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UK’s New 3 Tier Lockdown System: What Travelers Need To Know

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On December 2nd, England’s second national lockdown is due to end. However, it is to be followed once more by the controversial tiered system, which will see some regions with less restrictions and more freedoms than others. Here’s a closer look at that system, and the potential impact it may have on travel to and from the nation.

england covid sign social distancing lockdown

The Second Lockdown

On October 31st, the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed plans for England to go into its second lockdown of the pandemic. This followed the first lockdown, which started on March 23rd and last until June.

Despite saying that the UK would not enter a second period of lockdown as it would be “disastrous” for the UK’s finances, the decision was taken following rising infection rates and deaths in the country, and was announced as the UK passed the 1 million cases mark.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that four weeks of lockdown was enough to make a “real impact” on the infection rates of Covid-19, and could help the UK be back on track in order to be able to celebrate Christmas. Controversially schools, colleges and universities remained open as per usual.

With the worst virus death toll in Europe and daily infection rates of well-above 10,000, it remains to be seen if the lockdown will end on December 2nd as originally stated. If it does end, then England will once more enter the tiered system of Covid-19 restrictions.

The Tiered System

Following the first lockdown ending, England entered a tiered system for the first time. It is a similar, stricter version that England is due to enter on December 2nd, and it is thought that they will remain in this system until March, when a vaccine might be ready for UK citizens.

England’s regions will be divided into three tiers – Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 – with Tier 1 facing the least severe restrictions and Tier 3 the most. Decisions on tiers are based on the following factors:

  • Case detection rate – in all age groups and, in particular, the over-60s
  • How quickly case rates are rising or falling
  • Positivity in the general population
  • Pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity
  • Local context and exceptional circumstances, such as a local but contained outbreak

Areas can move up or down on the tier scale if they performer better or worse any of the above metrics over time.

Woman wearing mask at london tube station during covid 19

Difference in Tiers

There are several key differences in each of the tiers. Those living in Tier 1 and 2 areas will be free to go to pubs and restaurants, whilst those in Tier 3 areas will only be able to do take-out. Tier 3 areas will see indoor entertainment venues closed, whilst those in Tier 1 and 2 zones can go to sports events and live performances. Tier 1 areas are free to follow the rule of six when meeting both indoors or outdoors, whilst for Tier 2 there is to be no household mixing when indoors only. Those in Tier 3 are unable to mix households at all. Those living in Tier 3 areas will be eligible for rapid Covid-19 tests, which provide results in 20 minutes.

uk travelers with luggage wearing masks

Implications for Travel

Under the current lockdown rules, those from England are only permitted to travel for certain reasons, such as work, education or for essential activities such as grocery shopping. The government’s official website states that those in England cannot leave home for domestic nor international holidays.

Under the tiered system, those in Tiers 1 and 2 are free to travel abroad. Whilst it is not illegal for those in Tier 3 areas to travel in the tiered system to go on holiday, the government will instead dissuade them from taking non-essential trips.

uk put into another lockdown in November

Those from abroad are permitted to enter the UK but may need to undergo a period of self-isolation. Some countries are included in a travel-corridor scheme and do not need to self-isolate on arrival.

uk couple wearing masks at airport

With Christmas a popular time to travel for those in the UK, a move into a tiered system instead of the national lockdown is likely to result in a large number of Brits heading out on holiday.

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Published November 30th, 2020.

Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling.  Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories