The UK government has made public the details of the updated three-tier system that takes effect on Wednesday, 2 December, as the latest four-week lockdown across England expires.
The rules in Tier 3 largely correspond to those earlier observed in the most restrictive zones, known as "very high" alert level territories, with such regulations having hitherto been endured by vast parts of northern England.
Here are the details of the new Tier 3 restrictions, applicable to areas stretching well into Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, and Kent.
- Hospitality venues take the biggest hit. They're ordered to be closed, except for delivery and takeaway services, meaning that watching sports or eating out in the company of friends or acquaintances has been rendered impossible, and so has watching movies at cinemas, and seeing performances at theatres.
- Socialising both indoors and outdoors with people from other households or from outside one's support bubble – a network that links two households - will be prohibited in all venues, be it a private garden or some outdoor public spots.
- Places of worship will reopen, with people required to remain in their own household bubbles.
- Hotels, motels, and other accommodation providers must close, except for specific work purposes, when it is problematic to return home.
All local authorities in Tier 3 zones will be offered support from NHS Test and Trace and the Armed Forces to deliver six-week rapid testing in communities, with the help of rapid lateral flow tests that offer results in no more than an hour.
Outdoor sports, including golf and tennis, will be allowed to continue in all tiers, as will amateur team sports like football and basketball.
The "rule of six" will again apply for outdoor gatherings in Tier 1 and 2 zones, where the regulations will be the most lax.
In those swathes of the country, non-essential shops will be allowed to reopen, as will gyms, beauty salons, and other personal care businesses.
There are also wide-ranging talks about singling out another, even stricter zone – Tier 4, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock openly "ruling nothing out".
Back in August, the Department for Education published a four-tier structure, in which all educational institutions, including primary schools and institution for little kids, would be shut.
Most recently, it was Scotland where a fourth tier was introduced, and is currently applicable across 11 local authority areas in central and western Scotland, including Glasgow. These will remain in place until 11 December.
Vote on Revised Tier System Amid Tory Revolt
On 1 December, the updated measures passed the House of Commons by a margin of 291 votes to 78. Although the vote proved successful, 55 Tory rebels voted against the package. Another 16 Conservatives abstained, having voiced their concerns over the harsher tier system in the run-up to the vote.
Most of the country, up to 99 percent, falls under Tiers 2 and 3, with the hospitality industry, which has been one of the hardest hit during the almost year-long pandemic, warning that the stricter system will "ruin Christmas" for struggling restaurants, pubs, and accommodation businesses.
The newly revised system, originally launched in October, has also been ripped in parliament by Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who said that introducing a three-tier system without an effective test and trace system is "a major risk".
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said that the COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted no earlier than 3 February, yet media reports late last week cited him as referring to the restrictions as being at their "sunset". After a fourth review in late January, MPs will determine if the measures should be lifted, or will stay in place until the end of March, Johnson wrote in a reported letter to his colleagues.
He also vehemently supported the tier plan, arguing it is much more flexible than a full-fledged national lockdown, which is undeniably the least desirable thing for the whole country, as the authorities continue to rein in infection rates.