Covid tiers come into effect in England as lockdown lifts

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

The month-long Covid lockdown has been lifted in England, but the majority of people across the country still face tough restrictions under the tiered system.

MPs voted on Tuesday to approve Boris Johnson's plan for regional measures. despite the prime minister facing furious opposition from Tories to the restrictions that put 99% of England under strict regulations.

More than 55 million people will be under Tier 2 and Tier 3 measures from Wednesday, meaning mixing between households indoors will effectively be banned for the vast majority of the country.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – accounting for little more than 1% of England’s population – face the lightest Tier 1 coronavirus restrictions.

People living in these Tier 1 areas will be able to mix with six people indoors and outdoors, but people in these areas are still being urged to work from home if they can and pubs are limited to table service.

  • Explained: New tier rules and how they will work

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West are in the most restrictive Tier 3, which accounts for 41.5% of the population, or 23.3 million people.

Under Tier 3 restrictions, households are banned from mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks. Bars and restaurants would be limited to takeaway or delivery services and people would be advised to avoid travelling outside their area.

Most of England, including London, has been placed under Tier 2 Covid restrictions - which covers 57.3% of the country or 32 million people - with household mixing indoors banned and curbs on pubs and restaurants.

Kent, which was under Tier 1 restrictions before the month-long England lockdown, will be moved to Tier 3 following a spike in coronavirus infections.

Bristol and the West Midlands, including Birmingham will also be placed under Tier 3 measures until December 16 when tiers will be reviewed.

The tier categories have been tightened from the restrictions put in place in the autumn after government scientific advisers warned the previous measures had not been effective enough at controlling the virus.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA

What can you do in each tier from December 2? The new rules in England at a glance:

  • Tier 1: Up to six people can meet indoors or outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm.

  • Tier 2: No mixing indoors, apart from support bubbles. Up to six people can meet outdoors. Pubs and restaurants can open, with last orders at 10pm and closing at 11pm - but alcohol can only be served with a substantial meal.

  • Tier 3: No mixing indoors. People can only meet outdoors in limited places such as parks and public gardens. Pubs and restaurants must close, with the exception of takeaway sales.

In all tiers, non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers and personal care services can open. People in all tiers to work from home where they can do so. Full details on what you can do in each tier here.

Last week, health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs: “Thanks to the shared sacrifice of everyone in recent weeks, in following the national restrictions, we have been able to start to bring the virus back under control and slow its growth, easing some of the pressure on the NHS.

“We will do this by returning to a regional tiered approach, saving the toughest measures for the parts of the country where prevalence remains too high.”

Retail and personal care – such as hairdressers and beauty salons – can reopen in all tiers. Credit: PA

But some MPs were left angered after seeing their areas escalated up two tiers compared to their status before the November lockdown prompting Mr Johnson's biggest rebellion since last December's general election.

Despite heavy opposition from MPs on his own backbenches, among them chair of the 1922 Committee Sir Graham Brady, the prime minister won the vote by 291 to 78, a majority 213.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had instructed his MPs to abstain from the vote, but 15 oppositions MPs, including Richard Burgon and Emma Lewell-Buck, defied orders by voting against the proposals.

Earlier this week, the prime minister said rapid turnaround community testing would be made available in Tier 3 areas for six-weeks as part of the government's Winter plan.

“The system is untried and there are many unknowns but if it works we should be able to offer those who test negative the prospect of fewer restrictions – for example meeting up in certain places with others who have also tested negative," he said.