Coronavirus / Tier 3 - What can I do?

Coronavirus: What can I do in Tier 3?

This information was correct as of 14 December 2020 but is subject to possible changes.

Unless otherwise stated, this page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

Tier 3 is the highest alert level which an area can be in. It corresponds to a very high level of risk.

The rules in place in Tier 3 came into force after the second national ‘lockdown’ ended in England on 2 December 2020.

These rules will remain in force until 2 February 2021, but every 14 days the Health Secretary must review the need for each area in Tier 2 and Tier 3 to remain in those Tiers in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus and to provide a public health response.

How do I know whether I’m in a Tier 3 area?

The Government has provided this postcode checker tool to check which Tier your local area is in so you know which restrictions apply to you.

Can I gather with other people?

In a Tier 3 area, you cannot gather with anyone who you do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with) indoors – including within pubs, bars, restaurants, any other leisure and entertainment venues, and places of worship – unless one of the exceptions applies.

The same rule applies for most outdoor gatherings held in a Tier 3 area. However, if the outdoor gathering is in a public place for which there is no entry fee (such as a park or a beach), or it is in outdoor sports grounds, botanical gardens, or the gardens or grounds of a castle, stately home or historic house, you can gather in groups of up to six people whether from your household and/or support bubble or not. This does not include the private garden of someone who is not from your household or support bubble. There is government guidance on meeting family and friends.

If you live in a Tier 3 area, you cannot travel to somewhere outside that area to take part in a gathering of two or more people indoors, unless those people are from your household or support bubble, or any other exceptions apply.

Similarly, you cannot travel to somewhere outside your Tier 3 area to take part in a gathering of two or more people outdoors, unless it is in a public outdoor place as described above, where the ‘rule of six’ continues to apply.

In short, if you live in a Tier 3 area and travel to a lower Tier area, you must continue to comply with Tier 3 rules.

Exceptions to the rules on gatherings

You are allowed to gather in larger groups than described above if the gathering falls into one of the exceptions below:

Same or linked households

  • All the people in the gathering are from the same household or support bubble.

Permitted organised gatherings

  • The gathering takes place at premises or part of premises (other than a private home) which are operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body, and
  • you attend the gathering alone or as a member of a qualifying group, and do not mingle with anyone outside of your qualifying group

OR

  • The gathering takes place in a public outdoor place, and
    • has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body
    • the organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
    • you attend the gathering alone or as a member of a qualifying group, and do not mingle with anyone outside of your qualifying group.

Education and training

  • The gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of:
    • early years provision
    • educational activities of a school
    • a course of study or essential life skills training provided by a 16 to 19 Academy, a further education provider or a higher education provider
    • activities relating to residing at a school, a 16 to 19 Academy or a further education provider
    • provision specified in an education, health and care plan (EHC plan)
    • the suitable education of a child otherwise than by regular attendance at school (arranged by a parent, local authority or the proprietor of a school in accordance with standards set down in law)
    • activities provided by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body for the purposes of obtaining a regulated qualification or meeting the entry requirements of an educational institution
    • preparing for work through a work experience placement or work preparation training
    • applying for and obtaining work
    • meeting a requirement for a particular area of work
    • professional training that is working towards an external accreditation recognised by a professional body
    • exams and assessments carried out in connection with any of the matters mentioned in the bullet points above.

Gatherings necessary for certain purposes

  • The gathering is reasonably necessary:
    • for work purposes, or for voluntary or charitable services
    • to provide emergency assistance
    • to enable one or more persons in the gathering to avoid injury or illness to escape a risk of harm
    • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person or a person who has a disability
    • for the purposes of moving home.

Legal obligations and proceedings

  • You are fulfilling a legal obligation or taking part in legal proceedings.

Criminal justice accommodation and immigration detention accommodation

  • The gathering takes place in criminal justice accommodation or in immigration detention accommodation.

Support groups

  • The gathering is of a support group which takes place somewhere other than a private home and includes no more than 15 people. It must also be reasonably necessary for members of the group to be physically present at the gathering.

Respite care

The gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of:

  • respite care being provided for a vulnerable person or a person with a disability
  • a short break being provided in respect of a child which is being looked after by a local authority.

Births

  • You are attending a person giving birth at their request.

