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Tier 4: What the Government guidance (but not the law) says about travel

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The Government has just published its guidance on travel for anyone living in a Tier 4 area in England. Can you travel in the UK or fly abroad if you live in Tier 4?

The official version is here but we have cut and pasted it below. One key point is that people living in Tiers 1-3 are specificially allowed to travel to Heathrow or other airports in Tier 4. Gatwick is NOT in Tier 4.

The majority of flights will continue since only a minority of the population is covered by Tier 4 restrictions.

Coronavirus Tier 4 travel guidance

As usual, what is ‘guidance’ and what is ‘the law’ can be different things. It will only be clear what constitutes an offence when the Statutory Instrument is published, and nothing will become law until that time. It is not clear when this will be – it had not been published by Sunday morning.

(EDIT: the legal text is now available and came into effect at 7am on Sunday – see our article here)

However, this line:

“You cannot leave home for holidays or stays overnight away from your main home unless permitted by law.”

…… implies that the offence will be for ‘leaving home’ and not for travelling abroad, or indeed in the UK, in itself – although you would still be committing an offence.

It is also worth remembering that countries may choose to bring in new restrictions on arrivals from the UK. The Netherlands has already banned flights from the UK until at least 1st January.

The situation is different in Scotland, with travel to or from the rest of the UK now illegal.

easyJet has announced that it will refund Tier 4 residents due to travel before the end of the year.

The following is quoted from gov.uk:

Travelling within a tier 4 area

If you live in a tier 4 area, you must stay at home. You must not leave your home to travel unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons. If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:

  • work, where you cannot work from home
  • accessing education and for caring responsibilities
  • visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • buying goods or services from premises that are open in Tier 4 areas, including essential retail, but these should be within your local area wherever possible
  • spending time or exercising outdoors. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services

If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.

Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble. See the guidance on car sharing.

If you need to use public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance.

Travelling out of a tier 4 area

You must stay at home and not leave your Tier 4 area, other than for legally permitted reasons such as:

  • travel to work where you cannot work from home
  • travel to education and for caring responsibilities
  • visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • attend hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health

The full list of exceptions will be published in the Regulations.

Travelling to a tier 4 area from a tier 1, 2 or 3 area

You should not travel into a Tier 4 area from another part of the UK, other than for reasons such as:

  • travel to work where you cannot work from home
  • travel to education and for caring responsibilities
  • to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • to attend hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health

You should continue to practise safe behaviours on public transport:

  • plan ahead, check for disruption before you leave, and avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times
  • avoid making unnecessary stops during your journey
  • avoid sharing a car with people not in your household
  • keep your distance from other people when you travel, where possible
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly

International travel to or from a tier 4 area

If you are in Tier 4, you should not be travelling abroad unless it is permitted. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

If you live outside a tier 4 area you may still transit into or through a tier 4 area to travel abroad if you need to, but you should carefully consider whether you need to do so. In addition, you should follow the public health advice in the country you’re visiting.

If you do need to travel overseas from a tier 4 area (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.

Staying away from home overnight

You cannot leave home for holidays or stays overnight away from your main home unless permitted by law. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed. This includes staying in a second home or caravan, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with.

You are allowed to stay overnight away from your home if you:

  • are unable to return to your main residence
  • need accommodation while moving house
  • need accommodation to attend a funeral or related commemorative event
  • require accommodation for work purposes or to provide voluntary services
  • are a child requiring accommodation for school or care
  • are homeless, seeking asylum or a vulnerable person seeking refuge
  • are an elite athlete or their support staff or parent, if the athlete is under 18 and it is necessary to be outside of the home for training or competition

If you are already on holiday in a Tier 4 area, you should return to your home as soon as practical

Guest accommodation providers such as hotels, B&Bs and caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, including where guests are unable to return to their main residence, use that guest accommodation as their main residence, need accommodation while moving house, are self-isolating as required by law, or would otherwise be made homeless as a result of the accommodation closing. Accommodation providers are also encouraged to work cooperatively with Local Authorities to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups including the homeless in tier 4 areas.

