Covid restrictions: How to socialise in English tiers this winter

Covid restrictions: How to socialise in English tiers this winter

Socialising in the summer, when lockdown rules eased, was pretty simple: A few mates, the park, done.

But with winter approaching and temperatures struggling to reach double figures, no one wants to spend an afternoon sat on the grass.

However, with the government’s new tier system, anyone living in tier 2 and 3 can only socialise with their friends outdoors.

On 16 October, London, Essex (apart from Southend and Thurrock), York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield, Erewash in Derbyshire, Elmbridge in Surrey, and Barrow in Furness, Cumbria all moved from tier 1 to tier 2 and faced new restrictions – including a ban on mixing households indoors.

People in tier 3 are also banned from private outdoor spaces like gardens and can only socialise in public outdoor spaces.

This is probably why your local park is full of chilly looking people trying very hard to have a nice time right now.

Karen Elder, a journalist and presenter for BBC Gaelic News in Scotland knows a thing or two about getting through a long, isolated winter.

She grew up on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, and says it was the wind and rain that made the winters tough.

Temperatures on Barra this month are around a brisk 10 degrees in the daytime.

For people in England who might be new to embracing having to spend more time outdoors, she says the first thing they need to do is look after their feet.

“If your feet are warm, that’s half the battle,” she says.

“I always find my feet are cold, I tend to get grumpy. You need big socks and big boots and a big jacket as well.”

So once you’ve got all your big stuff on, what are you going to do? We asked Newsbeat listeners to slide into our DMs on Twitter to find out how they’re staying social and socially distant right now.

There’s only so many times you can do laps of the park, but there are ways you can make walking more interesting.

People like Spencer Cooper, a freelance photographer, have been making an event of it with friends.

He’s been taking mates out to interesting places around London to take pictures – and give them both content for their Instagram.

He says it’s a way of hanging out with friends, making new ones and also keeping things socially distanced.

“We’re able to explore parts of the city together and leave with some great outcomes,” he says.

Another option? Borrow a dog.

In some parts of the UK, you can hire or borrow dogs for a short time – often as an alternative to kennels when their real owners are away.

Or you could just ask a friend if you can take theirs out for a few hours.

It makes walks more interesting, and you don’t need to keep two metres away from pets. (But you will need poo bags.)

It’s the most British of pastimes and despite strict rules, you can still go to the pub.

Check which tier you’re in and what the rules are.

In tier 2 you can’t be indoors with anyone you don’t live with but you can be outside in a group of up to 6 who are not from your household, so a pub beer garden is a good choice. Is it too early for mulled wine?

You may have to spend most of your evening pressing a button to keep the heater working, but at least it’s one way of seeing friends and maintaining some sort of normal social life in these unusual times.

This isn’t allowed in tier 3 though. You’d have to meet in an open space like a park, on the beach (yes, really), in the countryside or in a forest.

The rules around sport are the same for all three tiers in England – you can play it, but you also have to stick to social distancing rules.

So things like tennis or small games of cricket are how some people are planning to socialise outdoors – and keep warm at the same time.

Sam says that “there’s not much sport to be played when it’s baltic” but adds he doesn’t feel like he has any other options.

Spaces such as basketball and tennis courts, bowling greens and golf courses were closed during the peak of lockdown at the start of 2020, but re-opened on 13 May.

If you’re lucky enough to live in tier 2, have a garden and space for a fire pit – you can still socialise outdoors with up to six friends, from different households.

Sales of fire pits and patio heaters reportedly soared by 400% in October this year, as people tried to prepare for winter, and hold onto some sort of social life.

And people who live in cities who now have to follow rules to socialise outside, might find that this has a benefit for them – mentally and physically.

“If you’re feeling a bit down, or work’s getting to you, sometimes you just need to get out into the fresh air just to literally and metaphorically blow away the cobwebs,” says Karen from BBC Scotland.

“I find this one of the things that even now, if I was to go home, the first thing I would do is go to the beach and just go for a long walk, you know, regardless of what the weather’s doing.”

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