Christmas covid rules UK: support bubbles and Xmas lockdown restrictions for tier 1, 2 and 3 explained

The Prime Minister urged the public to reconsider their Christmas plans, but didn’t go as far as u-turning on bubble rules

By Finlay Greig
Wednesday, 25th November 2020, 10:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 4:00 pm

Boris Johnson has encouraged citizens of the UK to consider scaling back their Christmas in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Following talks with the devolved administrations it was decided that a loosening of restrictions from December 23 to 27 would not be reversed.

He said: "It is not right to criminalise people who simply want to spend time with their loved ones”

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Families will be able to meet in extended Christmas bubbles over the festive period (Getty Images)

Johnson, along with the devolved administration leaders, have issued a stern warning ahead of the festive period, however, encouraging people to ask themselves "whether you can do more to protect yourself and others".

He added: "A smaller Christmas is going to be safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas."

Here’s everything you need to know about the loosening of restrictions over the Christmas period.

Note: you can read the government’s full guidance here.

What is a Christmas bubble and when can I join one?

From December 23 to 27 people will be allowed to form an exclusive Christmas bubble made up of people from no more than three households.

The Christmas bubble rule applies to the whole of the UK.

What are the Christmas bubble rules?

These bubbles will only be able to meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces – not, for example, pubs, restaurants and cafes.

Bubbles will be fixed for the period they are permitted meaning households can not change their Christmas bubble once it is formed.

The Cabinet Office guidance stipulates that the bubble should not include people from more than three households.

However, it highlights that the more people someone sees, the more likely they are to catch or spread Covid-19, and asks the public to be mindful of risks before agreeing to form a bubble.

Will we have to social distance within Christmas bubbles?

Social distancing will not be necessary in bubbles, but people will be advised to exercise restraint and judgment if they plan to mix with vulnerable friends or family.

It means friends and family will have the chance to hug for the first time in months.

What happens if I’m self-isolating?

People required to self-isolate must not join a Christmas bubble.

If someone in a Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops symptoms between December 23 and 27, or up to 48 hours after the bubble last met, then all bubble members must self-isolate.

Can I still meet people outside of my Christmas bubble?

You will be able to meet people not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.

The tier system of restrictions applies to England, with rules in other parts of the UK varying.

What are the rules on travel over Christmas?

You are allowed to travel between England’s tiers and the four nations of the UK to meet your Christmas bubble.

You should only travel to meet your bubble and return home between December 23 and 27.

Travel outside these periods is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example if your are required to self-isolate.

People are advised to avoid unnecessary stops on their journey and not to share a car with people not in their household.

Can childcare bubbles continue?

In England, a childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to children aged 13 or under.

Between December 23 and 27 you can continue to use a childcare bubble but “only if reasonably necessary” and “where there are no reasonable alternatives”, Cabinet Office guidance states.

If meeting socially during this period, the two households should form a Christmas bubble, with one further household permitted to join the grouping.

What about separated families?

Children who are aged under 18 can be part of both their parents’ Christmas bubbles if the adults do not live together and separate groupings are formed.

Nobody else is allowed to be in two bubbles.

Can care home residents and the extremely vulnerable join Christmas bubbles?

Visits outside of care homes should only be considered for residents “of working age”.

A care home resident that is allowed to leave, subject to a home’s agreement and individual risk assessments, may form a bubble with one other household only and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.

If a care home resident does join a household for Christmas they should maintain social distance and take steps to minimise risks.

People who are classed as extremely vulnerable are warned that joining a bubble involves greater risks.

If someone decides to join a bubble they should take extra precautions, while others within the group should be extra vigilant in the days before getting together.