Today, the government announced a tightening of COVID restrictions in the UK. In a proposal that has been dubbed “the Nando’s system”, there will be three tiers of lockdown severity – or flavours, if you will – with local areas assigned a tier depending on the number of cases there.
In Parliament, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to cast the measures as a sensible middle path: a way to avoid another full lockdown on the one hand, and on the other a rebuke to those who want to “let nature take her course” – presumably a reference to Tory rebels who want a greater say over lockdown restrictions.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of being “several steps behind the curve”, and said people would be “sceptical” that the government has the virus under control.
Here, we explain what the tier system would mean for you, your Friday night at the pub and your gym membership.
SO WHAT ARE THOSE TIERS THEN?
Tier 1/Medium (Lemon and Herb, the least severe)
In this tier, social distancing will remain as it is, where no groups larger than six can socialise. This rule does not apply in certain circumstances, such as funerals and weddings (30 and 15 guests, respectively). All hospitality venues will be required to close at 10PM.
Tier 2/High (Hot)
In tier 2, social distancing rules will tighten. No two households will be able to mix inside, but will be allowed to mix outdoors. You will still be able to go to bars and restaurants, but only with members of your household. These venues will close at 10PM.
Tier 3/Very High (Extra Hot, the worst in this metaphor)
The harshest of the tiers. In this group, no mixing of households will be allowed – inside or outside. Pubs and bars will be closed. Additional hospitality venues could be closed after consultation with local leaders, as is now the case in Merseyside. Pubs serving food will not be required to close, but can only serve booze if food is also ordered.
WHAT TIER IS MY AREA IN?
In his speech, Boris Johnson didn’t specify which tiers would apply to which areas, but said that the government website would have a postcode search function to show you which tier your area will be in.
He did, however, give some information about certain areas in the north, where cases are rising rapidly.
Merseyside, which includes Liverpool, will be in Tier 3. Pubs, bars, gyms, leisure centres, betting shops and casinos will all close. However, it has been reported that pubs selling food as opposed to those mainly selling drinks will be allowed to stay open.
Nottinghamshire and Cheshire will be in Tier 2, as will most of the places currently under local lockdown.
Manchester will supposedly be in Tier 2 according to the MP for Wigan, Lisa Nandy, who tweeted that she hadn’t been invited to a meeting about the restrictions: “I wasn’t invited. I suspect this is because [the government doesn’t] know where Wigan is. What an absolute shambles.”
Otherwise, we don’t know for certain yet – but it’s likely that most of the country will be in Tier 1.
DO I GET ANY FINANCIAL SUPPORT?
If you find yourself in the third tier, you might be eligible for the new local furlough scheme. This will pay two-thirds of your wages if you work for a business that has been forced to close. It’s less generous than the original furlough scheme, which subsidised 80 percent of a worker’s wages, and local leaders are already saying that the support doesn’t go far enough.
A joint statement from mayors and local authority leaders in Liverpool said that, in conversations with the government, they had “made it clear we do not feel that the furlough scheme announced recently is adequate and that businesses in the region – especially those in the hospitality sector and those serving it – will be damaged, and many will suffer long term damage or close for good”.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
On Tuesday, this legislation will be debated and voted on. Presuming the legislation goes through, which it is likely to, there will be a four-week “sunset clause” for areas in the harshest tiers, allowing these rules to be under constant review.
Johnson did not warn of harsher measures and emphasised that he did not want to impose a national lockdown. However, he has in the past mentioned this as a possibility.
While business closures are the main focus of today’s announcement, Johnson specified that shops, schools and universities will remain open.
CAN I SEE A FRIEND IN THE PARK?
Tiers one and two:
Yes. Tier two is about stopping transmission inside where ventilation is poor, so you can still head to the park if the weather’s alright.
Households in tier three are not allowed to mix either indoors or outdoors, so you can’t even do this.
… OR AT THEIR HOUSE?
Yes, but the rule of six still applies.
No. Stick to the park.
Very much a “no”. Time to fire up the old Zoom quiz.
CAN I GO TO A RESTAURANT?
Yes, as long as you stick to the rule of six, and don’t mind getting chucked out at 10PM.
Yes, but only with members of your household.
As above, but probably without booze.
… OR TO THE PUB:
Tiers one and two:
Nope, unless it’s a pub that is mainly based around food, meaning it might get away with calling itself a restaurant.
CAN I HIT THE GYM?
Tiers one and two:
Yes, as you were.
No, they’re shut.
CAN I GO SHOPPING?
Yes, retail is unaffected, so you can shop until you drop.