England and Scotland Head into National Lockdowns - Here's What You Can and Cannot Do

Claudia Canavan
·7-min read
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

From Women's Health

Fresh changes are in, with regards to pandemic restrictions. At an address to the public tonight – 4 January – Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England is moving into a national lockdown, as of midnight. This is due to the current situation with the rate of infection and subsequent hospitalisations: the nation's Covid alert level should move to '5'. This means that, if something doesn't change, the NHS may be overwhelmed within 21 days.

According to the BBC, here is a summary of the new rules:

  • People cannot leave their homes except for certain reasons, like the first lockdown last March

  • These include essential medical needs, food shopping, exercise and work for those who cannot do so from home

  • You can exercise in a public outdoor place by yourself, with people you live with or your support bubble, or on your own with one person from another household

  • All schools and colleges will close to most pupils from Tuesday with remote learning until February half term

  • Early years settings such as nurseries will stay open

  • End-of-year exams will not take place this summer as normal

  • Elsewhere, university students should not return to campuses and will be taught online

  • Restaurants can continue to offer delivery for food, but takeaway alcohol will be banned

  • Outdoor sports venues - such as golf courses, tennis courts and outside gyms - must close

  • Amateur team sports are not allowed, but elite sport such as Premier League football can continue

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also announced a lockdown in the country.

  • Schools will stay closed until February

  • You can now only meet one person from one other household outside.

  • Places of worship will be closed

  • Group exercise is banned

Likewise, these changes come into effect from midnight.

When can I leave my house, in Tier 4?

In Tier four, the measures will be similar to the second national lockdown. In short, you can't leave your home without a ‘reasonable excuse’. This covers:

  • Work and volunteering (if you cannot work from home)

  • To exercise or meet in a public outdoor place with people you live with, your support bubble (or as part of a childcare bubble), or with one other person.

  • Essential activities: buying food and medicine, to go to a bank or Post Office, to fulfil legal obligations, to carry out jobs relating to buying, selling or renting a residential property

  • Education, such as school

  • Childcare, or to take your child to school

  • To visit people in your support bubble, or to provide informal childcare for children aged 13 and under as part of a childcare bubble

  • Attend a support group (of up to 15 people)

  • To provide care for vulnerable people,

  • Exercise outdoors

  • Communal worship

Can I go to the gym, in Tier 4?

Not an indoor one, no. In Tier 4, the following businesses must shut:

  • Indoor gyms, sports facilities and leisure centres

  • Hairdressers, beauty salons, nail salons, and all other personal care

  • Non-essential shops, like clothing stores

  • All hospitality, like pubs and restaurants, apart from take-away food

Need a refresher on precisely what each other tier means? Here's the specifics.

What does each tier mean?

Tier three

  • All hospitality will have to stay closed, except for delivery and takeaway

  • You can go to the gym or leisure centre

  • However, group fitness classes cannot go ahead

  • Group yoga classes cannot go ahead

  • Hairdressers and beauty salons can re-open

  • You can meet in a group of up to six people, outside

  • You must not meet inside with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with

  • So long as social distancing is followed, you can play outdoor sport

  • You should work from home if you can

Tier two

  • Hospitality can open, including pubs, so long as they serve meals

  • Last orders will be 10pm, but you'll have until 11pm to finish eating and drinking

  • You can go to the gym or a leisure centre

  • Group exercise classes can go ahead, provided that people from different households do not mix

  • Yoga classes can go ahead, provided that people from different households do not mix

  • Hairdressers and beauty salons can re-open

  • You can meet in a group of up to six people, outside

  • You must not meet inside with anyone you do not live with or are not in a support bubble with

  • You should work from home if you can

Tier one

  • Hospitality can open

  • Last orders will be 10pm, but you'll have until 11pm to finish eating and drinking

  • You should work from home if you can

  • You can go to the gym or a leisure centre

  • Team sports allowed

  • Hairdressers and beauty salons can re-open

  • You can meet in a group of up to six people, inside and outside

What do the experts say about Tier 4 and the new rules?

Of announcements with regards to tier 4 and changes around the Christmas relaxation, here's what the experts had to say.

Prof Ravindra Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology, University of Cambridge:

'The news, although disappointing for many, is the most appropriate given the speed at which the new variant has spread. The variant has a number of concerning mutations that mean we should control transmission through social restrictions whilst we work to learn more about the impact of these mutations on how the virus behaves. We should seriously consider regional targeting of the vaccine to control spread.'

Dr James Gill, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Warwick Medical School:

'Hearing that the Tier 4 restrictions have been initiated in the south of the country is obviously going to be a shock and a disappointment. In the early stages of the COVID19 outbreak, criticism was directed at the slow pace of response and distinct action which will have been a contributing factor to the degree of COVID19 spread over the past year.

'Viruses change, there have been observed changes previously in COVID19 and countries have been affected by different strains, but crucially these strains have not resulted in any relevant clinical changes such as new symptoms. We have been able to detect and act on this new variant due to exceptional work going on in labs across the country that have been tasked to monitor the genetic code of the COVID19 virus – specifically watching for this eventuality, the rise of a new variant.

'With the latest variant, we are seeing an increase in infectivity, and it appears this latest COVID19 strain is one of the main driving factors in the rise in cases in the South. Thus it is correct, prudent and sensible to act now as we learn more.

'We are still waiting to learn further about this new strain, and that has to be the key information here, it appears to be more contagious but we do not know if it is more or less dangerous. Hence the stronger restrictions are sensible. The greater curbs on social interactions – even at Christmas – allow time for scientists to learn and characterise this new strain, and in doing so, prevent the repeat of mistakes that were made in the earlier stages of the pandemic.

'Being reactive with a virus is very difficult. Whilst an over-used phrase, it is shutting the door after the horse has bolted. In this current situation being proactive, taking very strong steps, is the right thing to do. To be very clear, delaying introduction of new restrictions whilst we gather further data on this new strain will cost lives. When scientists have a clearer picture of the clinical relevant changes that are present in this strain, we will be able to safely review our restrictions.

'Science and medicine is driven by data. To act without being guided by data is foolish at best, dangerous at worst. Currently the data are suggesting a rise in new infections as a result of this new strain, so it is sensible to instigate restrictions to gather new data.'

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