After a month of national lockdown, areas in England will once again have varying restrictions after December 2.
Areas have been sorted into one of three tiers, all with varying rules. Restrictions have been strengthened in each tier compared to those that applied during the last period of local restrictions.
In some areas, people will once again be able to visit their partners that they don’t live with, but in others, distance will have to be kept.
These are the rules for visiting a partner, depending on what tier you fall into.
Does the previous guidance on “established relationships” apply?
Earlier this year, the government released guidance stating that anyone in an “established relationship” would not have to socially distance from one another.
When the national lockdown commenced on November 5, the government stated that people:
“Must not not meet socially indoors with family or friends unless they are part of your household, meaning the people you live with, or your support bubble. This includes anyone you are in an established relationship with but do not live with - unless they are in your support bubble”.
These rules have not been updated since, meaning that, even if you are in a Tier 1 area where up to six people can meet indoors, you will have to continue socially distancing from a partner you do not live with - unless they’re in your support bubble.
Under Tier 1 rules, people will be permitted to meet with up to up to six people, indoors or outdoors. Overnight stays will also be permitted, either with a group of up to six people, or members of your household or support bubble.
You must socially distance from anyone you do not live with or who is not part of your support bubble, however. This means that if your partner does not belong to your household or support bubble, you will have to socially distance from them.
You should also limit the amount of different people you see socially over a short period of time.
While the government is recommending everyone limit their movements, people in Tier 1 areas are permitted to travel into Tier 1 or Tier 2 areas, meaning that partners in any of these Tiers can technically travel to meet - but will have to follow local restrictions while there.
This means that partners will not be permitted to meet indoors in Tier 2 areas. In both tiers, social distancing must be maintained by partners who do not live together or are not part of the same support bubble.
Travel into or out of Tier 3 areas is not permitted, meaning that a partner in a Tier 3 area cannot travel to meet their partner outside of the area, or vice versa.
In Tier 2 areas, mixing indoors outside of a support bubble or household is not permitted, meaning that partners in the same area will not be allowed to meet indoors if they live separately and don’t share a support bubble.
Meeting in groups of up to six outdoors is permitted, but a social distance must be maintained between people from different households.
Though encouraged to limit their movements and travel, people in Tier 2 areas are permitted to stay overnight elsewhere, but only with members of their household or support bubble.
Travel into Tier 3 areas, unless for essential purposes, is not permitted.
If you and your partner live in the same Tier 3 area, you will only be permitted to meet in a public outdoor setting such as a public park, and must maintain a social distance from one another.
This means that if you and your partner live in the same Tier 3 area, you will be able to meet at a distance outdoors, though not in a private garden.
The exception to this is if your partner belongs to your household or support bubble.
If you live in a Tier 3 area but your partner doesn’t - or vice versa - you won’t be able to travel to meet them, as travel into and out of Tier 3 areas is not permitted.
The only way currently that you can visit a partner without social distancing is if your partner is in your “support bubble”.
Support bubbles can only be formed where one household is a single adult household - or a single adult household with children under 18.
The government has up-to-date guidance on forming support bubbles here.