Following the introduction of a new Tier 4 in England on Saturday, much tighter restrictions are now in place in parts of England – potentially ‘for some time’ according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock (although a review is due on 30 December). Rules are similar to those in the first lockdown.

Tier 4 restrictions will apply in previous Tier 3 areas in the South East, covering Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings.  It will also apply in London (all 32 boroughs and the City of London) and the East of England (Bedford, Central Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire, Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).

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 and vehicle showrooms – along with indoor gyms and leisure facilities.

A stay-at-home order has been issued to residents in Tier 4, with those travelling to work or for education exempt. That means people should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.

Amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 are now law.  These amendments make it illegal for someone in Tier 4 to leave the place that they are living without reasonable excuse.  The list of exemptions to this includes:

  • to buy certain goods (e.g. food and medicine) and services (banking)
  • exercise
  • matters related to house sale or residential rentals
  • where required for work
  • exception 11 (returning home) specifies when it is reasonably necessary for P to be outside P’s home to enable P to return home from any place where P was on holiday immediately before this Schedule came into force.


The restrictions for accommodation businesses in Tier 4 are basically the same as Tier 3, in that all accommodation has to close but is able to provide accommodation to a person who:

  • needs the accommodation for work
  • is unable to return to their main residence
  • uses that accommodation as their main residence
  • needs accommodation for the purposes of a house move
  • is isolating themselves from others as required by law
  • is homeless or seeking refuge.

There are other exceptions relating to hospital treatment, funerals and the terminally ill.

Importantly, accommodation businesses are allowed to host people who were staying in that accommodation immediately before the time when the area in which the accommodation is located became part of the Tier 4 area.


The amendments make it illegal for a person to organise or be involved in a gathering of people with a number of exemptions – the most relevant being:

  • education
  • training that is required for qualifications
  • work-related meetings
  • weddings (max 6 people).

Food and drink; attractions and exhibitions

The restrictions on food and beverage businesses are similar to those in Tier 3 – i.e. only delivery or takeaway except for room service is permitted (with exemptions for ports/motorway service areas etc). Businesses can:

  • sell food or drink for consumption off the premises between the hours of 05:00 and 23:00
  • sell food or drink for consumption off the premises between the hours of 23:00 and 05:00 by delivery or collection in response to internet or phone orders or by drive through.

Also: All indoor and outdoor attractions are required to close, as are conference centres and exhibition halls.

Two important points

  • People from areas outside Tier 4 are allowed to check in to accommodation on the 24 Dec and check out on the 26 Dec when travelling to form their Xmas bubble.
  • People in Tiers 1 and 2 are advised not to travel for holidays even within other Tier 1 and 2 areas.