Lockdown and Social Distancing

Three-tier lockdown system

On 12 October the Prime Minister announced a new three-tier lockdown system for England:

  • Most areas of England are on medium alert, which covers most of the country and consists of current national measures – including the rule of six and the 10pm curfew.
  • The high alert level, consists of no social mixing between households indoors. London moved to Tier 2 Covid-19 measures on Saturday 17 October 2020, find out more below.
  • The very high alert level prohibits social mixing indoors and in private gardens, with pubs and bars also closing in these areas. Please note that all retail, schools and universities will remain open, even at this highest level.

You can find out more on each alert level here and on the Government website. Use the Government’s postcode checker to find out the coronavirus restrictions in a local area.


COVID alert level: HIGH

You must not meet indoors with anybody who doesn’t belong to your household or support bubble. This includes someone’s home or in an indoor public place. There are certain exceptions, which are detailed below.

Outdoors, you can meet friends and family (who are not from your household or support bubble) in groups of up to 6 people, including a garden or other outside space. This limit of 6 includes children of any age.

You should aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible. If you need to travel, please consider walking or cycling where possible. If you need to take public transport, please plan ahead, wear a face covering and avoid busy times and routes.

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.

Natalia Clifford, Deputy Director of Public Health for Westminster explains the Tier 2 rules:


Exceptions to meeting indoors

There are certain exceptions where people from different households/bubbles can meet indoors:

  • For work in someone’s house or volunteering to provide voluntary or charitable services
  • For registered childcare, education or training
  • For arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents / guardians
  • For supervised activities provided for children, including youth groups and activities, children’s playgroups and informal childcare through childcare bubbles
  • For birth partners
  • To see someone who is dying
  • To provide emergency assistance, to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
  • To provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable who cannot cope without support
  • To fulfill a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
  • To facilitate a house move
  • For outdoor exercise and dance classes, organised outdoor sport, and licensed outdoor physical activity
  • Indoor organised team sports for disabled people, and youth sport
  • Support groups of up to 15 participants – formally organised groups to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support (not to take place in private dwellings)
  • For a wedding or equivalent ceremony and wedding receptions where the organiser has carried out a risk assessment and taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the virus – up to a maximum of 15 people (not to take place in private dwellings)
  • For funerals – up to a maximum of 30 people. Wakes and other commemorative events are permitted with up to 15 people present (not to take place in private dwellings)
  • For prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
  • For protests – if organised in compliance with COVID-secure guidance

Visiting venues

Venues such as pubs & restaurants, leisure & entertainment centres, community facilities and places of worship can host more people in total, following COVID-secure guidance, but you cannot mix or mingle with anyone who is not from your household or support bubble in these venues.

Meeting people outside your households in pubs and restaurants is not allowed.

You should provide your contact details to the venue or check-in using the official NHS COVID-19 app, so that NHS Test and Trace can contact your group if needed.

Going into work

If you can work from home, please do so. If you cannot work from home, you should go to your place of work.

There is no limit to the group size when you are meeting or gathering for work purposes, but workplaces should meet COVID-secure guidelines.

Essential work meetings of up to 30 are permitted indoors, however meeting people outside your households in hospitality settings is not allowed.

In-home workers can continue to go into someone else’s house for work, such as repair services, cleaners, childcare providers etc.

Going to university, college, schools or nurseries

The advice for attending schools, nurseries and other educational settings has not changed.

However, adults, staff, and pupils are now asked to wear face coverings when moving around indoors within secondary schools, such as in corridors and communal areas where social distancing is difficult. Face coverings are not needed within the classroom. This advice applies to secondary schools only.

Group sport and physical activity

Outdoor activities:

  • Adults can continue to take part in outdoor organised sport and licensed physical outdoor activity in groups of more than six, provided it is organised by a national governing body, club, registered instructor/coach, business or charity. In all cases, the organiser must conduct a risk assessment and ensure compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance.
  • You should ensure you socially distance with people you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) and must not mingle in groups of more than 6 before and after the activity.
  • Organised events of more than six people can take place outdoors in any public place (with the owner’s permission).

Indoor activities:

  • Organised indoor sport and indoor exercise classes can continue to take place (at a facility such as a gym, leisure centre or community hall) with larger numbers present, provided groups of more than six do not mix.
  • You cannot hold a session with more than six people within a private home.
  • There are exceptions to enable disability and youth sport and physical activity indoors, in any number.
  • Please refer to the group exercise guidance here.

Advice for shielding / clinically extremely vulnerable groups:

Anyone who is clinically vulnerable:

  • Must not meet with people indoors in any setting unless they are part of your household or support bubble. But they may continue to see friends and family you do not live with outside, but in a group of up to 6 people.
  • Can go outside as much as they like but keep their overall social interactions low.
  • Can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, whilst keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible (or 1 metre plus other precautions),
  • Should continue to wash their hands carefully and more frequently than usual and maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in their home and/or workspace.

At each local COVID alert level, there is additional advice that clinically extremely vulnerable people must follow.


