Can you travel from tier 3 to tiers 1 and 2? New lockdown rules explained

Rule changes came into effect on 2 December

Helen Coffey,Qin Xie
Tuesday 15 December 2020 10:31 GMT
Matt Hancock announces 'tougher' tiers

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National lockdown restrictions in England lifted on 2 December, but the country has gone into a stricter tiers system, with different rules applicable depending on the risk level and prevalence of coronavirus in each region.

You can check which tier you’re in on the NHS Test and Trace app or by entering your postcode in the government’s website.

The tiers are reviewed every 14 days, with the next update due on 16 December.

Many Britons will be wondering what’s allowed when it comes to travelling between tiers, and whether it’s permissible to visit friends and family or to enjoy a well-earned staycation.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Can I travel from tier 1 to tier 2?

Tier 1 is classified as “Medium Alert” and comes with the lowest level of restrictions. People living in this tier can meet people from other households indoors and outdoors (as long as it’s in groups of no more than six), stay overnight somewhere other than their own home and there are no restrictions on travel or using public transport.

They are able to travel to tier 2 (“High Alert”) regions, but “should follow the rules for that area” while there, which are stricter.  

In tier 2, they can only meet others outside their household while outdoors in groups no bigger than six, and cannot stay overnight somewhere if it means being inside with people outside their household or support bubble; for instance, staying with another family in a self-catering apartment or holiday cottage would not be allowed.  

Those in tier 2 are also told: “You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.”

Read more: London tier 3 rules: Latest restrictions as capital to move to 'high alert level'

Can I travel from tier 2 to tier 1?

Yes, travelling from a tier 2 “High Alert” area to a tier 1 “Medium Alert” area is permitted.

However, you must continue to follow tier 2 rules even when in a tier 1 area. This means no socialising with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.

The above stipulation obviously prohibits you from staying over at anyone’s house in tier 1 unless they are in your support bubble.

You can socialise outdoors with others, as long as it’s in a group of no more than six people.

Can I travel from tiers 1 and 2 to tier 3?

The government is advising against people travelling to a “Very High Alert”, or tier 3, area from the lower tiers.

“Avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas other than where necessary,” read the guidelines.  

“Necessary” reasons include work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.

Read more: Which tier am I in? How to check the alert level in your area

You can also travel through a tier 3 area as part of a longer journey to get to somewhere, including if you’re catching a flight from an airport in tier 3.

However, accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses have been ordered to close in tier 3 areas, barring a very small amount of exemptions.

Can I travel from tier 3 to tiers 1 and 2?

The government is advising against nearly all travel for those in tier 3 areas.

“Avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays other than where necessary,” reads the advice.

Again, the list of exemptions includes work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.

Those in tier 3 are also permitted to travel through lower tier areas as part of a longer journey.

Can people in tiers 1, 2 or 3 travel abroad?

Yes. For all three tiers, the advice does not warn against international travel, saying instead: “For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.”

First all-pre-tested flight from New York arrives at Heathrow

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said tier 3 residents would be able to go abroad.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, he said holidays would be allowed abroad – “if you're going straight to an airport”.

The government later confirmed that there will be no legal impediment to travelling on holiday from anywhere in England – subject to outbound and inbound rules.

The Department for Transport continues to update its list of travel corridors – countries from where arrivals need not undergo a two-week quarantine upon entering England – on a weekly basis, while the FCDO will also regularly update its list of destinations that are exempt from its blanket advice against all non-essential international travel.

From 15 December, those returning from a country not on the travel corridors list will have the option of cutting their quarantine time short by paying to have a Covid test five days after entering the UK.  

In addition, the mandatory quarantine period has been cut from 14 days to 10 days.

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