The new three tiered coronavirus alert level system in England has affected the rules about visiting friends and family.
The new system, intended to simplify previous guidelines, has introduced different restrictions on meeting with people outside of your household or support bubble.
Depending on which tier your local area falls into, different rules will apply. These are the rules on meeting up with your partner depending on which tier you - and they - live in.
If your partner is in your support bubble
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‘Support bubbles’ allow people from a single adult household, or a single adult household with children, to form a ‘bubble’ with another household.
Within support bubbles, you do not have to socially distance from one another, including overnight stays. Legally permitted support bubbles can also exceed the ‘rule of six’ limit.
In all three tiers, support bubbles are an exception to rules on gatherings. This means that, if your partner is part of your support bubble, you are permitted to socialise with them both indoors and out without the need for social distancing.
One of the exceptions to this rule, however, is if one partner currently lives in a Tier 3 (‘very high’) area and the other does not. The government is currently advising people in Tier 3 areas to avoid travelling outside of the area, as well as advising others against travel into the area.
The exemptions to this rule are work, education or caring responsibilities. This means that, unless you are a carer to your partner, you should not visit them if they live in a Tier 3 area, nor should they visit you if you live in a Tier 3 area.
Government advice currently states, “You must not stay with anyone you do not live with from a very high alert level area or visit their home.”
Tier 1 - medium alert level
In Tier 1, the ‘rule of six’ applies to gatherings with other people, both indoors and out.
This means that if both yourself and your partner live in a Tier 1 area, you can socialise with them indoors or outside.
Prior to the introduction of the new tiered system, the government released guidance on people in so-called “established relationships”, saying that those in support bubbles, as well as those in “established relationships” are not required to socially distance from one another when meeting.
If both yourself and your partner live in a Tier 1 area and are in an “established relationship”, the same guidance applies, meaning you can continue to meet without socially distancing from one another.
Tier 2 - high alert level
According to a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care, “The number of settings individuals in established relationships can meet in under the new tier system are reduced.”
If you live in a Tier 2 area, you are not permitted to meet indoors with anyone else, even if your partner lives in a Tier 1 area. One of the exceptions to this rule is if your partner is in your support bubble.
Currently, the government is advising people to reduce their journeys wherever necessary, or to walk cycle, or avoid busy times on public transport.
This does mean that, technically, people from Tier 2 areas could meet up with their partner in a Tier 2 or Tier 1 area, but only if the meeting took place outside (in hospitality settings or public settings) and social distancing was practised.
Tier 3 - very high alert level
Travel into or out of Tier 3 areas is not recommended, meaning that if your partner lives outside your area, meetings are off the cards for now.
People in Tier 3 are not permitted to meet with anyone from outside their household indoors or outdoors if in a hospitality setting.
The exemption to this would be if your partner is in your support bubble and lives in the same area. For example, if they would not have to travel outside of the area where restrictions apply to meet you.
Meetings with up to six people are permitted in public outdoor spaces such as parks, meaning that if your partner lives in your area, you could meet in a public space outside, so long as social distancing was observed.