Semi-permanent, walk-through COVID-19 testing centres are now available in Westminster. They are open seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm.

They can be used by anyone with symptoms or who has been asked to get a test. A test must be booked in advance at NHS online or by calling 119.

The centres are managed and run by the Department of Health and Social Care at:

  • Greenside Community Centre on Lilestone Street
  • Lydford Tenants and Residents Hall on Fernhead Road
  • Grosvenor Hall on Vincent Street

For more information and FAQs, please click here.


New restrictions announced on 22 September

On 22 September Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced a range of new measures that may have an impact on your business:

  • Office workers who can work from home should do so over the winter. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work.
  • Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must now wear face coverings.
  • The limit on wedding guests will reduce from 30 to 15 from 28 September.
  • The penalty for failing to wear a mask or breaking rule of six has doubled to £200.
  • Plans for trials to have the public return to conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events have been paused.

From 24 September:

  • All hospitality venues must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This will include takeaways but delivery services can continue after 10pm.
  • All hospitality venues must operate with table service only, excluding takeaways.
  • Face coverings must be worn by staff and customers all in retail settings, indoor hospitality venues (except where seated at a table to eat or drink)
  • Indoor organised sport for over 18s will no longer be exempt from the rule of six.
  • COVID-secure guidelines will become a legal requirement in retail and leisure sectors.
  • A wide range of premises including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, museums, churches and local authority public buildings will need to display a unique QR Code at their entrance. Click here to find out more.

Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules. For further details on today’s announcement, please visit the Government’s website.


Businesses that are now reopen to the public

  • Pubs, bars and restaurants but only with table service and a curfew of 10pm from 24 September
  • Hotels, holiday apartments, campsites and caravan parks
  • Theatres and music halls
  • Schools, nurseries, universities and colleges
  • Hair salons, barbers, spas, nail bars, beauty salons, massage, tattoo and piercing parlours
  • Libraries, community centres and bingo halls
  • Cinemas, museums and galleries
  • Funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks, amusement arcades, skating rinks and model villages
  • Zoos, aquariums, farms, safari parks and wildlife centres
  • Gyms, pools and other sports facilities (indoor organised sport for over 18s will no longer be exempt from the rule of six)
  • Performing arts can take place outdoors with a socially distanced audience
  • Casinos, bowling alleys, and skating rinks
  • Indoor play areas, including soft play areas
  • Remaining close-contact services, including any treatments on the face such as eyebrow threading or make-up application
  • Wedding receptions for up to 15 people (down from 30 from 28 September), in the form of a sit-down meal, and funerals for up to 30 people

Businesses are only able to open once they have completed a risk assessment and are confident they are managing the risks.

From 24 September a wide range of premises including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, museums, churches and local authority public buildings will need to display a unique QR Code at their entrance. Click here to find out more.


Businesses that must remain closed to members of the public

  • Nightclubs, dance halls, discotheques
  • Exhibition halls or conference centres must remain closed for events such as exhibitions or conferences, other than for those who work for the business or organisation who run the venue.


  • Guidance for all workplace settings can be found here.
  • Test & Trace guidance: Organisations in certain sectors should keep a temporary record of customers and visitors for 21 days and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. Full guidance can be found here.
  • TfL have spoken with many leisure and hospitality businesses and as a result have developed a short briefing for hospitality businesses.
  • Westminster City Council has published guidance for pubs, bars and restaurants in response to questions they have received and to highlight any other information that may be useful. You can find them on the Council’s website here. Westminster published a licensing update on 24 July.
  • Guidance on reduced VAT rate for hospitality, holiday accommodation and attractions can be found here.


Social distancing 

Retail and public premises which remain open must:

  • Ensure a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants (From 4 July the 2m distancing rule is being reduced to 1m plus.)
  • Let people enter the shop only in small groups, to ensure that spaces are not crowded.
  • Queue control is required outside of shops and other essential premises that remain open.

While our business members and partners are busy taking care of internal social distancing arrangements, the BID has led on the external environment. By the 1 June, we installed over 250 queue markers for more than 70 businesses, in over 100 different locations.

We canvassed as many businesses as possible and were delighted with the take-up, as businesses grapple with the new social distancing challenges inside their premises and the external queues that this creates. Every business in receipt of our purple queue markers benefited from an advance site survey and discussion with our team about queue direction and length. Neighbouring businesses were able to collaborate on queue direction, to prevent queue collision and entry blocking.

Westminster City Council has also published guidance on queue management to support businesses reviewing queuing arrangements for their respective premises.

Failure to hold an appropriate SIA licence where required to do so is a criminal offence contrary to the Private Security Industry Act 2001.

The SIA have produced a useful document, Advice to Retailers Hiring Additional Staff to Manage Queues, which provides guidance as to licensing requirements.

Find out more about queue management with social distancing here.

We also invited businesses from a variety of sectors to join us on 6 May 2020 for a virtual discussion on social distancing. You can read our findings here.

Social distancing at The Hilton London Metropole