Will we be in lockdown for Christmas? What celebrations will look like during Covid-19

It may be too early to put up the Christmas tree, but that doesn’t mean Christmas isn’t on the minds of many Britons. It will be here before we know it, but it’s clear Christmas 2020 will be unlike any other.

The Government has announced yet another fresh wave of lockdown rules following a rapid increase in coronavirus cases in the UK. In addition to the ‘rule of six’, which bans social gatherings of more than six people, Britons will face new curfews for hospitality venues, stricter face mask requirements and pleas to work from home if possible from later this week. But how long is it expected to last?  

“Unless we palpably make progress, we should assume that the restrictions I have announced will stay in place for six months,” Boris Johnson said in his September 22 update. 

In wake of the coronavirus pandemic, life events and traditions have cancelled, postponed or tweaked – from weddings to graduations and most recently Rosh Hashanah.  The ‘rule of six’ and social gathering makes family gatherings strenuous, and Christmas is no exemption. 

How is Covid-19 going to affect Christmas this year?

The Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday makes it clear – Christmas 2020 will be like no other. If the guidance stays as is for half a year, which Boris Johnson has hinted at, the ‘rule of six’ will remain firmly in place. Larger families will have to rethink their family festivities.

Best to put that seventh and eighth dinner setting away as your guest list is bound to be capped at six people. There is an exception for larger households which already have more than six family members. 

The same applies for festive dinners and parties. If you plan to enjoy a Christmas meal at a pub or restaurant, it is forbidden to have more than five friends at the table at any given time. 

These rules apply across England to all ages, and include not just private homes, but also parks, pubs, restaurants and sporting events. 

Households and support bubbles of more than six people are, however, exempt from the new rules. 

Will we be in lockdown at Christmas?

As it stands, the Government has not imposed a second national lockdown, where pubs, shops and businesses close completely. It has instead tightened measures. 

The Prime Minister said earlier this month it was “too early to say” whether it would be possible to have large family gatherings over the festive period, after imposing the ‘rule of six’.

 Johnson admitted he was “not comfortable” bringing in rules that could separate families for months to come, and said it “breaks my heart” to do so.

Will there be Covid rules for over Christmas?

Christmas-specific rules have not been announced by the Government. The current guidance says the public must follow the new rules at all times or risk being fined. Since this is projected to last for six months, Christmas would fall under the same umbrella.

Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that the Government will review the new changes “if the British public can do what they did before” in complying with the new regulations.

The new rules in full confirmed by the Prime Minister are as follows:

  • Office workers who can work from home should do so.
  • Pubs, bars and restaurants in England will be ordered to close by 10pm each night, with the hospitality sector restricted solely to table service.
  • Face coverings must be worn in taxis and private hire vehicles, and by retail staff while at work. Customers in indoor hospitality will also have to wear face coverings, except while they are seated at a table to eat or drink.
  • The exemptions to the rule of six will be reduced, banning indoor team sport – such as indoor five-a-side football matches. The planned return of spectators to sports venues will now not go ahead from October 1.
  • Wedding ceremonies and receptions will be capped at 15 people from Monday, although no changes will be made to rules around funerals.

Can I still meet other households and see my family at Christmas?

You can still meet other households and see your family at Christmas, as long as the ‘rule of six’, social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing guidelines are adhered to at all times. Groups of six are welcome in private homes, pubs, restaurants and other festive events if Covid-secure. 

Can I travel abroad over Christmas?

Christmas holidays are not necessarily off the cards. It just depends on where you want to go.

Travel corridors and travel restrictions are continuously reassessed based on rise in cases and R rates amongst other factors. Whilst the official guidance discourages all non-essential travel, you are still allowed to travel internationally – as long as you are aware of the risks.

The ‘green’ list of travel corridor countries, which Britons can visit without needing to self-isolate upon return, is shrinking – which means you may be out of pocket if your trip is cancelled due to new lockdown restrictions. Here’s a list of countries you can (feasibly) visit right now. 

Travelling against official government advice is not illegal, but most tour operators will not offer trips to destinations which the FCO deems unsafe. In a pandemic, that’s just about everywhere – and it does make travel insurance complicated. 

If you choose to visit a country to which the Foreign Office (FCO) advises against travel without invalidating your insurance – here’s what you need to know. 

What will Christmas be like during coronavirus?

It’s hard to tell, but it certainly won’t be what we’re used to. With social distancing, the ‘rule of six’ and numerous questions marks in the weeks (and months) ahead, smaller family gatherings will most likely have to take centre stage. Christmas on Zoom for big families? We shouldn’t rule it out. 

What we do know – you can expect a face mask and hand sanitiser under the tree. 

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