Covid-19 rules confusion in areas around county boundaries

  • Report by Emma Wilkinson

With the new three-tier system coming into force in England, getting to grips with the rules has been particularly challenging for many people who live in places that border counties with different alert levels.

Nottinghamshire, for example, is in a 'high-alert' area, meaning people cannot mix indoors with people that are not from their household or support bubble.

But neighbouring Lincolnshire is a 'medium alert' area so people can meet indoors if they abide by the 'rule of six.'

But what if you want to travel from one county to another to meet someone? Can you meet your friend for lunch inside a pub in Gainsborough and then return home to Retford? 

Government rules say: "If you live in a high alert level area you also cannot meet indoors with people outside of the area, unless exceptions apply."

The guidelines add that people should avoid travelling between high and medium alert areas as much as possible. 

But at The White Horse pub in Gainsborough, on the Lincolnshire border, managers say it is almost impossible to know which area people have come from.

Sara Killelay said: "Unless you see the postcode on their NHS app, you wouldn't know, so we are trusting people to be honest and follow the guidelines if they have come from a high risk area.

''We already have a lot to manage with keeping tables apart, track and trace, telling people to wear masks - so this is yet another thing that we have to think about."

Down the road at Gainsborough & Retford Garden Centre, staff have a slightly different problem. While the garden centre is only a mile from Gainsborough it is technically within Nottinghamshire, so people cannot meet indoors if they are not from the same household or support bubble.

Owner Jill Foster said: "Half of our customers come from just over the border in Lincolnshire so they think because they can meet up with friends indoors there, that they can do the same in our café.

''So we're having to explain that because we're in a high alert area, they can't. Some people are very understanding but we've had some kick back. On a personal level I understand there has to be a line somewhere but from a business point of view, it's frustrating."

The Director for Public Health for Lincolnshire, Derek Ward, said it is important that people read the government guidelines for their area and other areas they might be travelling too.

He said: " Believe it or not this three-tier system was designed to simplify things, and in some ways it has because before we had very different and specific local restrictions in some areas.

''It is complicated but that's because this is a virus that didn't exist this time last year and we are having to develop and adapt the policy as we go."

You can find more information on the different alert levels here.