What is tier 4 lockdown in Scotland and will England have the same restrictions?

Some parts of Scotland will take on tier 4 lockdown measures. But there are rumours that England is set to do the same. Find out why and how...

A member of the public queues by a sign reading "Testing by appointment only"
(Image credit: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

From November 2, Scotland will enter a new tiered lockdown system consisting of five levels to help prevent the spread of coronavirus in areas with rising cases - and England could soon be joining them. 

What is tier 4 lockdown? How will it affect Scotland in November? And could a four tier lockdown system soon be implemented throughout England, too? Here's what we know so far...

Over the past few months, Scotland has seen restrictions on their hospitality industry where indoor venues have been forced to close at 6pm and the sale of alcohol has been banned in the evenings. These current restrictions will come to an end this week and be replaced by a new tiered lockdown system. Scotland's new lockdown system will have four different tiers, instead of just three, and these will range from level zero to tier 4 lockdown. Much like the differences between tier 2 and tier 3 in England, there will be substantial changes between each level of the restrictions in Scotland. 

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the new measures for Scotland will begin on Monday 2 November 2020, after holding a press conference on the new rules. 

But what is tier 4 lockdown in Scotland - the highest level in the new system - and what will it mean for those in Scotland? And after a leaked document revealed England could be heading the same way before Christmas, will England take on similar tier 4 restrictions as well? 

What is tier 4 lockdown in Scotland?

In Scotland, the highest level of restrictions under the new system will be known as tier 4 and includes a total lockdown - similar to the restrictions seen across the UK in March 2020.  Non-essential shops and businesses, such as gyms, hairdressers, bars and pubs, would be forced to close. However, other restrictions wouldn’t be so severe. 

Under tier 4 in Scotland, six people from two different households will still be able to meet outdoors and there will be no limit on outdoor exercise. This is similar to the current tier 3 restrictions in England. 

a woman exercising outside

Outdoor exercise is still allowed. (Credit: Loop Images/Chris)Reeve/Getty

Those working in the construction industry would still be able to go to work, but other workers will be told to work from home where possible. 

Upon announcing the new strategy, the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasised that it was about “striking the best balances we can” between preventing the virus from spreading while minimising major economic harm to business. 

"Getting back to level one and then to level zero is what we're aiming for this side of better treatment or a vaccine, " the MP said. "However, levels two and three are intended to apply at times such as now when transmission is higher and rising. Level two entails restrictions broadly similar to those currently in place just now outside the central belt. So limitations on hospitality and no gatherings inside people's homes. Level three is broadly similar to the current restrictions across much of the central belt with hospitality closed completely."

"The highest level, level four, which of course we would not use unless absolutely necessary would apply when transmission rates are or are threatening to become very high with corresponding pressure on the NHS."

Nicola Sturgeon arrives for Scotland 4 tier system questions

Credit: Getty

What would tier 4 restrictions mean in England?

At the moment, England is following the three tier system as set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in October. 

However, it has been revealed that discussions are in progress between Whitehall and local authorities for a so-called ‘Plan B’ to help suppress the second wave of COVID-19 and avoid another lockdown. The ‘Plan B’ will come into effect in England if the country hasn’t made substantial progress under the three tier system by mid-November. 

This Plan B, it has emerged, will be similar to Scotland’s tier 4 and has otherwise been described as “tier three-plus”. 

If England took on tier 4 restrictions, schools would not close but hospitality venues in affected areas would be forced to close. Social mixing would also become even more restricted. Although schools won't close again, additional restrictions may be needed which could include all non-essential retail and all restaurants closing.

The possibility of a short-term circuit breaker lockdown, like that seen in Wales, has also been up for discussion to bring the R-rate of transmission back to below one. 

However it has been confirmed by Boris Johnson that another national lockdown like we saw in March will not be enforced again. The Prime Minister said that a lockdown “from John O’Groats to Land’s End” wasn’t an option because of the devastating impact that it would have on the economy, society and people’s mental health. 

Grace Walsh
Features Writer

Grace Walsh is a health and wellbeing writer, working across the subjects of family, relationships, and LGBT topics, as well as sleep and mental health. A digital journalist with over six years  experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace is currently Health Editor for womanandhome.com and has also worked with Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more. After graduating from the University of Warwick, she started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness.