Covid: How you can socialise outdoors in Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions

Scandinavians like Jenni (left) routinely socialise outdoors in cold weather Credit: Jenni Rotonen/PA

Coronavirus meant less indoor socialising this summer but for many of us, that wasn’t too difficult. Balmy days meant we could take yoga classes in the park, throw impromptu barbecues and, of course, booze in pub gardens.

Activities like this appeal to fewer people as winter looms. However, with the new tier system, those living in Tier 2 and 3 can only socialise with friends outdoors. Tier 3 alone will soon encompass nearly a fifth of England, so meeting indoors will be a no-no for many of us.

How can people living in Tier 2 and Tier 3 socialise outdoors in the winter, then?

‘It’s a lot about attitude’

Jenni mushroom picking and enjoying a hiking trip. Credit: Jenni Rotonen

In Nordic countries, people routinely meet outdoors in cold weather. As Finnish influencer Jenni Rotonen explains, this is partly because their winter seasons tends to be long. 

“People have just made peace with the circumstances and try to make the most of it,” she tells ITV News. 

“You just need to put on warm enough clothes and you are good to go. It is a lot about the attitude.”

Covid tiers: What are the differences between each alert level?

  • Medium (Tier 1) - Rule of six applies indoors and outdoors. Pubs and restaurants close at 10pm.

  • High (Tier 2) - Households must not mix indoors in any setting including pubs and restaurants. Rule of six applies outdoors

  • Very high (Tier 3) - Households must not mix indoors, or in private gardens. Rule of six applies in outdoor spaces including parks. Pubs and bars which don't serve meals will be closed

Pick your own food

Sloe berries can be found in the winter and are commonly used to flavour gin. Credit: PA

Foraging is very popular in countries like Finland. If you wrap up warm, it’s a great way to get fresh air and free food. Sloes (popular for flavouring gin), juniper berries and certain mushrooms can be picked in the winter.

Laila Mendy grew up in Britain, but now lives in Sweden as a university lecturer.

“Many here will take the opportunity of damp weather to meet friends in the forest for a mushroom-picking walk together,” she says.

Just make sure you’re certain that any berries, mushrooms and other foraged items aren’t poisonous and are safe to eat. 

Get walking

A man and woman hiking in Garphyttan national park in Narke, Sweden. Credit: PA

Long walks don’t have to stop once winter hits. Dust off your hat, scarf and gloves. Layer up. Walking is a great way to exercise and catch up with a loved one at the same time. 

Jenni suggests taking a camera or camera phone with you. 

“Try to see things with a new mindset. Look up, look down, pay attention to details," she says.

"You might get surprised by what you see around you when you just stop and look.”

She adds that if you pack some cookies and a flask of tea, you can have a picnic (of sorts) too.

Invest in an outdoor heater

Sales of fire pits have reportedly spiked as winter nears. Credit: PA

There have been numerous reports of outdoor heater sales spiking ahead of the winter. If you live in Tier 2 and have a garden, you can set one up and enjoy a takeaway or a home cooked meal. A fire pit will also warm you up and you can toast marshmallows over it.

According to Laila, Swedes often host winter barbecues. 

“The warmth of the fire, hot food and drinks is really lovely.” she says.

At night time, Laila suggests kitting your garden out with candles and Christmas lights to brighten things up. 

Wrap up warm and use a blanket to fend off the cold.

Take advantage of outdoor seating

Some restaurants installed outdoor heating after the pandemic hit. Credit: PA

If you’re in Tier 2, you can’t meet people outside your bubble/household in a pub or a restaurant. However, if an establishment has an outdoor area, you can hang out there in groups of six.

Again, take some warm clothing and blankets. Laila says that in Sweden, “it is not at all unusual to see people eating a meal outside all wrapped up” 

Unfortunately, if you live in Tier 3, going to restaurants and pubs with people outside your household/bubble is out of the question. You can only meet in open outdoor areas like parks.

Play sports

Tennis lends itself to social distancing guidelines and can be played in all tiers. Credit: PA

Movement is one of the best ways to keep warm and thankfully, all tiers can still play many outdoor sports.

Provided you stick to social distancing guidelines and the rule of six, you can play tennis or do an outdoor exercise class. You can also organise small games of team sports like football, basketball or cricket.