What do the new COVID alert levels mean for my business?

Blogs 13 Oct 2020

In this guide, we break down at the restrictions for businesses at each level under the new three tier system


A new three-tier lockdown system was announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson on 12 October 2020 to help control the spread of coronavirus and standardise local rules.

These rules will apply to England only. Separate guidance is available for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Retail, schools and universities are to remain open regardless of the alert level in their area. You will be able to identify the alert level status of your local area through the NHS Test and Trace App or a postcode search function due to be published on the Government website.

Currently those areas listed as alert level high and very high can be viewed on the Government website.

Alert Level: Medium

View the Government guidance

This is the minimum level of restrictions applicable to all of England and reflects current national restrictions, including the rule of six.

What this means for businesses:
  • All sectors which are permitted to open by law can remain open, providing they meet COVID-19 secure guidance.
  • Where required, face coverings must be worn by both customers and staff.
  • Businesses selling food and drink must close between 10pm and 5am, but can continue selling food through click-and-collect, delivery or drive-through methods after 10pm.
  • Businesses based in ports, motorway service areas and transport services can remain open after 10pm but must not serve alcohol.
  • Food and drink venues must be table service only and businesses must collect data for the NHS Test and Trace Service.
  • Businesses must ensure that if staff are required to self-isolate, they do not work outside their designated place of self-isolation.
  • Work from home advised where possible.

Alert Level: High Alert

View the Government Guidance

This is triggered in local areas where there has been a rise in transmission which cannot be contained through local responses. It prohibits all mixing between households indoors and the rule of six must be observed outdoors.

Most areas already in local restrictions will move to this high alert level.

What this means for businesses:
  • Businesses selling food and drink must close between 10pm and 5am, but can continue selling food through click-and-collect, delivery or drive-through methods after 10pm.
  • Businesses based in ports, motorway service areas and transport services can remain open after 10pm but must not serve alcohol.
  • Businesses must operate in a COVID-19 secure manner. This includes restrictions to table service only, limiting the size of group bookings and collecting data for the NHS Test and Trace scheme.
  • Where required, face coverings must be worn by both customers and staff.
  • Businesses must ensure that if staff are required to self-isolate, they do not work outside their designated place of self-isolation.
  • Businesses must ensure that people do not use their premises to meet others outside of their household or support bubble
  • Work from home advised where possible.

Alert Level: Very High Alert

View the Government guidance

This alert level applies where the virus is spreading rapidly. This stage involves the prohibition of social mixing indoors and the closure of leisure and hospitality businesses. For areas under this tier, there will be further financial support.

What this means for businesses:

In addition to all high alert level restrictions, pubs and bars must close unless they operate as a restaurant. This means serving substantial meals such as lunch or dinner where alcohol is served with the meal.

Tailored measures agreed at local level could lead to further restrictions in the hospitality, leisure, personal care and entertainment industries. Check with your local authority for detailed guidance.

This will vary by area but could include:
  • Restrictions on the sale of alcohol in hospitality venues.
  • Closure of all hospitality (excluding takeaway and delivery operations)
  • Closing leisure centres and gyms to the general public
  • Closing public buildings such as libraries and community centres to the general public
  • Closing personal care and contact services
  • Closing performing arts venues to the general public

On 13 October 2020 the Liverpool City Region was placed in the very high alert category with other areas of concern moved to high alert. All other regions were classified as alert level medium. 

Visit our coronavirus hub for more information and resources for small businesses during the pandemic.