London moves to tier 2 lockdown: what are the new restrictions?

Health Secretary confirms escalation from ‘medium’ to ‘high’ alert, putting nine million people under new rules

New restrictions banning different households from mixing indoors have been imposed in London to prevent rising coronavirus levels.

The city had been rated “medium” (tier 1) in the new three-tier system of local alerts for England. This put London with most of the country at the lowest end of the scale, meaning no new restrictions beyond the rule of six and the 10pm curfew.

However, with infection rates rising towards the 100 per 100,000 trigger point, the capital is now placed in tier 2 – meaning a ban on different households meeting indoors.

Confirming the London change to the House of Commons, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Infection rates are on a steep upward path with the number of cases doubling every 10 days.

“We know from the first peak, the infection can spread fast and put huge pressures on the NHS so we must act now to prevent the need for tougher measures later on.

“So working closely with the mayor, with cross-party council leadership, with local public health officials and the national team, we’ve together agreed that London needs to move to local Covid alert level high.”

Mr Hancock thanked those who work and live in the capital, adding: “We all need to play our part in getting the virus under control once again.”

London MPs took part in a phone call with care minister Helen Whatelyon on Oct 15, where they were told of the plans, which were then confirmed by city mayor Sadiq Khan. 

Read more: Tier 2 lockdown rules for ‘high alert’ areas

Moving the city up a notch to “high” means mixing between different households or social bubbles is banned indoors, including in homes, pubs and restaurants. Groups of up to six people will still be able to meet outdoors in public spaces and private gardens.

Mr Khan warned Londoners that they face a “difficult winter ahead”, telling the London Assembly that the decision was based on “expert public health and scientific advice” about what is necessary to save lives in the city.

“In addition to the restrictions already in place, this would mean different households in London not being allowed to mix indoors,” he said.

“Nobody wants to see more restrictions – but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners’ lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers.”

London infection rates

Announcing London’s new tier 2 status on Oct 15, Matt Hancock said: “The seven-day average case rate stands today at 97 [per 100,000], rising sharply.”

However, rates of infection vary widely across the capital. Ealing borough registered 145 cases per 100,000, the highest in the capital, in the week to Oct 10.

South-eastern areas are less affected, with Bexley showing fewest infections, at 68 per 100,000.

There had been the suggestion of a “doughnut” system to exclude central London from Tier 2, or that restrictions be targeted at areas where rates are highest.

Conservative MPs accused the Government of enforcing Tier 2 across the capital in order to fend off a ‘North versus South’ row

London councils and Sadiq Khan backed the city-wide approach, however.

The ban on households mixing indoors is a further blow to the capital’s 3,640 pubs and 7,556 restaurants, which will see business suffer but will not be eligible for Government support available to premises which have been ordered to close.

Tory MP Nickie Aiken, who represents the Cities of London and Westminster, said: “Whilst I appreciate the public health crisis we find ourselves in, I remain deeply concerned about the impact further lockdown will have on the capital’s hospitality, leisure and retail businesses.”

What tier is my area in?

The new three-tier system of increasingly tough restrictions determines local lockdowns in England, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Oct 12, is an effort to simplify the patchwork of rules in place across the country.

The system – dubbed “Local Covid Alert Levels” – divides England into “medium”, “high” and “very high” risk areas depending on the current rate of Covid-19 infections – though the government has not released the exact thresholds for triggering lockdown. 

Use our interactive tool to see which tier your area falls under in England’s new system for local lockdowns following Boris Johnson’s three-tier announcement.

What further restrictions could come in?

Most of England is currently at medium level/tier 1.

The medium level coconsists of the current national measures. This means those in a tier 1 area must abide by the “Rule of Six” and the closure of venues at 10pm.

  • All businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a Covid-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law, such as nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.
  • Certain businesses selling food or drink on their premises are required to close between 10pm and 5am. Businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-thru.
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
  • Organised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue to take place, provided the Rule of Six is followed
  • People must not meet in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors

But as the rate has begun to rise in the south, London moved to high level/tier 2 on October 17.

This means the following additional measures are in place:

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
  • The “Rule of Six” will continue to apply outdoors and in private gardens.
  • People should aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible. If they need to travel, they should walk or cycle where possible, or to plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport.

If London is pushed up to the very high level/tier 3, it would include the following measures:

  • 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

Read more: Will there be a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown?