COVID in Somerset: Now in Tier 4

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, announced changes to the COVID 19 tier system this afternoon. Mr Hancock noted the impact of the new variant across the country. He suggested that the sharply rising number of cases and hospitalisations that follow requires action.

He told the House the majority of the country will now be in either tier 3 or tier 4 measures. In all but name, this is another national lockdown.

Tier 4 will now include “Somerset Council (Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton, South Somerset)”. Whilst this was widely anticipated, it is now confirmed and the new rules will come into effect from midnight tonight (30 December).

What this means is, more or less the same restrictions as during the national lockdown. To be precise:

Stay at home

If you live in Tier 4 you must not leave or be outside of your home or garden except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. A reasonable excuse includes:

Work and volunteering

You can leave home for work purposes, where your place of work remains open and where you cannot work from home, including if your job involves working in other people’s homes. You can also leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services.

Essential activities

You can leave home to buy things at shops or obtain services from a business which is permitted to open in your Tier 4 area, but you should stay local. For instance you can leave home to buy food or medicine, or to collect any items – including food or drink – ordered through click-and-collect or as a takeaway, to obtain or deposit money (for example, from a bank or post office), or to access critical public services.

Fulfilling legal obligations

You may also leave home to fulfil legal obligations, or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or where it is reasonably necessary for voting in an election or referendum.

Education and childcare

You can leave home for education related to the formal curriculum or training, registered childcare, under-18 sport and physical activity, and supervised activities for children that are necessary to allow parents/carers to work, seek work, or undertake education or training. Parents can still take their children to school, and people can continue existing arrangements for contact between parents and children where they live apart. This includes childcare bubbles.

Meeting others and care

1 in 3 people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it. You can leave home to visit people in your support bubble, or to provide informal childcare for children aged 13 and under as part of a childcare bubble, to provide care for vulnerable people, to provide emergency assistance, attend a support group (of up to 15 people), or for respite care where that care is being provided to a vulnerable person or a person with a disability, or is a short break in respect of a looked after child.

Exercise and recreation

People can also exercise outdoors or visit some public outdoor places, such as parks, the countryside accessible to the public, public gardens or outdoor sports facilities. You can continue to do unlimited exercise alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble, or with one other person if you maintain social distancing.

Medical reasons, harm and compassionate visits

You can leave home for a medical reason, including to get a COVID-19 test, for medical appointments and emergencies, to be with someone who is giving birth, to avoid injury or illness or to escape risk of harm (such as domestic abuse),or for animal welfare reasons – such as to attend veterinary services for advice or treatment.

Meeting others safely

In general, you must not meet socially or carry out any activities with another person. However, you can exercise or meet in a public outdoor place with people you live with, your support bubble (or as part of a childcare bubble), or with one other person. You should minimise time spent outside your home. When around other people, stay 2 metres apart from anyone not in your household – meaning the people you live with – or your support bubble. Where this is not possible, stay 1 metre apart with extra precautions (for example, wearing a face covering). You must not meet socially indoors with family or friends unless they are part of your household or support bubble.

You can exercise or visit a public outdoor place:

  • by yourself
  • with the people you live with
  • with your support bubble
  • or, when on your own, with 1 person from another household
  • Children under 5, and up to 2 carers for a person with a disability who needs continuous care are not counted towards the outdoors gatherings limit.

Public outdoor 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 cannot meet people in a private garden, unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them. You must wear a face covering in many indoor settings, such as shops or places of worship where these remain open, and on public transport, unless you are exempt. This is the law.

Businesses and venues which must close

  • To reduce social contact, the regulations require some businesses to close and impose restrictions on how some businesses provide goods and services. The businesses required to close include:
  • non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods – these venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services
  • hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery
  • accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes
  • leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and indoor gyms, indoor swimming pools, indoor sports courts, indoor fitness and dance studios, indoor riding centres, and indoor climbing walls
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, zoos and other animal attractions, water parks and theme parks
  • indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes
  • community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services
  • Some of these businesses and places will also be permitted to be open for a small number of exempt activities, including:
  • education and training – for schools to use sports, leisure and community facilities where that is part of their normal provision
  • childcare purposes and supervised activities for children
  • hosting blood donation sessions and food banks
  • to provide medical treatment
  • for elite sports persons to train and compete (in indoor and outdoor sports facilities), and professional dancers and choreographers to work (in fitness and dance studios)
  • for training and rehearsal without an audience (in theatres and concert halls)
  • for the purposes of film and TV filming

Businesses and venues which can remain open

  • Other businesses and venues are permitted to stay open, following COVID-19 secure guidelines. This includes those providing essential goods and services, including:
  • essential retail such as food shops, supermarkets, pharmacies, garden centres, building merchants and suppliers of building products and off-licences
  • market stalls selling essential retail may also stay open
  • businesses providing repair services may also stay open, where they primarily offer repair services
  • petrol stations, automatic (but not manual) car washes, vehicle repair and MOT services, bicycle shops, and taxi and vehicle hire businesses
  • banks, building societies, post offices, short-term loan providers and money transfer businesses
  • funeral directors
  • laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • medical and dental services
  • vets and pet shops
  • animal rescue centres, boarding facilities, and animal groomers (may continue to be used for animal welfare, rather than aesthetic purposes)
  • agricultural supplies shops
  • mobility and disability support shops
  • storage and distribution facilities
  • car parks, public toilets and motorway service areas
  • outdoor playgrounds
  • outdoor gym, pools, sports courts and facilities
  • golf courses
  • archery/driving/shooting ranges (outdoors)
  • outdoor riding centres
  • places of worship
  • crematoriums and burial grounds

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