From tier systems to travel, firebreaks to vaccines, we round up the latest news and advice surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic
With Covid-19 cases on the rise again in the UK, government officials are constantly looking for new strategies to slow the virus.
At the beginning of October, a new three-tier system was introduced across England, with each region being categorised as either medium risk (Tier 1), high risk (Tier 2) or very high risk (Tier 3), depending on the number of cases per population in that area. With each of those Tiers coming with its own unique set of rules, what you can and cannot do at the moment depends on where you live. You can read more about that in the answers below.
Meanwhile in Wales, a “short, sharp” firebreak was introduced on 23 October, with a set of restrictive measures being put in place nationwide in an attempt to control the spread of Covid-19. Again, you can read more about those measures below.
With Scotland and Northern Ireland having their own restrictions in place, let's take a look at how these various strategies will affect you.
Please note that government guidelines can change rapidly – to keep up to date with restrictions in your area, click on the relevant link at the bottom of this article.
1. I want to book an autumn break here in the UK. Is that allowed at the moment?
England: It depends on where you live and where you're planning to go. Current government guidance says that people in Tier 3 should not travel to other parts of the UK – and neither should people living in Tier 1 or 2 areas travel into a Tier 3 area. If you live in a Tier 3 region and already have a UK holiday booked, you should contact the provider and ask for a postponement or a full refund.
People living in Tier 2 locations in England are allowed to holiday outside of their own area, as long as it's to another Tier 2 or to a Tier 1 area. They should not share accommodation, or socialise in an indoor setting, with people they don't reside or share a bubble with.
People in Tier 1 areas are free to venture into other Tier 1 areas, and also Tier 2 areas. They may also share accommodation with other people in Tier 1 areas as long as the Rule of Six is adhered to.
Scotland: There are currently no mandatory travel restrictions in place for Scotland. However, the government has advised that people should not travel in or out of the ‘Central Belt’ region – which stretches from Edinburgh to Glasgow – unless they need to. That said, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently commented: “We are not insisting that people cancel any half-term breaks they have planned.”
You can stay in private accommodation, such as a flat, caravan or holiday cottage, but only with members of your own household or bubble.
Wales: During the firebreak, people living outside of Wales cannot travel into the country for a holiday. Neither can people living in Wales take a holiday elsewhere in the country or across the UK.
Additionally, the Welsh government has banned people from Covid hotspots (i.e. those in Tier 3) from visiting Wales, even once the firebreak is finished. They told hospitality businesses: “You should not knowingly accept customers who have travelled to your premises from an area where travel is not permitted.”
Northern Ireland: At the present time, the government in Northern Ireland is permitting anyone from England, Scotland or Wales to travel to the country, though hotels and guest houses are closed until Friday 13 November. For more information, click here.
When booking a holiday, bear in mind that some holiday accommodation may be operating limited services. You are advised to check which facilities will be open at your intended destination when you book your trip.
The UK holiday venues that have reopened include those owned by Boundless:
• Whitemead Forest Park – the woodland oasis in the Forest of Dean that offers a range of luxurious accommodation, as well as spacious camping and caravanning pitches, in an idyllic setting
• West Cliff Hotel, a resort close to the beach in Bournemouth
As a Boundless member, you can get a 20% discount on all bookings, as well as a Book with Confidence Guarantee that covers you in case the coronavirus pandemic forces you to change your plans. For more information, visit our dedicated Boundless Breaks page.
2. Can I travel abroad?
All home nations: If you travel abroad, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days upon your return. That is unless you are travelling to one of the countries the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has identified as "no longer posing an unacceptably high risk for British travellers". In which case, you will not need to self-isolate.
Travelling aboard cruise ships is currently not recommended. If you are visiting a foreign country, you should always adhere to its individual safety regulations.
3. Will there be a greater risk of me being infected with COVID-19 if I travel by air?
In the early stages of the pandemic, many airlines grounded their planes or reduced their volume of flights, based on the threat of coronavirus transmission. Now, with some countries seeming to have the disease under control, air services are gradually returning to normal.
Is it safe to travel? In truth, there isn't a great deal of evidence on the subject. However, this study on the transmission of infectious diseases during commercial air travel may provide some clues. If you do choose to fly, it is advised that you wear a mask and follow social distancing guidelines where possible.
4. What are the latest rules for meeting up with friends and family?
England: If you live in Tier 1, you are allowed to meet up indoors or outdoors with friends and family in groups of up to six people. In Tier 2, you cannot meet up indoors with people you don't live or share a bubble with, but you can meet with friends and family anywhere outdoors in groups of no more than six people.
People living in Tier 3 are not allowed to meet up with people they do not reside or share a bubble with either indoors or in private gardens / outdoor hospitality venues. They are, however, permitted to meet up with friends and family in parks or recreation areas. Weddings and funerals can go ahead, though there are restrictions on the number of people allowed (15 and 30 respectively). Wedding receptions are sadly off the menu at the present time.
