Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to significantly impact our lives, the UK Government has announced new local COVID alert levels to help tackle the spread of the virus in a controlled manner. It’s hoped that this new system will provide a simple guide for people as we head into a potentially challenging period. Here we’ll be unpicking the details of these new rules and answering some of the most frequently asked questions by our patients.

What’s the current situation?

The coronavirus pandemic has been with us for the majority of 2020 and it doesn’t appear to be easing. The Government’s response to managing the pandemic has had to regularly change in order to meet the demands of this rapidly developing situation. 

This has led to a variety of different ‘local lockdowns’ which have been introduced at different stages. The Prime Minister has recently introduced a  three tier system of alerts. 

What is the new three tier system?

England has already moved to the new three tier system. Here are the tiers and what they represent:

This is where the majority of the country currently sits. 

  • People must not meet in groups larger than 6 – indoors or outdoors. 
  • Businesses and venues can still operate, as long as they’ve taken safety precautions. This doesn’t apply to businesses which have been closed by law (e.g. nightclubs). 
  • Certain businesses which sell food and drink on the premises will still be required to close at 10pm. Businesses and venues which sell food for consumption off the premises can still continue to serve people after 10pm as long as it’s via delivery, click and collect, or drive-thru.
  • Schools, universities and places of worship remain open. 
  • Weddings and funerals can go ahead but with restrictions on the number of attendees.
  • Organised sports and exercise classes which take place indoors can still continue but they must adhere to the ‘rule of 6’.

Areas of the country with a higher rate of infection will be moved into tier 2. There are additional requirements, including: 

  • People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.
    • Single adults living alone or single parents whose children are under 18 can form a support bubble with one other household.
  • People must not meet in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden or other space.
  • 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.

Areas with the highest infection rates may be moved into tier 3. 

  • Pubs and bars 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 ‘substantive meal’.
  • Wedding receptions are not allowed.
  • People must not meet with 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.

What does this mean for my area?

The three tier alert system went live on 14th October. You can find out which tier your area is in by using the Government’s postcode tracker. As these decisions are being taken centrally, this is the best place for any update. 

What can I do to protect my area?

It’s important to remember to keep up to key personal hygiene and social distancing. Protecting yourself and others whilst you are outside or in a public setting will help to lessen your risk and the risk in the area you live. 

You can access a wide range of certified personal protection equipment (PPE), available through our sister pharmacy to help keep yourself protected for when you do need to go outdoors or interact with others.