New Pre Christmas Tiers Announced in the UK

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Ladies choose Christmas decorations at Polehill garden centre
Ladies choose Christmas decorations at Polehill garden centre

Today Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced some more strict new measures that will effect everyone living in the UK from this Wednesday 2nd December.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Scilly Isles are able to more freely enjoy being in Tier 1 due to the lack of coronavirus cases in these locations. This will mean that the rule of 6 will apply indoor and outdoors in these more rural and scenic areas of England.

Most other areas including London, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset are in Tier 2 which means “the rule of six applies outdoors but there is no household mixing anywhere indoors.” stated the BBC. (1)

In Tier 2 serving substantial meals is the only option for restaurants and public houses to open within the rules that have been set out by the government today.

This will still be an improvement for many businesses in the hard hit hospitality industry who have had to stay completely shut, during the second lockdown in the UK this year.

In the highest level Tier 3 tougher restrictions dictate that people can only meet other households in public spaces and the rule of 6 applies. Only delivery or take-away services can operate under the new rules of Tier 3. This toughest level has important rules about minimising social contact:

you must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble, this includes in any private garden or at most outdoor venuesdirects the official UK website seriously.

Northern and Midlands counties in Tier 3 include Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Tees Valley Combined Authority and North East Combined Authority. Lancashire, Leicester and Lincolnshire will all be in Tier 3. Additionally Bristol in the West and Kent and Medway in South East will all be in the top tier with the highest alert factor.

Beauty services, hairdressers and gyms can all reopen from this Wednesday. Many families will be assessing what impact this has on their traditional Christmas arrangements. It seems that most will be expecting a quiet and peaceful festive week with an emphasis on using the latest technology like Zoom and Teams to meet with friends and loved ones. People of all ages want to protect their nearest and dearest and this year that means socially distancing and continuing to carry out daily life in our existing bubbles.

“Hope is on the horizon but we still have further to go.” said Matt Hancock speaking in the Commons earlier.

For example, relatively prosperous coastal Sussex has been comparatively less hard hit, compared to other areas across the country, in terms of the prevalence of Covid-19 cases. The West Sussex county council website warned that this afternoon that “There are an increasing number of confirmed cases across the county, in line with national trends. There were 1,027 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in West Sussex in the seven days to 18 November 2020.” (2)

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading the current national restrictions which will apply and will stay in place until December 2nd when they are replaced by the new Tier system. “The government is committed to ensuring the right levels of intervention in the right places to manage outbreaks, suppress the virus and keep R below 1” explains the governments official website which has all the details on each of the 3 tiers and what activities can and cannot take place this month. (3)

All the ‘Non-essential’ retail shops will be preparing excitedly about being able to reopen after the lockdown ends on December 2nd. The pre-Christmas trade is crucial for shops of all sizes. This reopening will be especially key to secure the jobs of all staff who work for independent businesses, who do not have large reserves to weather the closures caused by this unexpected pandemic, in the long term.

Polehill garden centre in Kent is deemed an essential business’ under the current commercial classifications. Polehill will continue to trade next week as they have been able to throughout the 2nd lockdown. However the popular restaurant will still remain closed, until this area’s Tier 3 rating is downgraded again by officials. (4) Westminster’s top team aim to review the restrictions on December 16th and there is an extra dispensation for the days around Christmas to allow up to 3 households to meet if they feel they absolutely need to share this event together this year.

The future still looks bright as there are several approved vaccines in the pipeline this month. County councils have started recruiting for assistants to help roll out a mass vaccination program across the country. Sometime later in 2021 we are all looking forward to some long awaited social occasions to safely physically reunite with all the special folk in our lives once again.

(1) ‘Covid-19 tiers: Almost all of England facing tough virus rules’ BBC News 26 November 2020 ‘Covid-19 tiers: new rules’ BBC News

(2) ‘COVID-19 alert level, weekly data and Outbreak Control Plan’ West Sussex county council, 26 November 2020 (2) ‘COVID-19 alert level, weekly data and Outbreak Control Plan’

(3) ‘Local restriction tiers: what you need to know’ Gov.UK 26 November 2020 ‘Local restriction tiers: what you need to know’ Gov.UK

(4) ‘Christmas’ Polehill The Home of Gardens, Garden Centre in Kent, 26 November 2020 ‘Christmas’ Polehill Garden Centre in Kent