Marriage and civil partnerships

  • The gathering is for the purposes of a marriage or civil partnership (or an alternative ceremony) and
    • consists of no more than 15 people
    • (if it is an alternative wedding ceremony) takes place at premises or part of premises (other than a private home) which are operated by a business, a public body or a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution; or in a public outdoor place
    • the manager or organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance

OR

  • The gathering is for the purposes of a marriage or civil partnership ceremony which is allowed to take place under a special procedure because one of the parties to the marriage or civil partnership is seriously ill and not expected to recover (or is for the purposes of an alternative wedding ceremony where one of the parties to the marriage is seriously ill and not expected to recover), and
    • takes place at a private home; at premises or part of premises which are operated by a business, a public body or a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution; or in a public outdoor place
    • consists of no more than six people
    • the manager or gathering organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance
    • it is not reasonably practicable for the gathering to take place in accordance with the rules set out in the previous paragraph.

Funerals

  • The gathering is for the purposes of a funeral and
    • consists of no more than 30 people
    • takes place at premises or part of premises, other than a private home, which are operated by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body, or takes place in a public outdoor space
    • the manager or gathering organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the manager or gathering organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Commemorative event following a person’s death

  • The gathering is for a commemorative event to celebrate the life of a person who has died, and
    • consists of no more than 15 people
    • takes place somewhere other than a private home
    • the manager or gathering organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the manager or gathering organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Protests

  • The gathering is for the purposes of protest, and
    • has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body or a political body,
    • the gathering organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Elite sport

  • You are an elite sportsperson or the coach of an elite sportsperson (or, in the case of an elite sportsperson who is a child, their parent), and the gathering is necessary for training or competition.

Children

  • The gathering is reasonably necessary for the purposes of:
    • arrangements for contact between parents and children where children do not live in the same household as their parents or one of their parents
    • arrangements for contact between siblings where they do not live in the same household, and one or more of them is in local authority care
    • facilitating a meeting between prospective adopters (and their household) and the child or children who may be placed with prospective adopters
    • placing or facilitating the placement of children in the care of another person by social services, on a temporary or permanent basis
    • childcare provided by a person registered under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006, or as part of supervised activities provided for children who were aged under 18 on 31 August 2020
    • for the purposes of informal indoor childcare, for children aged 13 or under, provided by a member of a household to a member of their childcare bubble.

Parent and child groups

  • The gathering is of a parent and child group which is organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body for the benefit of children under the age of five, and
    • takes place somewhere other than a private home and
    • includes no more than 15 people (not taking into account any children under the age of five).

Students and vacation households

  • The gathering is reasonably necessary for a student who is undertaking a higher education course on 3 December 2020 to return:
    • to another household from their student household (known as a “vacation household”) on or after 3 December but before 8 February 2021
    • to their student household after the vacation.

Christmas period

  • The gathering takes place during the Christmas period (23-27 December 2020) and

OR

  • The gathering meets the conditions described above but takes place immediately after the Christmas period where one or more person at the gathering has not been able to travel home due to unforeseen disruption to travel.

Picketing

  • The gathering is for the purposes of picketing and is carried out in line with the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, and
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out,
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Exceptions in relation to indoor gatherings and outdoor gatherings other than those in certain public outdoor places 

Visiting a dying person

  • You are visiting a person indoors who you reasonably believe is dying and that person is part of your household, a close family member, or a friend.

Visiting persons receiving treatment etc

  • You are visiting a person indoors receiving treatment in hospital or staying in a hospice or care home, or are accompanying that person to a medical appointment, and that person is part of your household, a close family member, or a friend.

Indoor sports

  • You are taking part (which does not include spectating) in a ‘permitted indoor sports gathering’ which
    • is organised for the purpose of allowing people who have a disability and who are not elite sportspersons to take part in any sport or other fitness-related activity
    • has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body
    • takes place indoors in premises or part of premises (other than a private home) which are operated by a business, a charity, a public body, or a benevolent or philanthropic institution
    • the gathering organiser or manager of the premises has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Exceptions in relation to outdoor gatherings

Outdoor sports

  • You are taking part (which does not include spectating) in an ‘outdoor sports gathering’ which
    • is organised by business, a charity, a public body, a political body, or benevolent or philanthropic institution to allow people who are not elite sportspersons to take part in any sport of other fitness related activity
    • a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 has been carried out
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

Outdoor activities 

  • You are taking part in a ‘relevant outdoor activity’, which
    • is a physical outdoor activity for which a licence, permit or certificate issued by a public body must be held by the organiser or a person taking part in the activity
    • the gathering organiser has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
    • the organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment and with any relevant government guidance.

What counts as a gathering?

A ‘gathering’ is defined in the regulations as two or more people being present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any activity with each other. This is a very broad definition which is likely to cover any reason for meeting with another person unless this is genuinely accidental.

A gathering takes place in a Tier 3 area if any part of the place where it takes place is in the Tier 3 area.

What is a ‘qualifying group’?

