High alert - what it means and other questions answered

We have set out some questions and answers below to help you with the guidelines under the ‘high’ alert tier 2.  If the answer to your question is not below please refer to the Government's full guidance on high alert restrictions.


***High Alert Tier 2 is effective from Wednesday 2 December ***


What does high alert mean?

The 'high' alert level aims to reduce household to household transmission by preventing all mixing between households indoors.

The Rule of Six will apply in outdoor spaces, including private gardens.

Why is Elmbridge and the rest of Surrey in Tier 2? 

The decision to escalate an area to high or very high alert is made by Central Government in discussion with local authorities. The decision will be based on a number of indicators, not just the rate per hundred thousand. The indicators include: 

  • Case detection rate – in all age groups and, in particular the over 60s
  • How quickly rates are rising or falling
  • Positivity in the general population
  • Pressure on the NHS – including current and projected NHS capacity
  • Local context and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreak

You can read further information on COVID data and stats

My NHS COVID-19 app doesn't say the alert level is 'high'

Regardless of what the NHS app level says, Elmbridge is 'high'. Find out more about local alert levels on the app.

Can I meet my friends and family indoors?

You must not meet socially with friends and family indoors in any setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them. This includes private homes, and any other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.

A support bubble is where a household with one adult joins with another household. Households in that support bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight, and visit public places together.

Informal childcare can also be provided via childcare bubbles

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details. 

What is the rule of 6?

You may continue to see friends and family you do not live with (or have not formed a support bubble with) outside, including in a garden or other outdoor space. When you do so, you must not meet in a group of more than 6. This limit of 6 includes children of any age.

Meeting in larger groups is against the law. There are certain exceptions (see below). The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be fined £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

If you live in a high alert level area you also cannot meet indoors with people outside of the area, unless exceptions apply.

When meeting friends and family you should:

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.   

Can I still go to school/university/place of worship?

Schools, universities and places of worship are required to be COVID-secure, so will remain open. Social distancing and preventative guidelines should still be followed.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

I’m a student, can I still see my family?

To ensure that students can be home at the end of the winter term but also reduce any transmission risk, the government is asking that students return home once the national restrictions have been lifted, in a student travel window lasting from 3 to 9 December. This should be in line with specific arrangements put in place by their Higher Education provider.

This excludes students who have tested positive or been notified by the NHS test and trace system.

See full Government guidelines

Can I go to work?

Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law. If possible you are encouraged to work from home.

If you are required to travel into an area at a different local COVID alert level (for example to go to work or school), you should follow the guidance for whichever area has the higher alert level. For example, if you live in a medium alert area but work in a high alert area, follow the work advice for local COVID alert level: high. If you live in a high alert area but work in a medium alert area, continue to follow the advice for high alert areas.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

Can I travel to a ‘medium’ area for work/school/college/uni? 

You can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible.

If you are required to travel into an area at a different local COVID alert level (for example to go to work or school), you should follow the guidance for whichever area has the higher alert level. For example, if you live in a medium alert area but work in a high alert area, follow the work advice for local COVID alert level: high. If you live in a high alert area but work in a medium alert area, continue to follow the advice for high alert areas.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

Will shops have to close?

Businesses and venues can continue to operate, in a COVID-secure manner, other than those that remain closed in law.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

Can I still go to a restaurant/pub?

Pubs serving substantial meals and restaurants will stay open until 11pm, although the serving of alcohol will stop at 10pm. When visiting these venues you must not mix indoors with anyone you do not live with (unless you have formed a support bubble). Outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to 6 people.

This includes in:

  • pubs and restaurants
  • shops
  • leisure and entertainment venues
  • places of worship

At least one person in your group should give their contact details to the venue or check in using the official NHS COVID-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details. 

If I am a restaurant/bar member of staff – can I allow 6 people (who aren’t family) to eat outside but not inside?

Yes. 

Venues following COVID-secure guidance can host more people in total, but no one must mix indoors with anyone who they do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) unless exemptions apply. Outdoors, you can meet in groups of up to 6 people.

This includes in:

  • pubs and restaurants
  • shops
  • leisure and entertainment venues
  • places of worship

At least one person in your group should give their contact details to the venue or check in using the official NHS COVID-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

As restaurant/bar member of staff - can I/should I question a group if I think they aren’t family?

This is at the business' discretion but there is no expectation for them to question customers in this way. 

If my restaurant/bar has lots of cancellations, what help is there financially?

See details financial support offer.

If I am a mobile hairdresser, can I work in a house in Elmbridge? And/or can I still have a cleaner or handyman in my house? 

Yes, people are still allowed in other households for work. The guidance mentions an example of a tradesperson going into a household. For additional guidance on working safely please see the guidance on working in other people's homes and the full guidance on high alert restrictions.

Do I need to start shielding again?

If you have any of the following health conditions, you may be clinically vulnerable, meaning you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. If you are clinically vulnerable you:

  • can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low
  • can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, while keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre plus other precautions
  • should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace

Clinically vulnerable people are those who are:

  • aged 70 or older (regardless of medical conditions)
  • under 70 with an underlying health condition listed below (that is, anyone instructed to get a flu jab each year on medical grounds):
    • chronic (long-term) mild to moderate respiratory diseases, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema or bronchitis
    • chronic heart disease, such as heart failure
    • chronic kidney disease
    • chronic liver disease, such as hepatitis
    • chronic neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), or cerebral palsy
    • diabetes
    • a weakened immune system as the result of certain conditions or medicines they are taking (such as steroid tablets)
    • being seriously overweight (a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above)
  • pregnant women

There is a further group of people who are defined, also on medical grounds, as clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus – that is, people with specific serious health conditions. At each local COVID alert level, there is additional advice that clinically extremely vulnerable people must follow

Can I visit a relative in a care home?

If the correct COVID secure provisions are in place such as substantial screens, visiting pods and window visits, you can visit a relative in residential care but please contact the facility first of all to discuss the details.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details. 

Can I still go to the gym/leisure centre?

These facilities will remain open in high alert. Exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport.

Further sports guidance:

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

Will grassroots sport return?

Classes and organised sport can take place outdoors but cannot take place indoors if there is any interaction between people from different households.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

What are the rules for Christmas?

The Government has set out specific rules for forming extended bubbles over Christmas. 

Between 23 and 27 December:

  • you can form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ composed of people from no more than three households
  • you can only be in one Christmas bubble
  • you cannot change your Christmas bubble
  • you can travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble
  • you can only meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or in your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces
  • you can continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier where you are staying
  • you cannot meet someone in a private dwelling who is not part of your household or Christmas bubble

You should travel to meet those in your Christmas bubble and return home between the 23 and 27 December. Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December.

More information on Christmas travel.

Can I still go on holiday for Christmas?

You can still travel within high alert level areas to hotels and other guest accommodation, but you should only do this with people in your household or support bubble.

You can still go on holiday outside of high alert level areas, but you must only do this with people in your household or support bubble.

When travelling, it is important that you respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where their intended activities there would be prohibited by legislation passed by the relevant devolved administration. You should also avoid travelling to any part of the country subject to higher local COVID alert levels. 

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

What are the rules for wedding and funerals?

15 guests can attend weddings, civil partnerships, wedding receptions and wakes. 30 people can attend a funeral.

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  

Can I attend a sporting or live event?

Sport, live performance and business meetings can take place under certain conditions ie they should be limited to 50% capacity of the venue or 2000 people outdoors (whichever is lower) and 50% capacity or 1000 people indoors (whichever is lower).

See the full guidance on high alert restrictions for further details.  


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