With coronavirus infections in England continuing to rise, the Government has now introduced a ‘traffic light’ system to streamline local lockdown restrictions.
The country has now been divided into three tiers, with Tier 1 areas enjoying the greatest freedoms and Tier 3 placed under the strictest constraints.
But what does this mean for the travel plans of those living in the middle of the pack? While most of the country is still categorised as Tier 1 (medium alert), there are several million people now inhabiting Tier 2 areas, and that number is likely to increase dramatically in the coming days as London experiences a surging infection rate.
So what does this mean for holidays, particularly with half term set to start next week? Here are your key questions answered.
What does Tier 2 mean?
The middle tier encompasses areas that the Government has placed on ‘high alert’. As a rule, areas with a seven-day case rate exceeding 100 per 100,000 people fall into Tier 2.
These are the key restrictions in place:
- All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
- Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru
- Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
- Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
- Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed
- The “Rule of Six” will continue to apply outdoors and in private gardens
- People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place
- People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport
Which areas fall into Tier 2?
As things stand, those areas which had been under local lockdowns prior to the three-tier system are now on high alert. This means that Tier 2 comprises large areas of the Northwest and Northeast, including major population centres such as Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester and Tyneside.
More areas are expected to have their alert levels raised though. London tops the list, with 11 of its 32 boroughs reporting case rates above 100 per 100,000.
I live in a Tier 2 area – can I still go on holiday?
You probably can. There are no real restrictions around travel, with the Government only advising that “you should and aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.” One caveat to this is the rule on mixing households:
“You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them.”
This will naturally rule out plenty of group holidays, since the rule applies for all those living in a Tier 2 area, even if they are travelling to a Tier 1 area.
Can I go on a day out?
Generally the same conditions apply to day trips as they do to holidays, although practically speaking there’s a bit more leeway. The rule is thus:
“You may continue to see friends and family you do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with) outside, including in a garden or other outdoor space. When you do so, you must not meet in a group of more than 6. This limit of 6 includes children of any age.”
So you could, for instance, go for a walk in the countryside with friends and family provided you arrange separate transport and don’t go inside together.
Can I travel abroad from a Tier 2 city?
The rules in England won’t stop you, but those in other countries might. Amongst the few nations that are still open to English holidaymakers, several now tailor their quarantine restrictions region by region, rather than nationally. Germany is a good example: the federal government has ordered compulsory self-isolation for anyone travelling from North East England, North West England, the Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber (as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland).
These restrictions aren’t pegged to the English three-tier system – plenty of people in medium alert areas such as Lincolnshire would still have to quarantine in Germany. But it does demonstrate that other countries are now paying attention to local infection rates, and international travel restrictions may well reflect domestic lockdowns, so it’s worth checking before you book (which should go without saying anyway).
What if my destination has Tier 2 status?
Again, unless you are travelling in a group that combines two or more households or support bubbles, there aren’t any barriers to you holidaying in Tier 2 areas. Hotels and other forms of guest accommodation are allowed to remain open, and provided you adhere to the rules (no mixing of households/support bubbles, etc.) you can get on and enjoy that bracing November minibreak in Scarborough or wherever.
Can I get a refund if I don’t want to travel?
Almost certainly not. If Tier 2 rules required the complete closure of all hospitality businesses, then customers would be entitled to full refunds for their bookings. But this isn’t the case – the accommodation sector has been given the green light to continue, so anyone looking to abandon their holiday plans will likely have to pay cancellation fees or accept the loss of their deposit.
There might be a little wriggle room in some cases – many hotels were quick to offer generously flexible booking terms when lockdown restrictions were first lifted back in July, so it may be possible to move a booking to 2021.
Have you got a question about how your half-term holiday could be impacted by a Tier 2 lockdown? Send your queries to [email protected] and our experts will answer them.