Explained - what do Medium Tier coronavirus rules mean for Suffolk?
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
A new three-tier lockdown system was brought in to try and limit the spread of Covid-19 this week - but what does being in the Medium Tier mean for Suffolk?
The Medium Tier is the lowest of the three sections and is for parts of England which have smaller transmission rates.
Should cases rise, Suffolk could at some point find itself in the High Tier - which neighbouring Essex moved into this week - or even Very High, which the government says is “for areas with a very high level of infections and where tighter restrictions are in place”.
However, health leaders in the county have said there are “no immediate plans” for that - so what are the rules in Suffolk at the moment?
Can I see friends or relatives?
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Two households can form “support bubbles” with one another, where they can visit each other, stay overnight and visit public places together.
However, you can still meet people outside of your household - providing you don’t break the rule of six, which is meeting in groups of no more than six indoors or outdoors.
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Police can break up gatherings larger than six people, with fines of £200 for the first offence, doubling for each further offence up to a maximum of £6,400.
If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of more than 30 people, the police can issue fines of up to £10,000 - as some University of East Anglia students found to their cost once the punishment was brought in.
There are, however, some exceptions to the rule of six - such as if you are at work, volunteering, or in schools.
A full list of exceptions is on the government website.
Can I go to work? The government advises that office workers who can work from home should do so over the winter.
However employees working in essential services, including education, should continue to go to work - and the government says: “Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work.”
That means factories, for example, can continue to operate during the pandemic.
There are no limits to the number of people who can gather in a place of work - but workplaces must abide by Covid-secure guidelines, which include having hand sanitiser stations and enforcing social distancing.
Are my children still able to go school?
Schools are still open to all pupils, with many keeping children in ‘bubbles’ to minimise the risk of coronavirus spreading across a school.
Many schools are also operating one-way systems and staggered start and finish times, again to reduce the spread.
However, where positive cases are found, leaders are asking classes of pupils to self-isolate as a precaution.
Copleston High School, in Ipswich, asked approximately 200 students to self-isolate after a member of staff contracted the virus, while Chantry Academy has 29 pupils self-isolating after a young person caught coronavirus.
Can businesses and venues, such as pubs and restaurants, open?
All businesses are asked to ensure they operating in a Covid-secure way, with social distancing in place at all times and restrictions on group bookings.
However, everyone - staff and customers - have to wear face masks in shops.
A 10pm curfew remains in place for restaurants and bars, which are also only allowed to provide table service.
Gyms can remain open, provided they adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Organised sports activities can also take outdoors.
Am I allowed to travel?
There are no travel restrictions within Medium Tier areas.
However, people are being told to avoid travel to areas in the Very High tier where possible.
The government is encouraging people to walk and cycle where possible, although public transport is operating - passengers must wear a face mask on board buses and trains, and try to stay socially distant from others.
What about weddings and funerals?
Both of these can go ahead, with 15 guests allowed for weddings and 30 for funerals.
The limit for wedding receptions, wakes and other associated events is 15 people.