THREE households will be able to meet up inside for five days over Christmas in a much-needed boost for the nation after a gruelling year of Covid rules.
Social distancing and travel rules will be scrapped from December 23 to 27 so Brits can hug their grannies and see their friends as part of a festive plan hammered out today.
For the latest news on the Govt’s talks today on plans for Christmas , read our live blog
In a boost for the nation after months of crippling restrictions, the UK nations have secured a deal for Brits to be able to see loved ones at last – but they won’t be allowed to go to the pub together.
The details of the plan include:
Social distancing won’t need to be kept to during the five day relaxation of the rules, but ministers will remind people to be alert of the risks of spreading the virus.
There will be some differences between the four nations of the UK, however, on what counts as a bubble and how people can split up to see family.
Cops won’t be expected to patrol to enforce the new rules – but will step in if people break them by hosting huge gatherings and hold parties.
Shortly after the announcement, Boris Johnson tweeted a video asking people to consider the risks of seeing vulnerable people even though th rules have relaxed.
The Prime Minister said: “The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful.”
Mr Johnson added: “I know this doesn’t equate to a normal Christmas and it won’t work for everyone and it is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this special time-limited dispensation.
“The virus has not gone away and families will have to make a personal judgement about the risk of forming a bubble with or visiting elderly relatives and the vulnerable.
“Tis the season to be jolly but tis also the season to be jolly careful.”
Speaking following the meeting, Mr Gove said this evening: “The UK-wide agreement reached today will offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year.
“We know that the Christmas period this year will not be normal, but
following constructive discussions between the UK Government and the
Devolved Administrations, families and friends will now have the option to
meet up in a limited and cautious way across the UK should they wish.
“In coming to this agreement, we have listened to scientific and clinical
advice on how best to minimise the risk and reach a balanced and workable set of rules that we hope will allow people to spend time together at this important time of year.”
But British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “These plans for Christmas make a mockery of the extra restrictions being placed on pubs and the economic devastation they are facing this Christmas.
“How can it be that pubs cannot properly open while households can mix in private settings?
“The Government data has consistently shown that house-to-house transmission is one of the highest, whereas hospitality has accounted for as little as two per cent of Covid incidences when open.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had agreed to a “cautious and limited” relaxation of coronavirus rules for Christmas, but stressed there would be no further relaxation of measures at New Year — a big blow for Hogmanay-loving Scots.
What can I do and not do at Christmas?
Can my gran and grandad join us for Christmas?
Any three households can join together to form a Christmas bubble – so granny and grandad can come round for the Turkey dinner.
But the government is urging Brits to show common sense and caution when interacting with very vulnerable people in their festive bubble.
Can I hug them or should we be socially distant?
While you can hug granny because social distancing rules are scrapped in festive bubbles, you should show caution, particularly if they are old or sick.
Can my grandparent leave a care home to join us?
If granny or grandad is in a care home and over 65, they cannot leave to join your new bubble.
They can if they are under 65 and get a negative Covid test.
What happens if we burst the bubble and the step-mum arrives unexpectedly?
This is against the rules. When three households come together to form a Christmas bubble it is exclusive – you cannot leave it and no one else can join it.
But if step-mum arrives, do not expect the cops to turn up at your door. Ministers are urging Brits to voluntarily abide by the rules – they are not expecting police to enforce them.
Is there a maximum number of people allowed in my Christmas bubble?
No, it’s just based on a maximum of three households.
How should I travel to see my Christmas bubble?
You will be able to travel across all tiers and across all four home nations but the Government is urging people to plan and book journeys in advance, with major disruption and capacity problems expected on the railways.
Can I see people outside of my bubble?
Yes – but only if you stick to the rules in your tier.
For Brits living in Tier 2 and 3 – which is expected to be the vast majority of the country – this means you can only meet up with people outdoors.
In Tier 1 you can meet up with people if you stick to the rule of six.
Can I go to the pub with my Christmas bubble?
No – you can only meet up with them in private homes, at Church or in a public space, such as a walk in the park.
You can go to the pub in tier 1 with up to six others inside. In tier 2 you can only go with your household inside, or up to six people outside.
In Tier 3 they will be closed.
What about New Year’s?
These bubbles do not apply to New Year’s, which will be governed by the regional tiers policy.