Comments (362)

  • Jack says:

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tier-4-stay-at-home

    I didn’t see you include this part:

    “Fulfilling legal obligations

    You may also leave home to fulfil legal obligations, or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or vote in certain elections taking place overseas.”

  • Tom W says:

    Meanwhile, there are FOUR countries forming the UK (for now), perhaps some coverage of the rest, or are we following BA in being London-centric. How about rebranding Head for London?

    • Rob says:

      We have very few readers outside the South East. Our readership basically matches the distribution of BA flights around the UK, unsurprisingly.

      • Mr. AC says:

        If you have some weird clicks logged from Pyongyang, that was me. Appalled that there’s never coverage of Air Koryo discounts or deals at the Ryanggang Hotel!

      • Chef says:

        Am I the only Lancastrian?

      • Aston100 says:

        “We have very few readers outside the South East. Our readership basically matches the distribution of BA flights around the UK, unsurprisingly.”

        Where are you getting this information from?

        • Rob says:

          We see the town that every click is made in.

          • Jimbo says:

            How accurate is that? Always wondered – when google/Apple checks for log-ins it frequently comes up with “a log-in in London” or Livingstone randomly (I live in the Midlands). Which is presumably something to do with the ISP?

          • J says:

            There may be be a bias in that most UK VPN servers seem to be located in London.

          • ChrisD says:

            I’d this is based on IP address then it’s not accurate at all. Unless using something like Facebook analytics, I’m not convinced your theory of a SE biased readership is based on fact.

          • Rob says:

            We have Twitter, Facebook, Google, Quantcast, Comscore and Alexa data!

          • Neil says:

            I’m not sure that’s incredibly accurate. I’m in Aberdeen but the location services pick me up as being in Cambridge today – it often shows as somewhere in the SE.

          • BlueThroughCrimp says:

            Yep, just checked using Apple Two Factor ID. Apparently I’m in Barnstaple. It’s usually somewhere closer to the M25. Not using a VPN for this.
            It’s not very accurate if it’s being determined from the IP only.

          • TripRep says:

            Lol, even with VPNs based in London?

      • JamesH says:

        To be fair I’m from Manchester and hardly ever feel like these articles aren’t for me too. Use Heathrow too as it’s where the BA flights generally depart from.

      • Nicola Walton says:

        Am I the only one in South Yorkshire?

    • Dave says:

      There is definitely a substantial amount of readers up here is Scotland who read hfp. Also, many people will have had plans to travel cross border too for the festive period. A quick summary for all 4 regions would be good.

      • BlueThroughCrimp says:

        +1

      • Andrew says:

        First of all, the Scottish Government will have to define the dates of “The Festive Period”.

        Monday to Thursday are ordinary working days. I can’t find anything to say it’s illegal to cross the border yet.

      • Alan says:

        Agree, disappointing if things just get more and more SE-focused.

      • Numpty says:

        Worth adding that a large amount of the active contributors in the comments section are from outside the SE of England, it’s these commentators who helped HfP website stand out and grow.

        If not able to do a complete piece of journalism then please add a disclaimer advising so.

      • AlanC says:

        +1

    • Anna says:

      We know about Tiers 1 – 3 already, nothing’s changed there. And I live up north!

  • Eloy says:

    The approved legislation (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/1374/contents) does not cover tier 4 restrictions. What does this mean? Is this only guidance and not law? Can tier 4 be enforced without approved legislation? Parliament is on recess until 5 January…

    • Eloy says:

      And no new legislation has been published today https://www.legislation.gov.uk/

    • jc says:

      Give it a few hours. They’re using the emergency powers they passed a while back to get this one through straight away, no parliament

      • A says:

        Won’t be out today – tomorrow morning at the earliest I understand. Some not so easy drafting to be done in a few places.

