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Phase one: first national lockdown

England was in national lockdown between late March and June 2020. Intitally, all non-essential high street businesses were closed and people were ordered to stay home, permitted to leave for essential purposes only. Starting in May 2020, the laws were slowly relaxed. People were permitted to leave home for outdoor recreation from 13 May. On 1 June the restriciton on leaving home was replaced with a requirement to be home overnight and people were permitted to meet outside with up to six people.

Phase two: minimal lockdown restrictions

Most lockdown restrictions were lifted on 4 July. Hospitality businesses were permitted to reopen. New health and safety guidance on operating businesses “COVID securely” was published. Gatherings up to thirty people were legally permitted, although the Government was still recommending people avoid gatherings larger than six.

Phase three: reimposing restrictions

On 14 September England’s gathering restriction was tightened and people were once again prohibited from meeting more than six people socially. The new “rule of six” applied in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Eleven days later, pubs, bars and restaurants were told they had to shut between 10pm and 6am.

During this period a patchwork of local restrictions were imposed across England. On the 14 October the Government rationalised local restrictions by introducing a “three tier system”. At first most the country was placed in tier one with restrictions like the previous national rules. As time went on more of the country was placed in the higher two tiers. 

Phase four: second national lockdown

On 5 November national restrictions were reintroduced in England. During the second national lockdown non-essential high street businesses were closed, and people were prohibited from meeting those not in their support bubble inside. People could leave home to meet one person from outside their support bubble outside. 

Phase five: reintroducing a tier system

On 2 December the tier system was reintroduced (with modifications). Restrictions on hospitality businesses were stricter and most places where initially placed in tier two and three areas. On 19 December the Prime Minister announced that a new ‘tier four’ would be introduced following concerns about a rising number of coronavirus cases attributed to a new variant of the virus. The tier four rules were like the national lockdown rules imposed during the second national lockdown. On 30 December, after the first tiering review under the new four tier system, around 75% of the country was under tier four restrictions.

Phase six: third national lockdown

National restrictions were reintroduced for a third time on 6 January. This followed concerns that the four-tier system was not containing the spread of the new variant of the virus. The rules during the third lockdown are more like the rules in the first lockdown. People are once again being told to “stay home”. Unlike during the second lockdown, leaving home for outdoor recreation is again banned. However, people can still form support bubbles (if eligible) and more gatherings are exempted from the gatherings ban than during the first lockdown (for example, religious services and some small weddings are permitted). 


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