From Friday, Greater Manchester will move into Tier 3 of the Government’s new lockdown system, meaning the region will have to endure tough Covid-19 restrictions over the school half-term holidays. Merseyside and Lancashire already occupy this category, designated ‘very high risk’, and South Yorkshire is set to follow suit on Saturday.
This directly affects roughly six million people, and with large parts of the North, including West Yorkshire, the North-East, Teesside and Nottingham, also under consideration for Tier 3 measures, that figure could almost double.
When the system came into effect last week, all these areas (barring Merseyside and Lancashire), were categorised as Tier 2, or ‘high risk’, entailing some restrictions but ultimately allowing significant freedoms when it comes to travelling around the country. That’s certainly not the case in Tier 3. So what does it mean for half-term travel? Here are your key questions answered.
What does Tier 3 mean?
As the highest category of the English lockdown system (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own restrictions), Tier 3 is applied to those areas where the need to control the growing coronavirus infection rate is felt to be greatest. The Government has not revealed a threshold for triggering an area’s ‘very high risk’ status, but the seven-day case rate per 100,000 people in such areas is generally above 300.
Nor are there set restrictions. The Government has laid out a ‘baseline’ set of measures for Tier 3 areas, but these can be amended or added to on an area-by-area basis subject to consultation with the local authority. By and large, however, these are the restrictions that many in the North can expect to see in the coming days:
Pubs and bars must close, and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, like a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal
Wedding receptions are not allowed
People must not meet anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in a public space. The “Rule of Six” applies in open public spaces like parks and beaches
People should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘very high’ area they are in, or entering a ‘very high’ area, other than for things like work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit
People should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are resident in a ‘very high’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘very high’ area if they are resident elsewhere
Which areas fall into Tier 3?
As already mentioned, just Merseyside and Lancashire currently have Tier 3 status, with Greater Manchester set to have its risk level upgraded on Friday October 23, and South Yorkshire to have the same on Saturday 24.
High infection rates in West Yorkshire, particularly Leeds, Blackburn and Bradford, makes the region another likely candidate for Tier 3 restrictions, while Nottingham, with the second highest case rate in the UK, is also in the crosshairs.
The whole of the North East, including Tyneside, Sunderland and Teesside, is also facing further restrictions, with the region’s seven-day caseload currently around 300 per 100,000 people.
I live in a Tier 3 area – can I still go on holiday?
Those living in ‘very high risk’ areas are advised not to travel unless it is for the purpose of ‘work, education, accessing youth services, to meet caring responsibilities or if they are in transit’.
Holidays should be avoided, therefore, even if you’re planning to travel to another Tier 3 area. However, the advice is guidance rather than law and you will not be fined for going ahead with your holiday (so long as you remain in your bubble). As such, those wishing to cancel their holiday may find it difficult to obtain a refund (see below). Your best bet may be to ask for a postponement.
Can I travel abroad from a Tier 3 area?
The same guidance applies: people living in a Tier 3 lockdown are advised not to travel outside the area.
Note that holidaymakers from Tier 3 areas may face greater restrictions. Germany, for instance, imposed regional travel restrictions on the entire north of England several weeks ago, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, meaning arrivals must present evidence of a negative test or take a test on arrival. It reflects a growing movement in Europe for a regional approach to Covid travel rules, and those in the North could see their holiday options even more strictly curtailed as countries sign up to the EU’s travel ‘traffic light’ system.
What if my destination has Tier 3 status?
According to the Government you should move or cancel your holiday. The guidance clearly states that you should “avoid staying overnight in a ‘very high’ area if they are resident elsewhere”. However, the rules do not state that hotels, b&bs and other accommodation providers should close. In fact, hospitality businesses are allowed to remain open if operating as a restaurant, which might be of some comfort to some of the larger hotels, but not much. It does, however, present a thorny issue when it comes to the question many disappointed travellers will now be asking...
Can I get a refund if I don’t want to travel?
Under guidance issued by the Competition and Markets Authority, consumers are entitled to a full refund if lockdown restrictions prevent them from receiving the service for which they have paid. Therefore, someone who can’t go on holiday because of Tier 3 restrictions should be able to claim their money back.
But there’s enough leeway for hospitality businesses to dispute this entitlement, and it is perhaps understandable why they would do so, considering that many are on the verge of bankruptcy after months of stunted trade.
A preferable alternative might be to amend your booking to a date in 2021 if possible. Many businesses will welcome this compromise, and plenty already allow for it in their terms and conditions.