Scotland: In Scotland, you’re not allowed to meet up with people from any other households in your home or another person’s home socially, unless they’re in your extended household. You can meet people outside, however, in your garden or a public space, in groups of up to six from no more than two households (not counting under-12s). A maximum of six 12-17-year-olds can meet outdoors, with no household limit, though physical distancing is obviously still required.
Wales: During the firebreak, people are not allowed to mix with others they don’t live with. The only people exempt from this are those who live alone, who are allowed to mix with one other household.(under-11s are not included when counting the six as long as they are part of that extended household). Extended households are not available in areas with local restrictions. If you want to meet up outside, however, groups of up to 30 are permitted.
Northern Ireland: In Northern Ireland, people who do not share a household can meet up outdoors, in groups of up to 15 people. No indoor visits to other people's homes are allowed, though there are limited exemptions. No more than six people from two households can meet in a private garden.
5. Can I invite people to my home for dinner?
England: See question 4.
Scotland: See question 4
Wales: See question 4.
Northern Ireland: See question 4.
6. Can my family stay overnight with friends?
England: Obviously, this depends on where you are in the country. In Manchester, for instance, it’s a big no-no, so it’s best to check what Tier you’re in before you start packing your overnight clothes.
Scotland: See question 4.
Wales: Not at the present time. During the firebreak, even members of your extended household aren’t allowed in your home.
Northern Ireland: Currently, only people living alone and in a support bubble with another household are permitted to enjoy an overnight stay.
7. What's the latest advice regarding public transport?
All home nations: You are still advised to avoid public transport if at all possible. If you need to use it, you must now wear a face mask by law unless you qualify for certain exemptions (read the list here). With social distancing measures in place across the different modes of public transport, be aware that there may be delays in your journey.
8. What other businesses are open at the moment?
England: In Tier 1 and 2 areas, pubs and restaurants must now close at 10pm. Other businesses, including shops, places of worship, hair salons, museums, heritage sites, wildlife centres and social groups, are open as normal. In Tier 3 areas, pubs and bars not serving food have been forced to close, though most other businesses remain unaffected. Many cinema chains are offering a limited service or have closed.
For more information on the opening of tourist attractions in England, click here.
Scotland: All shops in Scotland have now reopened, as have outdoor hospitality venues, including beer gardens and pavement cafés. Museums, galleries and libraries all reopened on 15 July. For a full list of what is and isn't open, click here.
Wales: Most retail shops remain open, however all pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels will be closed for 17 days from 6pm on Friday 23 October.
Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland is currently operating under tightened restrictions, and they are due to stay in place until 13 November. At this current time, many non-essential businesses – such as hairdressers, beauty salons, tattoo parlours, cinemas and spas – have closed. Clothes shops, flower shops, jewellers, etc, remain open. For a full list, click here.
9. In places where pubs and bars are still open, how are they operating?
Most pubs currently operate with restrictions, whether that's a one in, one out toilet system, table service, track and trace, or all of those. Staff in pubs and other hospitality venues must now wear masks, as must customers when not seated at their table to eat or drink. The penalty for not wearing one has now doubled to £200 for a first offence. And, of course, all pubs must now close at 10pm sharp.
10. I have a special occasion coming up that I'd like to celebrate. What are my options?
For advice on meeting up with friends and family for a celebration, see question 4. To find out what businesses are open in your region, see question 8. If you're looking to book a meal in a pub or restaurant, it is advised that you phone ahead as many will be operating at a reduced capacity.
Note that if you're looking to book a venue such as a hall of a social club, the maximum number of guests allowed to attend may have been reduced to help with social distancing. They may also not be able to offer live music or entertainment.
11. What's the latest news regarding Boundless group activities? Is there anything happening?
As has been the case with most organisations in the home nations, the various groups available to Boundless members – from the Classic Vehicle Group to the Camping & Caravanning Group – have had to suspend physical get-togethers during the pandemic.
We are hoping to resume physical social activity in the near future. In the meantime, we are discussing the possibility of running a series of online events for our member communities. If you would like to take part, keep an eye on our dedicated events page.
13. Do the above rules also apply to shielded people?
If you have been told that you are at greater risk of catching the coronavirus due to your age or medical condition, you may still have to limit what you can and cannot do.
14. When is there likely to be a coronavirus vaccine?
The scientific community began the search for a vaccine almost as soon as the virus was identified, and it looks like one may be ready for the new year. The UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, told MPs at the beginning of October that a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca could be ready for deployment in January, with thousands of NHS staff in line to undergo training during November and December. The first vaccines will be given to the most at risk, meaning the elderly and those with other health conditions.
For the very latest guidelines on what you can and cannot do in your country, click on the relevant link below:
All photos: Getty Images