  • Auction houses
  • Tailors
  • Car washes
  • Tobacco and vape shops
  • Card shops
  • Phone shops
  • Jewellery stores
  • Toy shops
  • Homeware shops
  • Bookstores
  • Music shops

Hairdressers, barbers, beauty salons and all entertainment venues also had to close, as well as gyms.

Essential shops including supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies, petrol stations, hardware stores, banks, pet shops and post offices are allowed to remain open in Tier 4.

What does this mean for Christmas?

It's bad news for Christmas.

Boris has been trying to save Christmas, insisting Brits would be able to meet with their families thanks to the planned bubbles.

But the new strain means the decision has been made to cancel the day for London, the south east and east as the areas are moved into Tier 4.

Sadly, people won't be able to meet friends and family – and many will spend the day alone.

That's because household mixing is banned, and all but non-essential travel is prohibited too.

It's slightly different in Wales – people will be able meet others to form a Christmas bubble, but the advice is to stay at home instead.

What about for areas in Tiers 1, 2 and 3?

The plan to allow people to form social bubbles over five days will also be thrown out.

Those in Tiers 1 to 3 will be allowed to form a bubble, but only on Christmas Day itself.

Previously, it was hoped that Brits would have five days to socialise within three-household bubbles.

But that's now been slashed – through three-household bubble rules will remain, only for lower tiers.

The PM has urged the public to avoid spreading the deadly bug over Christmas.

He said: “All the evidence I’m seeing, people understand this is the time to look after our elderly relatives and avoid spreading the disease.

“Keep it short, keep it small, have yourselves a very little Christmas as I said the other night — that is, I’m afraid, the way through this year.

"Next year I’ve no doubt that as we roll out the vaccine it will be very different indeed.”

All areas in the south east of England before under Tier 3 measures, including London, moved into Tier 4 on December 20.

This will be reviewed on December 30, as part of a wider review of tier restrictions.

It comes as…

  1. Fears Birmingham may be ‘plunged into tier four lockdown’ after crisis meeting to tackle soaring mutant Covid strain
  2. Tier review u-turn over fears Brits may have ‘New Year’s Eve blowout’ before lockdown leaving police unable to cope
  3. Map reveals the places where Covid variant is spreading most rapidly across UK as mutant strain located in 57 places
  4. Parents’ fury as ‘schools may close for ALL of January’ after experts claim mutant Covid strain spreads faster in kids
  5. UK Covid cases see biggest ever daily rise with 36,804 infections and 691 deaths as positive tests double in a week


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