The uk’s covid-19 tiers and lockdown rules, explained

When did the UK lockdown start and when will England’s second lockdown end?

Some form of lockdown has been in place across the UK since March. On March 23, during the first wave of Covid-19, Johnson announced the first national lockdown. This applied to all nations across the UK. At the start, lockdown rules said people could only go outside for four reasons (food shopping, exercising alone, medical issues, and providing care). People who were vulnerable were asked to shelter for 12 weeks.

These lockdown rules were gradually eased during the summer as cases decreased and were replaced by local lockdowns. However, on October 31, Johnson announced a second national lockdown for England that would start on November 5 and not end until at least December 2. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not included in England’s second national lockdown. On November 23, Johnsons confirmed that the second national lockdown would end as planned on December 2. This will be replaced by new tiers of lockdown.

Some lockdown measures, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, are likely to be in place for a long time across the world.

What are the lockdown rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

When the first lockdown started in March the rules across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were mostly the same. But, as the pandemic has continued, there has been divergence in the rules.

Wales was the first of the UK nations to reimpose a national lockdown. From October 23 to November 9, a period of 17 days, the country held a “firebreak” lockdown. During this time people were told to stay home, not visit other households, pubs and restaurants had to close alongside gyms, hotels and hairdressers and secondary schools move to online teaching. Following the end of the lockdown, new rules have been put in place.

The rules are still relatively strict though: two families are allowed to meet-up again and form a bubble, groups of four people from different households can meet indoors in pubs, cafes and restaurants. People who can work from home have been told to continue to do so and people are being told not to travel between England and Wales unless it is “essential”. Holidays are restricted to within Wales, with international travel only being allowed for essential purposes. The full rules can be found here.

From November 2, Scotland introduced a tiered system of local restrictions. This system is based on local authority areas, with each of the 32 areas being assigned one of the five tiers of local lockdown. Level 0 is the lowest tier and Level 4 is the highest – the full details are listed here.

Any areas in Level 0 are considered the closest to normal with indoor meetings allowed for up to eight people, from three households and groups of 15 being able to meet outdoors. Level 1 prohibits in-home socialising and indoor public gatherings are limited to six people from two households and pubs and restaurants close by 10.30pm. Level 2 requires hospitality venues to close indoors at 8pm and bans meeting other households indoors. At Level 3 there are bans on alcohol being served indoors and outdoors and hospitality venues must close by 6pm. And Level 4, which is the most severe, requires non-essential shops, hospitality venues and gyms being closed.

On November 20, the first areas of Scotland will be placed under the Level 4 lockdown conditions. About 2.7 million people across 11 local authority areas will face the new conditions. The lockdown period is set to last for three weeks and places severe limitations on what people can do. People in these areas are being told to keep all journeys to the minimum that are possible. Households are allowed to meet outdoors in groups of up to six people.

New restrictions are being put in place in Northern Ireland from November 27. The country’s leadership has said there should be no household gatherings and people should work from home if it is possible to do so. The lockdown rules say people should only leave their homes for essential purposes – defined as education, healthcare or caring for others and outdoor exercise. Non-essential retailers will have to shut and hospitality services can only provide takeaways – the restrictions will last for two weeks.

What is the latest lockdown news for England and guidelines in the UK?


England entered a second national lockdown on November 5 and it is set to run until December 2. On November 23, prime minister Boris Johnson announced that the English lockdown restrictions would expire at the start of December and be replaced by a new, enhanced, set of local lockdown tiers.

On November 26, the government released information about which tiers local areas in England would be added to. It has made the information available with a post code checker, which can be found here. As the details were revealed, the website struggled to handle demand and appeared slow for many people. The majority of England will start December in the two highest tiers. Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly are in tier one.

In other nations across the UK, Northern Ireland is undergoing a stricter set of lockdown measures, Scotland has moved several regions into its strongest lockdown rules, and Wales has come out of its firebreak lockdown which lasted for around two weeks.

What are the lockdown and quarantine fines?

People across all of the UK’s nations can face fines if they don’t follow various lockdown rules that have been put in place. This has been the case since the early stages of the UK’s spring lockdown, however over time the punishments for not following the lockdown rules have become more severe.

It is possible for people to be fined up to £10,000. In England police have had the power to fine organisers of illegal gatherings, such as parties and protests with more than 30 people attending, since August. A teenager in Nottingham was made an example of when they were hit with a £10,000 fine after organising a party for more than 50 people.

For England’s second national lockdown the law says that for individuals there will be tiers of fines. For a first offence a person can receive a fixed penalty notice of £200, although it is reduced to £100 if it is paid within two weeks of being issued. If a second fine is issued it can double to £400 and then continue doubling all the way to £6,400. For businesses the fines start at £1,000 and double all the way up to £10,000.

On the first day of the winter lockdown 11 people were fined in one town, with the majority of them claiming they were exercising when meeting other people. A family holidaying in Wales during its lockdown were also fined. People organising anti-lockdown protests have also faced fines. The organiser of a 600-person protest in Manchester was fined the maximum £10,000 after they ignored police requests to cancel the event and 25 others who attended were also fined £200.

However, big £10,000 fines have come under scrutiny. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) told forces to pause issuing the maximum fines in early November after concerns were raised that they were unfair. It has been reported that many people who have received the fines challenged them in court and had them drastically reduced. Now if a police force is going to issue a £10,000 fine they are advised to tell people it is being issued to that they can challenge them in court. In most cases the fines have been issued for people organising gatherings of more than 30 people.

Fines were first introduced for the first lockdown in March and since then more than 20,000 fines have been issued in England and Wales, with the vast majority of them coming earlier in the year. Ahead of the second lockdown in England, police said they would be issuing fewer warnings and be moving faster to fine people where there were clear breaches of the lockdown rules.

Updated November 26, 2020 18:10 GMT: This article is being regularly updated to include the latest information about the UK lockdown. This article was originally published at 09:45 GMT on March 24, 2020

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