Can my household split up and form different bubbles?
Yes, a mum and dad could decide to spend Christmas separately by forming their own Christmas bubbles.
This also applies to a group of people in their 20s who share a flat but can all return to their family homes, for example. But this may only apply in England.
BUBBLE UP… BUT PUB OFF
People will only be able to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ with up to two other households – with the rule of six scrapped.
Shared households in England – such as friends sharing a flat, or a couple who wanted to see different parents – would be able to split up to join another household for the five-day period.
But they won’t be able to do this in Scotland – possibly splitting up millions of families.
In England, university students returning from halls at the end of term would automatically rejoin their family household and therefore not be included as a separate household.
The Tier rules won’t be completely scrapped for Christmas – and will apply in areas where the new bubbles rules don’t cover them.
So if people are in Tier 1, the rule of six will apply.
If they are in Tier 2 they will only be allowed to go to the pub or out for dinner with people they already live with – not the whole Christmas bubble.
And if they are in Tier 3, the pubs will be shut at Christmas anyway.
People who are working shifts over the Christmas period won’t be able to move the dates.
And sadly, people aged over 65 in care homes will not be able to join their families for Christmas under the new guidance.
The rules will be slightly different across the four nations of the UK.
People travelling to Northern Ireland will get an extra day or two either side of the dates in order to travel home and back again.
In England, support bubbles will continue to be counted as one household – but this isn’t the case in Scotland.
And from next week, parents with a baby under one year old can form a support bubble with another household in England.
Brits living in the top level of restrictions are likely to be able to legally go abroad on holiday – but will be discouraged from making anything apart from essential journeys for the festive season.
Joint statement on Christmas rules
As 2020 draws to a close, we recognise it has been an incredibly difficult year for us all.
We have all had to make significant sacrifices in our everyday lives, and many religious and community groups have already had to change or forgo their customary celebrations to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
This cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas. But as we approach the festive period, we have been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if it is for a short time, and recognising that it must be both limited and cautious.
Even where it is within the rules, meeting with friends and family over Christmas will be a personal judgement for individuals to take, mindful of the risks to themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable.
We need everyone to think carefully about what they do during this period, balancing some increased social contact with the need to keep the risk of increased transmission of the virus as low as possible.
This is particularly important when considering those who are vulnerable, and before deciding to come together over the festive period we urge the consideration of alternative approaches such as the use of technology or meeting outside.
In this context, the four administrations have reached agreement on a
single set of UK-wide measures to help people come together with their loved ones in a way that is as safe as possible.
Today we have agreed that:
*Travel restrictions across the four administrations and between tiers will be lifted to provide a window for households to come together between the 23rd and 27th of December.
*Up to three households can form an exclusive ‘bubble’ to meet at home during this period. When a bubble is formed it is fixed, and must not be changed or extended further at any point.
*Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout this period.
It is important that everyone respects and abides by the rules of each
nation wherever they choose to spend the festive period.
Where there are any variations in our approach, these will be communicated by each administration accordingly. Further guidance will be provided in due course.
The winter holiday period is a time often spent with family and friends, with schools and offices closing and people travelling over the bank holidays.
Many have already begun making their plans, and we are today
providing clarity to help people make the right choices for them, and enjoy time with those closest to them while staying within the rules to protect us all.
It’s likely that extra rules will be needed in the run up to Christmas and afterwards to control the impact of allowing families to mix.
Although cases have been steadily falling this week, 11,299 more positive cases were reported today, along with more than 600 deaths.
Britain will go into a tier system next Wednesday after the national lockdown in England ends.
More places are expected to be put into the top level – Tier 3 – which will see pubs, restaurants and indoor entertainment shut.
People will be banned from household mixing until Christmas.
In Tier 2 they will also be unable to see other households inside, and can’t drink at the pub without having a substantial meal either.
Gyms, beauty salons and shops are set to reopen.
There were major efforts under way yesterday from local leaders, MPs and business not to plunge areas into the toughest restrictions.
And there was a cross-party effort to stop London going into Tier 3, led by Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan and his Tory challenger Shaun Bailey.
Meanwhile, Tory MPs have begged the Government to save Christmas carol singing this year.
The group, led by ex-Cabinet minister Esther McVey, said the services will help lift the nation’s spirits after a bleak year and raise millions for charities.