The UK government is committed to ensuring the right levels of intervention in the right places to manage Coronavirus outbreaks.
The approach has been simplified so that there are now three local COVID alert levels: tiers one, two and three.
Understandably, people have questions about what they can and can’t do depending on where they live.
So to help make things crystal clear, we’ve put 10 common questions about the lockdowns to officials to give the nation some definitive answers.
They cover everything from staycation rules and quarantine to fines and the latest bubble advice…
Q: I’ve had a negative test a week after returning from France. Do I still need to quarantine?
A: Yes. You must self-isolate for 14 days even if you test negative for coronavirus, as it can take up to 14 days for coronavirus symptoms to appear. In England, if you do not complete the required self-isolate period you can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £1,000.
Q: I live in a high risk area. Can I travel to an area in a medium risk area to meet friends who live there for dinner at their house or in a restaurant?
A: No. You essentially take the level you live in with you – all the rules of the level where you live apply even if you go into a lower level. So you could only meet that group of friends and eat with them outdoors.
Q: Am I safe to go on a staycation in a house with a friend who I am not in a bubble with? We won’t share a bedroom.
A: Yes, if you both live in a medium risk area (Tier 1) and are travelling to a medium risk area. You can stay overnight away from home, as long as you’re in a group of no more than six or if you’re a single household or bubble. If you or the other people live in a high (Tier 2) or very high (Tier 3) risk area, or you’re travelling to one, you can’t stay with someone outside your household.
Q: I was at a pub last week and have been contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service to say someone has tested positive for Covid 19. I’ve been in my office since the pub visit and am nervous about telling my employer – will the whole office have to go into quarantine if I tell them?
A: No. Tell your employer. People you work with do not need to self-isolate unless they have also been notified by the NHS Test and Trace service and asked to do so. But you must self-isolate straightaway for 14 days from the date of contact.
Q: I went to a well-known coffee shop chain last week and was not asked to fill out my Test and Trace information. Why not?
A: The Government has introduced a new law to make it mandatory for businesses in the hospitality sector, leisure and tourism sectors, close contact services and community centres and village halls to ask customers for their contact details to support Test and Trace. This doesn’t apply to takeaways, so if a business offers a mixture of sit-in and takeaway services, contact information should only be collected for customers who are dining in.
Q: We are a family of six and my elderly parents live with us. My mother now needs a carer – which will make us seven. Is this allowed?
A: Yes, this is allowed as a paid carer is classified as a worker. Where a group includes someone who is working, they are not counted as part of the gatherings limit. There’s specific guidance for people delivering home care, to ensure that appropriate levels of hygiene are achieved to reduce the risk of infection.
Q: Can my mum come to stay in to look after my son? She lives alone but is in a bubble with my sister, not me.
A: If you’re in a medium local covid alert area and don’t exceed six people in your house, then yes. In a high or very high risk area (Tiers 2 and 3) your mum would only be able to look after your son indoors if he’s under 13 and she’s part of your support bubble or childcare bubble – and she can only be part of one. Limit close contact as much as possible, wash your hands and open windows for ventilation where you can.
Q: Can my local gym put on a yoga class for more than six people? And can I continue to play in my netball team?
A: Indoor sport can only take place if the general gathering rules in that area are complied with. For example, in Medium risk areas, groups of up to 6 (or a household or bubble) can participate in indoor sport but they must not mix with other groups (or households or bubbles).
In a High or Very High risk areas, individual households or bubbles can participate in indoor sport but must not mix with other households or bubbles. Disabled indoor sport and supervised sports for children are exempt from these restrictions. Outdoor sports can continue to take place with more than six people if they are organised by a company or other recognised body, and where this body undertakes the relevant precautions.
Q: Can my daughter’s special-needs respite centre stay open for weekend care? They have more than six people there.
A: Yes. There is an exemption to the legal gatherings limit as long as it provides education, training, support groups, formal registered childcare or supervised activities for children.
Q: Can I book two tables of six in a restaurant so we can talk to each other but not gather at each other’s tables?
A: No. Talking across two tables of six would involve forming a larger gathering or mingling, which would be against the law.
Local Covid alert levels explained
Tier 1 (Medium)
- Don’t socialise in groups larger than six, indoors or outdoors
- Businesses open if Covid-secure
- Table service mandatory in some businesses, and they must close between 10pm and 5am
- Delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through can operate after 10pm
- Schools and universities remain open
- Places of worship remain open, subject to Rule of Six
- Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers Exercise classes and organised sport allowed outdoors, or indoors if following Rule of Six
Tier 2 (High)
Follow Tier 1 rules, plus:
- Do not socialise with indoors with anyone outside your household or support bubble
- Don’t meet up in a group of more than six outside, including in gardens, beaches or parks
- Reduce the number of journeys you make
Tier 3 (Very high)
Follow Tier 2 rules, plus:
- Do not socialise with anyone outside your household or support bubble, indoors or in your garden
- Pubs and bars must close unless they operate as if they were a restaurant, serving a main lunchtime or evening meal
- Places of worship remain open, but household mixing is not permitted
- No wedding receptions
- Avoid travelling outside the very high alert level area you 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 you are travelling through as part of a longer journey
- Avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK and avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area if you live elsewhere