People urged to 'be cautious' over Christmas as households told they can mix - what UK leaders have said
Plans for Christmas across the nation have been decided by the UK Government and the devolved administrations, with it being agreed that three households can meet from 23-27 December.
People will be able to join “Christmas bubbles”, which will allow families to spend time together over the festive period.
However, although the joint approach was agreed despite concerns about the spread of coronavirus, UK leaders are still urging people to be cautious over the festive season.
What are the ‘Christmas bubble’ rules?
From 23-27 December, up to three households will be allowed to stay together and form a "Christmas bubble", which will allow people to visit families in other parts of the UK.
Those travelling to or from Northern Ireland may do so on the 22 and 28 December, but otherwise travel to and from bubbles should take place between the 23 and 27.
People will not be able to get together with others from more than two other households, and once a bubble is formed, it must not be changed or be extended further.
‘We can't afford to throw caution to the wind’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the decision on Tuesday evening (24 Nov) in a video message from Downing Street, saying that “This year means Christmas will be different."
He explained that the festive agreement is a "special, time-limited dispensation", and that people must consider the risks of who to form a bubble with, including whether or not to visit elderly or vulnerable relatives.
In regards to visiting elderly relatives, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people to use their "personal judgement".
Mr Johnson said, "Many of us are longing to spend time with family and friends... And yet we can't afford to throw caution to the wind."
“'Tis the season to be jolly but 'tis also the season to be jolly careful,” the Prime Minister added.
‘Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread’
Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has also urged caution over the Christmas period, asking people to consider whether they need to mix with others or not.
Ms Sturgeon said, “We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The “bubble” approach aims to reduce this impact.
“But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread. Our priority is to suppress transmission of COVID-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding - and that involves abiding by the rules.”
Ms Sturgeons adds that just because people can mix with others indoors over this time, “that doesn’t mean you have to”.
The Scottish Government explains that the five-day period provides time for travel, but that households are not required to use all five days, and should keep their visits to no more than one or two days if possible.
First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, also issued similar advice, telling BBC Wales that "People will be allowed to do what the law will allow them to do, but this is not an instruction to travel, it's not an instruction to meet with other people.
"People should still use a sense of responsibility, should still ask themselves whether what they are doing is keeping themselves and other people safe."
Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, urged people to be safe, responsible and mindful of healthcare workers in light of the recent Christmas announcement.
Ms O’Neill added,"There is a risk associated with allowing people to come together.”