England’s three tier Covid-19 alert system comes into force today - here’s what you need to know

What you need to know about the new rules coming into force (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)What you need to know about the new rules coming into force (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)
What you need to know about the new rules coming into force (Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images)

The new three tier Covid-19 alert system will officially replace the old coronavirus guidelines today, Wednesday 14 October.

This is everything you need to know about the new system being implemented in England.

Why has a new system been introduced?

Speaking at the coronavirus press conference on Monday 12 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced the new three tiered system.

He said, “We are entering a new and crucial phase of our fight against coronavirus. Because the number of cases has gone up four times in four weeks and it is once again spreading among the elderly and vulnerable.

“There are already more Covid-19 patients in UK hospitals today than there were on 23 March when the whole country went into lockdown, and deaths, alas, are also rising once again.

“These figures are flashing at us like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet. And we must act now.”

Johnson explained that in return, the government is “simplifying” and “standardising” rules in England by introducing three levels of Covid-19 alerts.

What are the rules for Medium, High and Very High Tiers?

The three tiers are split up into the following categories - ‘medium’, ‘high’ and ‘very high’.

With each tier, there comes different regulations and measurements.


The medium tier is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place.

This means:

All businesses and venues can continue to operate (in a Covid-19 secure way), other than those which are to remain closed by law, such as nightclubsCertain businesses selling food or drink on their premise are required to close between 10pm and 5amBusinesses and venues sell food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm, as long as this is through a delivery service, click and collect or drive throughSchools, universities and places of worship can continue to operateWeddings and funerals can go ahead under restriction on the number of attendeesOrganised indoor sport and exercise classes can continue, as long as they follow the ‘rule of six’People cannot meet in groups larger than six, indoors or outdoors


The high alert level is for areas with a higher level of infections, which would see the implementation of the following rules:

People must not meet with anybody outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public placePeople must not meet in a group of more than six outside, including in a garden or other spacePeople 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 plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes on public transport

Very high

This is the highest level of the new system, and is for areas with a very high level of infections.

The government has set a baseline of measures for any areas in this alert level, however consultation with local authorities will determine any additional measures.

The baseline measures are:

Pubs and bars must close, and can only remain 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 mealWedding receptions are not allowedPeople must not meet with anyone outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor or outdoor setting, whether at home or in public space. The Rule of Six applies in open public spaces like parks or beachesPeople should try to avoid travelling outside the ‘very high’ area they are in, or entering into a ‘very high’ area, other than for things like work or educationPeople should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if they are a resident in a ‘very high’ area, or avoid staying overnight in a ‘very high’ area if they are a resident from elsewhere

How to check the Covid-19 restrictions in a local area

The government has introduced a postcode checker on its website which allows you to check the restrictions in a certain postcode.

Simply enter your postcode and you’ll be taken to a webpage that tells you the alert level in that area, and offers a link to more in depth information about what you can and cannot do, according to relevant guidelines.

How long will the restrictions stay in place?

The government has stated that the measures will be kept under “constant review”, which includes a “four week sunset clause” for interventions in very high alert areas.