Coronavirus / Tier 1 - What can I do?

Coronavirus: What can I do in Tier 1?

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 1 is the lowest alert level which an area can be in. It corresponds to a medium level of risk.

The rules in place in Tier 1 came into force after the second national ‘lockdown’ ended in England on 2 December 2020.

How do I know whether I’m in a Tier 1 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?

The ‘rule of six’ applies in Tier 1. This means that you can gather in groups of up to six people (including children), indoors or outdoors, in private homes or in public spaces. This includes gatherings with people from outside your household or support bubble.

There are some exceptions to these rules where you can gather in groups of more than six people.

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 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 you 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 (not including children under the age of five). 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 – it takes place 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)
    • 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.

Wedding and civil partnership receptions

  • The gathering is a wedding or civil partnership reception and
    • consists of no more than 15 people
    • takes place anywhere other than a private home,
    • the same precautions are taken as for the marriage or civil partnership ceremonies themselves.

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 sports

  • 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.

Other sports

Outdoor activities

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
    • which takes place somewhere other than a private home and
    • includes no more than 15 people (not including 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 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
    • consists of  members of no more than three households who are in an exclusive Christmas bubble
    • the gathering takes places in a private home, a transport vehicle or certain public outdoor places

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.

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 1 area if any part of the place where it takes place is in the Tier 1 area.

What is a ‘qualifying group’?

Venues such as pubs and restaurants, shops, entertainment venues and places of worship are able to host multiple ‘qualifying groups’ as long as those groups do not mix with one another.

In Tier 1, 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 in a place of worship or certain public outdoor places).

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.

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 1 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 or in a public outdoor space which is not operated by a business, a charity, a public body or certain other types of 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?

Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes, leisure and entertainment venues, hairdressers, gyms, and places of worship are allowed to open under Tier 1 rules.

Shops selling both essential and non-essential goods can reopen.

Accommodation like hotels, holiday lets and guest houses are also allowed to reopen.

Businesses like nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques, hostess bars, and sexual entertainment venues are not allowed to open.

Government guidance provides further information on what businesses and venues are allowed to open in Tier 1 areas, with additional guidance provided on the coronavirus measures businesses and venues should take to protect customers, visitors and workers.

Can I go to a pub or restaurant with family or friends within my Tier?

Yes. In Tier 1, you can gather in pubs, restaurants (and similar venues) with people (whether from your household or support bubble or not) in groups of up to six people. There are exceptions where you are permitted to gather in groups larger than six indoors.

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

The law does not stop you from travelling to a pub or restaurant (or similar venue) in another Tier. However, once in another Tier area, you must stick to the rules of that Tier. See our pages on Tier 2 and Tier 3 rules for more information.

What time do pubs, bars and restaurants have to close?

Pubs, bars, restaurants, and similar venues must close by 11pm. They cannot sell any food or drink for consumption inside their venues after 10pm. This means last orders for food and drink must be made before this time.

However, businesses can continue to provide takeaway services by delivery, click-and-collect or drive-through between 11pm and 5am.

Can I attend a sports or business event?

Yes. In Tier 1, you can attend sports and business events inside and outside. The amount of people that can attend is 50 per cent capacity of the venue, or either 4,000 outdoors or 1,000 indoors, whichever number is lower. The guidance makes clear that this is subject to following social distancing rules.

The same rules above apply for other public indoor and outdoor events such as performances and shows.

Can I stay overnight away from my home?

Yes. There is no restriction on travelling within Tier 1, but if you are staying somewhere other than your current home, you must not gather in groups of more than six people (other than those in your household and/or support bubble), unless one of the exceptions applies.

Government guidance however advises you to avoid sharing car journeys with people who are outside your household or support bubble. 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.

Different rules apply in other Tiers: see our pages on Tier 2  and Tier 3 for further information.

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 places in other Tiers for work, or to access education?

Yes. The law allows you to travel to other Tiers, and to gather in groups of more than six for the purposes of work, provision of voluntary or charitable services, education and training.

Government guidance advises that, if you are travelling, you should aim to walk or cycle where you can and use public transport or drive where you cannot. 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 further specific 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 on 3-9 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 are found to be 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 are not found to be 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 a friend in a care home?

Yes. There is nothing in law preventing you from visiting people in care homes in Tier 1.

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.

It also states that for Tier 1 areas, indoor visits without testing can be allowed with visitors who are also from a Tier 1 area. These visits should be limited to two people (one preferably), with social distancing, no physical contact, PPE use and good hand hygiene observed at all times.

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.

For the rules about visiting people in care homes in Tier 2 and Tier 3, please see our advice pages for further information.

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

Yes. There are exceptions in the rules for ‘outdoor sports gatherings’, ‘permitted indoor sports gatherings’ and ‘relevant outdoor activities’ which means that groups of more than six people can take part in these activities as long as certain conditions are met.

‘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.

‘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.

‘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 indoor or outdoor sporting or physical activity that does not meet these requirements, then you must do so in groups of six people or fewer.

The Government has provided guidance on sport and physical activity.

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.

Read our pages on Tier 2, Tier 3 and what the police can do.

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Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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