What you can’t do in tier three that you could do in tier two

Londoners and people from other tier two areas set to be plunged under tier three are wondering what will change when they are placed under the harshest restrictions. 

There are a number of differences between the ‘high’ and ‘very high’ rules, but perhaps the most prominent is that pubs and restaurants in the capital will have to close for all but takeaway services. 

With London MPs told the city will go into tier three – ahead of a planned review of the tiers – on Wednesday, December 16, a host of new restrictions are set to come into force for millions of people this week. Parts of Essex and Hertfordshire also look set to be on the brink of tier three. 

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan has already warned that the move will have a ‘catastrophic’ impact on the city’s economy.

Tier three also sees people banned from meeting anyone not in their household bubble in outdoor venues or in private gardens. You can still meet in parks or at the beach, but tier two restrictions allow people more freedom to meet anywhere outside. 

Under tier three restrictions, people are banned from meeting anyone outside their household or bubble indoors, in private gardens or outdoor venues. They can still meet people outside their household or bubble in public spaces such as parks, public gardens or the beach. 

Shops, gyms and personal care services – including hairdressers – are allowed to stay open, but all bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes must close, except for delivery services.

Spectators are also banned from sporting events – meaning London’s football clubs would no longer be able to let fans in. 

In terms of amateur sport, indoor activities are banned under tier three, but outdoor sport can continue.

However, there is a reprieve for gym-goers, with the advice reading: ‘Gyms and sports facilities will be open for individual exercise and exercise in single households or support bubbles only.

‘Indoor group activities and exercise classes should not take place.’

Similarly, indoor theatre and cinema venues must also close in tier three. 

Travel restrictions also become more stringent in the third tier, with people there advised not to make journeys out of their area or between tiers – which could be difficult if different parts of the capital are placed under different rules. 

Government rules on meeting people in tier three


You must not meet socially indoors with anybody you do not:

Unless a legal exemption applies.

‘Indoors’ means any indoor setting, including:

  • private homes
  • other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants


You must not meet socially (in a private garden or at most outdoor public venues), with anybody you do not:

Unless a legal exemption applies.

However, you can see friends and family you do not live with (or do not have a support bubble with) in some outdoor public places, in a group of up to 6. This limit of 6 includes children of any age.

These outdoor public places include:

  • parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
  • public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
  • allotments
  • the grounds of a heritage site
  • outdoor sports courts and facilities
  • playgrounds

You can continue to meet in a group larger than 6 if you are all from the same household or support bubble, or another legal exemption applies.

In a city which relies heavily on public transport, government advice will now be: ‘You should avoid travelling outside your area and reduce the number of journeys you make wherever possible.

‘Walk or cycle where you can and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.’

But, people in tier three are allowed to travel within their area for reasons such as:

  • travelling to venues that are open
  • for work
  • for education
  • to access voluntary, charitable or youth services
  • because of caring responsibilities
  • for moving home
  • to visit your support bubble
  • to receive medical treatment

Hotels are also forced to close under tier three, with only a few limited exceptions.

Weddings and funerals can continue but receptions are banned. 

However, the rules are set to be relaxed over Christmas across the country in all tiers – which many experts fear could lead to a rise in cases.

Only three areas in England are under tier one’s ‘medium’ restrictions – the Isle of Wight, the Isles of Scilly and Cornwall.

A postcode checker allowing you to see which tier your area falls into is available here.

The return to a harsher tiered system came after England’s second national ended in early December.

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