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The government is reintroducing England’s three-tier system following the national lockdown ending on 2 December.
The tiers are now stricter, with huge implications for businesses in areas on higher alert than usual.
There are three alert levels – medium (tier one), high (tier two) and very high (tier three). These alert levels will decide what businesses are allowed to stay open, as well as what financial support is available to businesses.
For example, pubs, bars and restaurants must close in tier three areas, and can only operate as a takeaway or delivery service. They’re also only allowed to stay open in tier two if they serve a “substantial meal”.
Nik Antona, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said the fact that almost all of England will be in tier two or tier three means licensees have had their “worst fears” confirmed.
“This is especially devastating in the run up the Christmas, where people in Tier 3 areas won’t be able to go to the pub at all, and those in Tier 2 areas won’t be able to visit to socialise safely with those outside of their household – which will increase feelings of loneliness and social isolation after a year that has been tough for many.
“CAMRA has been clear – we do not think that evidence has been produced to justify extra restrictions on hospitality, and particularly wet-led pubs, but if the Government wants to proceed, they must announce more financial help.”
The government says that a regionally differentiated approach will help to “target the toughest measures only in the areas where the virus is most prevalent or where we are seeing sharper increases in the rate of infection.”
This means the alert level will change depending on the rate of infections in a particular area. The medium alert level is reserved for the baseline national restrictions, whereas high and very high bring tougher rules.
You should keep track of which alert level applies to your area, as the situation can change quickly and arbitrarily. You can find out which tier your area is in here.
This is the government’s list of businesses that can stay open regardless of tier:
There are also exemptions from gathering limits across all tiers, which you can read at the bottom of this page.
This is the normal level where national restrictions apply.
Unless your business is required to close by law (like nightclubs), you can stay open as long as you're following the Covid-secure guidelines.
At the moment, the national restrictions mean that people can’t socialise in groups of more than six. Here’s a summary of the tier one rules:
On top of the above measures, areas in high alert have additional restrictions.
The main one is that you can’t socialise with anybody who isn’t in your household or support bubble in an indoor setting, at home or in public.
This has implications for businesses that serve customers. For example, people from different households shouldn’t mix in groups in restaurants, although there are of course limits to how this should be enforced in practice. One way is to remind customers about the rules when they book a table – but as London Eater points out, such a rule on mixing “is a serious, unprecedented burden that requires cooperation and respect from diners.”
In tier two, pubs and bars can only stay open if they also operate as a restaurant and can serve a “substantial meal” alongside alcohol.
Indoor exercise classes can only go ahead if it’s possible for people to avoid mixing with people they don’t live with, or don’t share a support bubble with (with some exceptions).
And while people are free to travel to open venues and amenities, the government asks that everybody aims to reduce the number of journeys they make.
Tier three restrictions essentially mean that an area, in all but name, is in lockdown.
From 2 December, tier three will be much stricter than the previous tier three, which permitted more businesses to stay open. Tier three means:
The government has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – or furlough – until the end of March 2021.
There’s also help available through the Local Restrictions Support Grant (LRSG). This aims to support businesses in England that are forced to close, or face reduced demand because of restrictions.
What do you think about the government’s tier system? Let us know in the comments below.
Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.
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