Venues open in Tier 3 are able to host multiple ‘qualifying groups’ as long as those groups do not mix with one another.

For indoor gatherings and outdoor gatherings in places such as private gardens or outdoor areas at pubs and restaurants, this means that all the people in the group must be from either:

Similarly, you can gather in certain public outdoor places in groups of more than six people overall as long as you are in qualifying groups and the groups do not mix with one another. In these places, a qualifying group is:

  • a group of six people or fewer
  • a group in which all the people are members of your household or support bubble
  • a group in which all the people are from your childcare bubble (where you are gathering for the purposes of informal childcare)
  • a group in which all the people are from your Christmas bubble (where the gathering takes place during the Christmas period).

Can I be fined for not following the rules on gatherings?

Yes. It is a criminal offence if you don’t follow these rules, and you may be fined £100 for your first offence (or £200 if you fail to pay the fine within 14 days of it being issued), with the amount of the fine doubling for each offence that is committed up to a maximum of £6,400.

If you organise or facilitate a gathering of more than 30 people, indoors or in certain public outdoor places, the fine could be much larger, up to £10,000 (see below).

See our pages on what the police can do and criminal penalties for more information.

What are the rules on organising a gathering?

Within a Tier 3 area, it is a criminal offence to organise a gathering of more than 30 people which takes place indoors but which would meet the definition of a rave (see section 63(1) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994) if it took place on land in the open air.

It is also a criminal offence to organise a gathering of more than 30 people in a private home, on a vessel or in a public outdoor space which is not operated by a business, a charity, a public body, or a benevolent or philanthropic institution, unless an exception applies.

The exceptions to this rule are the same as the exceptions for attending gatherings, as set out above.

The penalties for these offences are much higher than the penalties for attending a gathering illegally. If you commit one of these offences, a fine of £10,000 can be imposed.

Which types of businesses are open?

In Tier 3 areas, businesses in the hospitality sector including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will be closed. However, businesses can continue to provide takeaway services by delivery, click-and-collect or drive-through.

Supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacists, chemists, petrol stations, and non-essential retail are allowed to open. Hairdressers and gyms are allowed to open. Places of worship are also allowed to open.

Hotels, B&Bs, guest houses and campsites will also be closed apart from in limited circumstances set out in the law.

Nightclubs, dance halls, sexual entertainment venues, hostess bars, casinos, betting shops and adult gaming centres, fitness and dance studios, and indoor sports facilities are closed.

Indoor play areas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, snooker and pool halls, cinemas (except drive-in cinemas), theatres, circuses and certain other indoor attractions will be closed. However, indoor play areas, indoor play centres, indoor skating rinks and indoor trampoline parks can still be used by disabled people.

Government guidance provides further information on what businesses and venues are allowed to open in Tier 3 areas, with additional guidance provided on the cCoronavirus measures businesses and venues should take to protect customers, visitors and workers. The full rules can be found here.

Can I travel to another Tier to go to the pub or a restaurant with family or friends?

It depends. The law does not stop you from travelling outside of the Tier 3 area but, unless one of the other Tier 3 exceptions applies, you cannot gather with anyone indoors who is not from your household or support bubble, and you cannot gather in an outdoor space at a pub or restaurant with anyone who is not from your household or support bubble.

You are still at all times advised by the government to follow social distancing measures. The Government also advises you to minimise travel where possible. This is only guidance and not law so the police cannot enforce these rules, and if you break them, you will not commit a criminal offence.

Can I stay overnight away from my home?

It depends on where you stay. There is no legal restriction on travelling within Tier 3 or between Tiers, only on who you gather with and where.

If you travel from a Tier 3 area to an area in a lower Tier, you must still follow Tier 3 rules. This means that you should only travel with people from your own household or support bubble, and you are not allowed to travel to and stay in other people’s households.

The government guidance strongly discourages you from staying in other parts of the UK overnight, unless it is for work, education, moving home, accessing voluntary, charitable or youth services, attending a medical appointment or treatment, or caring responsibilities. This is only guidance and not law so the police cannot enforce these rules, and if you break them, you will not commit a criminal offence.

Be aware that different rules apply in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and you should check the legal position in the area you are travelling to before you travel.

Can I travel to other Tiers for work, or to access education?

Yes. The law allows you to travel to other Tiers and gather in groups of more than six people where one of the Tier 3 exceptions applies, for instance for the purposes work, provision of voluntary or charitable services, education and training.

Government guidance advises that, if you are travelling, you should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible, walk or cycle where you can, and practise social distancing while doing so. This is only guidance and not law so the police cannot enforce these rules, and if you break them, you will not commit a criminal offence.

