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COVID-19 Lockdown 3.0 - What Are The New National Lockdown Rules?

As residents of the UK, we are all becoming increasingly used to regional restrictions and national lockdowns as a result of COVID-19. On 4th January 2021, the third national lockdown in England was announced by a rather worn-down Boris Johnson. Unlike the second, the latest is more like the first highly restrictive lockdown, which took months to bring the virus under control. In this article, we will take a closer look at the new national lockdown rules, outlining what we can and cannot do.

Why Did The Government Announce Lockdown 3.0?

There is no doubt the government had little choice but to implement the measures due to a rampant and out of control case, hospitalisation, and death rate. One of the main drivers of the tough lockdown was the new UK COVID variant discovered in mid-December 2020. As the government’s data reveals, the new variant is “between 50 and 70 per cent more transmissible”. On the day of writing this article (6th January 2021), over 62,000 new cases of COVID were found, and 1,041 people died. These are huge increases in what were already deeply concerning statistics. On the day of the new lockdown announcement, hospital admissions in England had risen by over 30% in the previous week, and were 40% greater than in April 2020. There are now concerns being voiced by those close to the situation that by the third week in January, London hospitals will be “overwhelmed”. According to NHS England London medical director Vin Diwakar, modelling shows that even under the “best scenario”, “the number of COVID positive patients rises to 1,600 and “total unmitigated demand” to just over 2,000”. The fact that the “best” London hospitals can expect to see is a “total unmitigated demand” should be a wake-up call to everyone to play their role in reducing the prevalence of the virus.

What Are The COVID-19 Lockdown 3.0 Restrictions?

The third national lockdown replaces the differing regional restrictions which were in place under the tiered COVID alert system. As such, everyone in England is required to follow the same guidance, regardless of which tier they were in before the new measures were introduced.

Everyone must stay at home where possible

Everyone must stay at home, unless in exceptional circumstances, including to:

  • shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day; you should not travel outside your local area.
  • meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • attend education or childcare - for those eligible

Only Certain Businesses Can Open

In the first lockdown, there was a lack of clarity regarding the type of businesses which could open or continue to operate. For example, construction workers were sent home, and tradespeople were unsure if they could go into customer’s homes. In general, the new rules make it clear that you must work from home unless it is unreasonable to do so. Under the new lockdown, those who work in critical national infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, childcare, education, and essential public services that require in-person attendance can continue to work. The government website states that the following types of business can remain open during the period of national lockdown:

  • 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 garages 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 retailers of products and food for the upkeep and welfare of animals
  • 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 parts of botanical gardens and heritage sites for exercise
  • places of worship
  • crematoriums and burial grounds

Schools, colleges and universities will remain closed for most students

Education establishments in England will only remain open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers. The definition of ‘critical workers’ is now quite broad and includes (but is not limited to):

  • health and social care workers
  • childcare providers
  • religious staff
  • charity workers
  • journalists and broadcasters
  • This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery
  • information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the coronavirus (COVID-19) response
  • key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services)

Universities and colleges will continue to provide courses but will do so online.

What Are The Fines For Breaking Lockdown Rules?

If you are stopped under suspicion that you have breached lockdown rules, you will be asked to explain why you are outside of your home or why you are meeting in a large group – i.e. whether you have a reasonable excuse. If not, you may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 if it is your first offence. For further offences, you may be fined double the previous amount up to a maximum of £6,400. If you are found to be in a large group (e.g. an illegal gathering of over 30 people), you may receive a fine of up to £10,000 if you are the organiser or were involved in the organisation of the gathering.

Final Words

While there is no guarantee that a third lockdown will be enough to bring the virulent strain of COVID under control anytime soon, or that the vaccine rollout will proceed as quickly as anticipated, it is essential that everyone plays their role. Ultimately small measures count on a mass scale. If it means only going out to buy essentials, adhering to requirements to self-isolate, and washing your hands regularly, such measures can make the difference between curbing the virus and allowing it to snowball.

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