Great Britain

Christmas lockdown rules – Christmas bubble rules explained

THE four nations have hammered out their festive plan so Brits can hug their gran and spend Christmas with their loved ones.

The festive boost was hammered out at this afternoon's crunch COBRA summit to save the holidays after months of crippling restrictions.

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Social distancing and travel rules will be scrapped between the 23rd and 27th of December as part of the latest holiday guidance - but what are the rules?

Who can form a Christmas bubble?

Up to three different households will be able to meet up inside for five days over Christmas to form a new bubble - with no maximum of people

Once a bubble is formed it cannot be changed.

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.

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.

People who are working shifts over the Christmas period won't be able to move the dates.

What can Christmas bubbles do?

Bubbles will be allowed indoors, in public outdoor spaces and go to church together.

Christmas bubbles are not allowed to meet up in hospitality settings - which includes pubs, restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues.

What about the Tier rules?

The Tier rules won't be completely scrapped for Christmas - and will apply in areas where the new bubbles rules don't cover them.

Boris Johnson is set to announce on Thursday which areas will fall into which Tiers - and it is most of England will be in Tier 2 or 3.

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.

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.

What does this mean for travel?

Travel bans in areas with the worst rates of coronavirus infections will be lifted between December 23 to 27.

It means people who live in Tier 3 areas in England who are currently told not to travel to areas with low infections rates can see family for the festive season.

People in Tier 2 areas who were previously told to follow the same rules even if they do travel to other areas will be able to see families in "festive bubbles"

People living under drastic rules Level 3 and 4 lockdown rules in Scotland will also be allowed to leave their area to see family.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had made it illegal for people to leave their local area if they are in the worst-hit areas, but this will be lifted for the five day period.

Similar travel restrictions in Wales and Northern Ireland will also be freed for a limited period of time.

In Northern Ireland, the Christmas period will be extended by one day either side so they have time to travel.

It means people will have from December 22 to December 28 to see family in Northern Ireland.

Will the police be enforcing these rules?

The latest guidance to save the holidays has made it clear that police are expected to enforce and break-up large gatherings.

The current ban on gatherings of 30 or more will still be in place.

This means, police will be able to break up any Christmas parties that exceed the festive rules hammered out today.

What about our grandparents in care homes?

Sadly, people aged over 65 in care homes will not be able to join their families for Christmas under the new guidance.

They can if they are under 65 and get a negative Covid test.

Boris Johnson says Christmas is season 'to be jolly' but we must 'be jolly careful'

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