There is specific government guidance on safe travel.

Can I return home from university for Christmas?

Yes.

There is now a specific exception in the rules which allows students who are taking a higher education course on 3 December 2020 to move on one occasion to another household, known as a “vacation household” between 3 December 2020 and 7 February 2021, for the purposes of a vacation.

Once they have moved to a vacation household, a student is to be treated as a member of that household during the vacation, but they will not be counted when determining whether a household meets the conditions for forming a support bubble.

The student will not then be treated as a member of their student household until the date on which they return to their student household.

The Government has published specific guidance for students travelling home for Christmas.

The guidance states that between 3 and 9 December 2020, there will be a ‘window’ which allows students to leave their university accommodation to return home, with coronavirus testing offered to as many students as possible before departure.

If you:

  • test positive for coronavirus you will have to self-isolate in line with legal requirements before returning home,
  • test negative but have been identified as having been in close contact with someone who tested positive, you are required to self-isolate, but you can travel home first to do this,
  • test negative and have not been in close contact with anyone who has tested positive, you are encouraged to return home as soon as possible after the test result is returned.

If you do not have access to a test, you are encouraged to follow wider government guidance and return home during the ‘travel window’ unless you are displaying coronavirus symptoms, or self-isolating as advised by NHS Test and Trace.

When travelling home, guidance advises you to use private transport wherever possible, and public transport if you have no other option. The guidance encourages universities to put in place plans for students to return home safely.

The government has also produced guidance on returning to university after the Christmas break.

Can I visit a relative or friend in a care home?

Yes. There is an exception in the rules on gatherings in Tier 3 which allows you to visit someone in a hospice or a care home if you are a member of their household, a close family member or their friend.

However, care providers themselves set their own visiting policies and make decisions about who can visit residents, when and how frequently, based on government guidance and advice from local authority directors of public health (DPHs).

Until now, there has been a lot of uncertainty on the rules around visiting care homes.

On 1 December, the Government published new guidance on visiting care homes. This states that all care homes regardless of Tier should seek to enable indoor visits where the visitor has been tested for coronavirus and returned a negative result, and outdoor or “screened” visits where testing is not yet possible.

The guidance states that regular testing will be provided to up to two family members or friends per resident by Christmas with other infection-control mechanisms including PPE being used. It says that the Government is distributing rapid tests to care homes across the country to be used for visitors, and that Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered care homes will receive these tests during December.

Care providers should therefore develop their own visiting policies in line with the more detailed requirements set out in the guidance, and should communicate these to residents and families. As part of developing their policies, care providers should undertake individual risk assessments where necessary.

Care homes must also take into account the significant vulnerability of most residents, as well as compliance with their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998, as applicable.

Can I still play sport or do other physical activity in groups?

Yes. There are exceptions in the rules for ‘permitted indoor sports gatherings’, ‘outdoor sports gatherings’ and ‘relevant outdoor activities’ which means that the limits on the number of people who can gather indoors and outdoors (respectively) in Tier 3 do not apply to people who are taking part in these activities as long as certain conditions are met.

‘Permitted indoor sports gatherings’ can only be organised for the purposes of allowing disabled people (who are not elite sportspeople) to take part in sport / fitness activity. They must be organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, or a public body and must take place indoors on premises or part of premises (other than a private home) operated by one of these types of bodies. The organiser must carry out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and must take all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus in line with the risk assessment and with government guidance.

If you are taking part in any indoor sporting or physical activity that does not meet these requirements then you must only do so with other people from your household, support bubble or childcare bubble where applicable.

‘Outdoor sports gatherings’ must be organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, or a public body, they must be for the purposes of allowing people (who are not elite sportspeople) to take part in sport / fitness activity and they must be held outdoors. The organiser must carry out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and must take all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus in line with the risk assessment and relevant government guidance.

‘Relevant outdoor activities’ are physical activities which are held outdoors and where either the organiser of the activity or the participants need some form of licence or permit from a public body for the activity (including a licence to use certain equipment). Again, the organiser must carry out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and must take all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus in line with the risk assessment and with government guidance.

If you are taking part in any kind of outdoor sporting or physical activity that does not meet these requirements, then you can only do so in groups of six people or fewer, and only in certain public outdoor places. If you are taking part in an outdoor physical activity anywhere else, then you must do so alone or only with other members of your household and/or support bubble.

The Government has provided guidance on sport and physical activity in Tier 3.

There are specific exceptions in the rules for elite sportspeople.

 

If you need further advice, you should contact a criminal law solicitor.

Get help to find a solicitor.

You can also contact us for further advice on our Get Advice page.

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