Coronavirus: London placed in Tier 4 with cash refunds for cancelled travel

Boris Johnson announced this weekend that London and other areas of the southeast of England will go into a newly created Tier 4.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, the prime minister said that the restrictions for Tier 4 will be “broadly equivalent to the national restrictions that were imposed in November”.

The latest restrictions come after the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19, which Mr Johnson said can be “passed on significantly more easily”.

Michael Lassman, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) London Regional Chair, said: “We are devastated by the news that London is moving into Tier 4. London has been moved from Tier 2 to Tier 4 in a period of a week and many shops will find this a bitter pill to swallow when they have spent thousands of pounds to get themselves Covid-secure.

“We are now calling for the Government to give adequate proportionate support to the hundreds of thousands of businesses who will be affected by this turn of events. We urge consumers to continue to shop where possible with small firms, online, and find supportive ways, such as Pay it Forward methods, to help these businesses get through these extremely challenging times.”


What does Tier 4 mean?

All non-essential retail and hospitality venues will close. This includes clothing stores, pubs and bars, cafes and restaurants (with the exception of takeaways until 11pm) and leisure and entertainment facilities.

If you live in a Tier 4 area, you must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse, such as for work or education purposes.

You are allowed to leave your house for outdoor recreation or exercise, and this includes walking your dog, however this should be done locally wherever possible.

You are also allowed to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare

Schools, colleges and universities will remain open during term time in Tier 4 areas.

Funerals can be attended by a maximum of 30 people, but weddings and civil partnership ceremonies should not take place except in exceptional circumstances, for example where one of those getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover.

You can still attend places of worship for a service but you must social distance with anyone outside of your household or support bubble.


What does this mean for Christmas?

Mr Johnson has said that Christmas “cannot continue as planned”.

While the prime minister had originally said that people in England would be able to form Christmas bubbles with two other households from 23 until 27 December, they may now only do so on Christmas Day itself.

Anyone in Tier 4, however, will not be allowed form a Christmas bubble.


What if you planned to travel over Christmas?

The new regulations mean that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed and this includes staying in a second home or caravan, if that is not your primary residence, or staying with anyone you do not live with (other than those with whom you have formed a support bubble).

Travelling to or from a Tier 4 area is not allowed unless you are travelling for work, provided you cannot work from home, education purposes, and for care or medical reasons.

Anyone considering leaving Tier 4 areas in England should ‘unpack their bags’ and stay at home for Christmas to curb the spread of coronavirus, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has advised.

The Government has announced it will provide cash refunds for domestic rail and coach tickets for the previous Christmas travel window between December 23-27, bought before the change in regulations and guidance that were announced by the Prime Minister on Saturday.

This will apply to journeys in England booked on or after the November 24, when the Christmas travel window was announced.

Operators will be able to issue refunds immediately and passengers have been advised to check the website of their operator for how to claim.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It is imperative that we all follow the new measures and play our part in tackling this virus, protecting others and safeguarding our NHS.

“If you booked a coach or rail journey between December 23 and 27 you are entitled to a cash refund. This ensures no one is left out of pocket for doing the right thing – staying home in tier 4, and elsewhere staying local and only meeting your Christmas bubble on Christmas day.”

What happens if you break the rules?

The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

How long will the measures last?

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said that these restrictions are likely to last for months, until the vaccine has been rolled out across the UK.

The measures will be reviewed on December 30, as part of a wider review of tier restrictions.

More information about Tier 4 restrictions can be found here.

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