    • Aeronaut says:

      Statutory Instruments.

      Parliament doesn’t need to be sitting.

      • A says:

        Depends on whether it’s affirmstive or negative procedure dictated for that SI in the authorising statute doesn’t it – if affirmative, not possible to make them when Parliament isn’t sitting.

        Here, the authorising statute allows regs to come into force even before they’ve been laid before Parliament it the relevant minister certified it is an emergency. That’s a fairly exceptional power, but understandable in context

  • ChrisW says:

    Would be great to see a statement from BA on this – will they be stopping people boarding flights? Cancelling flights? Letting people make their own decisions?

    • Jack says:

      They didn’t in November. Although there were a lot of cancelations.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Stop boarding – not unless there’s law against it (there wasn’t in Lockdown 2)

      Cancel flights – perhaps if all their travellers are from T4 areas and it’s all leisure.

      Probably the last one.

  • Andy Green says:

    We are supposed to be flying to Cape Town from LHR on 25/12.
    If this is guidance only at present and as at 25/12 if there are no laws enacted and approved by Government then surely we can still fly?
    I wonder if insurance will be valid?
    Am I completely missing the point? I get a negative PCR test and leave a tier 4 area to go to a location which has a lower prevalence of COVID-19. Why is this prohibited when the PCR test proves I am negative when flying?

    • APPL says:

      IANAL, but this is a reasonable excuse to leave your house:
      “You may also leave home to fulfil legal obligations, or to carry out activities related to buying, selling, letting or renting a residential property, or vote in certain elections taking place overseas.” I guess it should be pretty easy to arrange a house viewing.

    • CraigyC says:

      Or you could do the right thing and follow the guidelines? Clearly you should stay at home, not get on a plane.
      Your PCR test doesn’t “prove” anything, it’s like a car MOT, just says you weren’t infected when you took it. You could still carry the virus having caught it before or after the test.
      Another who thinks the rules don’t apply to them, are you too important?

      • TGLoyalty says:

        are they flouting the advice, the guidelines, the rules or the law?

        Unless it’s flouting the law there’s not really anything anyone can do about it other than tut.

        Reality is everyone decides what’s right for them and majority will obey the law and those that don’t may get caught and pay the price (£120 fine)

        • JamesH says:

          Agree with this. Really really annoys me when people judge the acts of others without an ounce of understanding for their personal circumstance.
          Andy Green – don’t feel like you need the go-ahead from judgemental strangers on the internet. But FWIW, and as you asked for opinions…. mine is to ‘go enjoy Cape Town’!

          • CraigyC says:

            And likewise it annoys everyone who does the right thing for our society when people are always looking for the loophole to simply carry on with their own life to the cost of everyone else. Your self importance is evident in your inability to understand that your actions affect society as a whole, if you have to ask should I be travelling it’s obviously not important to do so so you clearly shouldn’t be. It’s really that simple.
            This ignorance is fuelling the pandemic in this country, if you join in the stupidity then the death and economic fall out is on your head, hope your happy to live with that.

  • Venturelog says:

    I have family flying in to Heathrow (assuming BA don’t cancel the flight). Can I drive to the airport to pick them up? And can they travel with me to self isolate at my home for 10 days?

    • Lady London says:

      That makes sense as it keeps them off public transport so less risk to them, you and others.

      I think that is described as family assistance or care or something similar

  • TPB says:

    Any ideas of classification of Tier 4? I ‘live’ in London (Now Tier 4), but left when it was in Tier 2, and traveled to another Tier 2 location on Monday to join a support bubble, and will be here until Boxing Day, when I’m due to travel abroad.

    In the eyes of the law, am I Tier 4 or Tier 2?

    • Darron roper says:

      Watching this.
      We left London on Saturday to first part of holiday in tier 2 before we fly weds from
      Gatwick so my presumption is not in tier 4, not travelling tier through tier 4

  • Ola says:

    What about EU nationals returning home to an EU country? Can we travel?

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