Most of the southeast of England is set to join London in Tier 3 from midnight on Friday, as the government scrambles to contain a sharp spike in coronavirus cases.
The move will see Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Peterborough, and the whole of Hertfordshire move into the highest level of restrictions from 0.01am on Saturday.
It comes as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the UK, with a further 25,161 cases and 612 Covid-related deaths reported yesterday.
Ministers are particularly concerned about a new coronavirus mutation spreading across the southeast of England, amid warnings that people traveling during the Christmas period may bring the strain further around the country.
But what will Tier 3 rules for London and the southeast look like in practice?
Meeting up with friends and family
Tier 3 rules mean a ban on all social interactions both indoor and outdoors with anybody outside your household or support bubble.
The only exceptions include going for a walk in the park, public garden or heritage site, visiting an allotment, or playing in outdoor sports facilities and playgrounds. In those cases, the rule of six must be adhered to.
Overnight stays with people outside your household or bubble will still not be allowed under Tier 3 rules.
That said, the government is set to relax restrictions for five days across the entire UK at Christmas which will allow three households to come together indoors between 23-27 December. It is understood that London will immediately return to Tier 3 after that.
Eating and drinking at pubs and restaurants
Hospitality venues in London and the southeast including pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars must close once again under Tier 3.
While Tier 2 restrictions introduced earlier this month allowed punters to drink indoors as long as they had a “substantial meal”, venues will now only allowed to keep operating for takeaway services under Tier 3.
Customers must order online for takeaway, click-and-collect, delivery or drive-through. Businesses that fail to comply with the restrictions face fines of up to £10,000.
Shops will be allowed to remain open under Tier 3 only if they are Covid-secure. That means you’ll likely be able to get some last-minute Christmas shopping done, as long as you’re prepared for some hefty queues.
Shopping centres will be allowed to remain open, but those inside closed venues will be forced to shut. Tier 3 guidelines stating that shops that cannot be accessed directly from the street must close.
London and the southeast’s hairdressers, beauty salons, tattoo parlours, nail salons, and spas can remain open under the new rules.
Sport and entertainment
Cinemas, casinos, bingo halls, bowling alleys, nightclubs and theatres must now close under Tier 3 rules. That means hopes of going to the Christmas panto are now behind you.
Any Christmas holiday trips to ice skating rinks, museums, galleries and theme parks must also be ripped up now. Time to brush up those Zoom quizzes.
Leisure and sports facilities will also be allowed to stay running, but group exercise classes including fitness and dance classes will be banned. Gyms and sports facilities will be open for individual exercise and exercise in single households or support bubbles only.
Spectators will be banned from live sporting events.
Where to work
Boris Johnson earlier this month said that under all tier restriction levels “people who can work from home, should continue to do so”.
A previous exemption allowing business lunches to still go ahead under Tier 2 is now off the menu, meaning all those definitely-not-a-Christmas-party gatherings will have to retreat to Zoom.
Business meetings are still allowed in Tier 3, up to 30 members of staff, so long as social distancing is maintained.
The government has urged Londoners to walk or cycle into work where possible, and to travel outside of peak times if using public transport.
Leaving your local tier level is now prohibited until the rules are relaxed for Christmas on 23 December.
That means anyone who has booked a Christmas getaway before then must now cancel their holiday. Hotels, B&Bs, campsites, holiday lets and guest houses must now close under Tier 3.
Downing Street has defied calls from the mayor of London to shut schools before they are due to break up for the Christmas holidays on Thursday following a spike in cases among 10 to 19-year-olds.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve consistently said that not being in school has a detrimental impact on children’s learning as well as their own personal development and mental health.
“Which is why we expect all schools and colleges to remain open until the end of term on Thursday, as schools have remained open throughout the pandemic.”
However, Downing Street has not ruled out the possibility that schools could be closed for longer than usual after Christmas.
Universities are allowed to remain open under Tier 3, though most students have been told to return home as part of government plans to stagger household mixing during the Christmas period.
Weddings and funerals
As per Tier 2, funerals will be capped at 30 people attending. Wedding celebrations will also be a muted affair, with a maximum limit of 15 attendees.