By Eleanor Lawrie
Christmas Covid rules: Who are you allowed to see?
At Christmas, coronavirus restrictions will be eased to allow people to mix with a slightly wider circle of family and friends.
Across the UK, people will be able to form “bubbles” of three households over a five-day period, although health experts have urged people to think carefully about who they mix with.
Who can be in your Christmas bubble depend on where you are.
Who am I allowed to see?
Between 23 and 27 December, the three households in a “Christmas bubble” can mix indoors and stay overnight.
Northern Ireland has a window of 22 to 28 December, to allow time to travel between the nations.
Bubbles can meet each other:
- In each other’s homes
- At a place of worship
- In an outdoor public space or garden
What are the rules for Christmas bubbles?
The bubbles will be fixed, so you cannot mix with two households on Christmas Day and two different ones on Boxing Day. Households in your Christmas bubble can’t bubble with anyone else.
The Scottish government says Christmas bubbles should have a maximum of eight people, not including under-12s.
Other parts of the UK haven’t limited the number of people, although English guidance says it should be “as small as possible”.
The rules about what counts as a “household” also depends on where you are:
People who are self-isolating should not join a Christmas bubble. If someone tests positive, or develops coronavirus symptoms up to 48 hours after the Christmas bubble last met, everyone has to self-isolate.
Is mixing a good idea?
Even if it is within the rules, meeting friends and family over Christmas will be a “personal judgement”, the government says.
And several scientists and health advisers have cautioned the public about the risks.
“From a public health perspective… I think this is a mistake,” public health expert Prof Linda Bauld told BBC Breakfast.
“Even though we’re permitted to do this, I think people have to think very carefully whether they can see loved ones outside or do it in a very, very modest way”.
Chris Hopson, the head of NHS Providers, agrees that it’s not just about sticking to the rules, but considering the risk we are causing others.
“Extra social contact over Christmas – particularly with those who are vulnerable to the virus – actually is very risky,” he says.
Where am I allowed to travel?
Travel restrictions will be lifted to allow people to visit their bubble anywhere in the UK.
But there will not be extra public transport laid on, so people are urged to plan their journeys in advance.
What are the rules for going to a pub or a restaurant?
You cannot mix with your Christmas bubble in hospitality settings, such as pubs and restaurants, or at entertainment venues.
You can meet people not in your bubble, but only outside the home and in line with the tier rules of the area where you are staying.
Suitable places include parks, beaches, open countryside and playgrounds.
What about Christmas traditions?
Some traditional Christmas activities will also be allowed in England:
- Santa’s grottos, with social distancing, can be held in venues allowed to open
- Door-to-door carol singing is allowed in groups up to six
- Audiences can attend school nativity plays in tiers one and two
Can all my children come home for Christmas?
Under-18s whose parents live apart can join two Christmas bubbles, so they can see both parents without being counted as part of another household.
University students who travel home will be counted as part of their family household straight away.
But if a family has three or more grown-up children not at university, they cannot all form a Christmas bubble with their parents.
Individual households can split for Christmas. So, if three people are sharing a home, they can all go and form separate Christmas bubbles with their families and come back to form a single household again afterwards.
What if I’m in a care home or want to visit someone who is?
In England, care home residents should not take part in Christmas bubbles, while visits out of the home should only be considered for residents of “working age”.
However, more than a million coronavirus tests are being sent to care homes in England. This will allow family and friends to visit if they test negative, regardless of which tier they are in.
Residents should be able to receive up to two visitors twice a week, provided there hasn’t been an outbreak at the care home.