What Covid-19 restrictions mean for travel, festive plans and Tier 4 areas

The latest development came after Mr Johnson refused to rule out a third national lockdown for England – a move he had previously been deeply reluctant to contemplate.

All the latest updates for the UK rules over Christmas are below.

Christmas rules in England 

You can make a Christmas bubble if you live in Tier 1, 2 or 3. You cannot make a Christmas bubble in Tier 4.

In a joint statement, the Cabinet Office previously announced the leaders of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had “endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”.

They “emphasised that the public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact”.

However, this has now been modified to apply to just December 25, rather than December 23 to 27.

  But what do these restrictions mean? 

  • Three households could meet indoors, meaning families will be able to have both sets of grandparents to stay. Under tier 4, however, you cannot meet other people indoors unless you live with them or they are part of your existing support bubble.
  • Couples can join different bubbles – so if a husband and wife want to see their own families, each can do so, although they cannot switch between these. Children of divorced parents will be allowed to split their time between two bubbles.
  • While you can form a bubble with up to three households, these bubbles are not permitted inside pubs or any other hospitality venues.
  • Access to pubs and restaurants will still depend on the rules of your local tier system. 
  • Grottos are allowed to open across all tiers, except Tier 4, new government guidance has confirmed, but sitting on Santa’s lap is banned. 
  • Venues must put in place appropriate Covid-secure measures, and families are required to maintain social distancing from Father Christmas.
  • Door-to-door carol singing is permitted as long as groups are outdoors and keep apart from each other.
  • Those in Tier 3 are not able to attend school nativity plays and will have to live stream or watch a recording instead. Performances need to be within existing school bubbles, with no mixing across groups.
  • In Tiers 1 and 2, audiences can attend “subject to appropriate safeguards being in place”.
  • Over-65s in care homes will not be able to go home for Christmas.
  • University students travelling back home at the end of the term count as part of their parents’ household.
  • People flying home from red-listed countries will still have to quarantine.

Government guidelines also state that people in a bubble should:

  • Limit unessential contact beyond your immediate household at least five days before you mix with other homes in your bubble
  • Keep your bubble as small as possible
  • Only exist in one Christmas bubble
  • Not change your Christmas bubble
  • Meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces
  • Only mix with people outside your Christmas bubble outside your home following the rules in the tier you are meeting in
  • Not meet socially with family or friends that you do not live within your home or garden unless they are part of your Christmas bubble

Christmas rules in Scotland 

The Government said the safest way to celebrate Christmas in Scotland this year is to celebrate with your own household in your own home “and as far as possible, to keep any interaction with other households to a minimum”.

“Christmas bubbles can be formed on the 25th December to help reduce loneliness and isolation. You can meet with your bubble in a home, outdoors or in a place of worship,” the Government explained.

“You do not have to form a bubble if you do not want to – the safest way to spend Christmas is to stay in your own household, in your own home and your own local area.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scots to stay in their own homes at Christmas.

If people feel it is “essential” to meet with others indoors, she said this should be for one day only and not overnight. 

The First Minister also suggested families should give each other vouchers for Christmas, for health and economic reasons, and warned she would tighten Christmas restrictions around the edges. 

The Government has issued the following advice for those who decide to form a bubble:

  • Minimise the number of people in a Christmas bubble. Eight people from three households (plus children under 12 years of age from the three households) is the legal maximum.
  • Stay outside as much as possible.
  • Minimise the distance you travel. The law allows you to travel within Scotland – but not to or from outside Scotland – to form a Christmas bubble. You must travel to form a bubble and return home on Christmas Day.
  • Christmas bubbles apply on Christmas Day only.

Read more about Scotland’s rules here. 

Christmas rules in Wales 

The majority of rules set by the Government will also be rolled out across Wales. 

Wales went into full lockdown with Tier 4 restrictions from a minute after midnight on Sunday Dec 20.

Mark Drakeford had previously stated that the country would enter a new Tier 4 lockdown for three weeks following Christmas. However, the restrictions were brought forward to Dec 20 following concerns over a new strain of the virus. 

The Welsh Labour leader said a “sustained rise in coronavirus” meant that the country would have to move into its highest level of restrictions. His announcement came after a meeting with the first ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Michael Gove, on the new strain of coronavirus.

All non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres and hospitality closed at “end of trading” on Saturday Dec 19.

Restrictions over Christmas will also be tightened: the five-day relaxation period has been scrapped and only two households will be able to celebrate together on Christmas Day, and all hospitality premises will have to close their doors by 6pm on Christmas Day. 

This harsh limitation would be made into law, the Welsh Government confirmed. 

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