The new coronavirus tier system being rolled out across England has introduced fresh restrictions for millions.
The new coronavirus alert system is made up of three tiers, with local areas being sorted into each depending on their levels of coronavirus cases and hospitalisations. It’s a system intended to simplify the rules across the country, which many had complained were overly complex and difficult to follow.
Along with new guidance on eating out, travelling and curfews, differing rules on gatherings have been introduced for each tier.
These are the rules you should follow, depending on which tier you’re currently in.
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Tier 1 - medium alert level
This level covers most of England, and represents little change from the previous national guidance on socialising.
The ‘rule of six’ applies when meeting with friends and family in this tier, meaning you must not meet with more than six people at once, indoors or outdoors.
When meeting with others, you should maintain a social distance from anybody who is not a part of your household or support bubble, and make sure to maintain excellent hygiene.
Guidance says that you should try to meet with others outdoors if possible, given the chance of transmission is much lower in fresh air. You should also try to limit the number of different people you see socially in a short period of time.
The rule of six applies to pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses, meaning you cannot mix in a group of more than six in a pub, for instance.
There are some exemptions to the rule of six, including where a legally permitted support bubble is larger than six people.
If you are in a clinically vulnerable risk group, the guidance will be slightly different.
Tier 2 - high alert level
In areas under Tier 2 restrictions, you must not meet socially with anyone you don’t live with (or are in a support bubble with) in an indoor setting.
This includes private homes, as well as in pubs, restaurants and cafes. Hospitality businesses will likely ask you to confirm whether the group you are with are all from the same household.
You can, however, still meet with family and friends in an outdoor setting in a group of up to six people. This might be in a private garden or park, or in an outdoor beer garden.
You should practice social distancing and excellent hygiene when meeting anyone from outside your household or support bubble.
Those in high risk groups should follow different guidance if living in a high alert area.
Tier 3 - very high alert level
If your area is in Tier 3, you must not meet with anyone outside of your household or support bubble indoors, nor in most hospitality venues - even if they have outdoor seating.
The only setting in which you are permitted to see people from outside your household is in public outdoor spaces, such as parks or the beach, in groups of no more than six individuals from one household or support bubble.
As with every tier, you should practice social distancing and excellent hygiene when meeting people from outside your support bubble or household, as well as following different guidance if you belong to a high risk group.
What are the exceptions to limits on gatherings?
In all tiers, there are some exceptions to limits on gatherings.
This includes provision of emergency assistance, childcare arrangements, funerals and weddings.
You should check the guidance carefully depending on which tier your local area is in to see whether exceptions apply to you.