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'Christmas bubbles' will allow limited socialising between households during festive season

UK-wide Christmas arrangements agreed by the UK Government and the Devolved Administrations

Mark Moran
25 November 2020
While some household mixing will be allowed, people are being asked to think carefully about their travel and social activities this Christmas
While some household mixing will be allowed, people are being asked to think carefully about their travel and social activities this Christmas

 

The UK Government and the Devolved Administrations have agreed on joint arrangements for an easing of social restrictions that will allow friends and loved ones to reunite over the Christmas period.

All four parts of the UK have signed off an aligned approach allowing up to three households to form a ‘Christmas bubble’ from December 23 to 27.
Individuals will also be able to travel between tiers and across the whole of the UK without restriction within the five-day period, for the purposes of meeting with their bubble. Those travelling to and from Northern Ireland will be permitted to travel an additional day either side.

However, the leaders of the four UK nations have warned people to be cautious of the risk of spreading coronavirus when rules are relaxed over Christmas.

The approach was agreed by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, and the First Ministers of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland during a COBR meeting he chaired this afternoon.

Details of the new measures can be found in the joint statement.

Speaking following the meeting, Gove said: “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.”

Each administration will clarify its own rules on support bubbles and extended households in due course.

In England, support bubbles will continue to be counted as one household. Christmas bubbles will be able to gather in private homes, attend places of worship together and meet in outdoor public places. Beyond this, people are being asked to continue to follow all other local restrictions in the area. Guidance in forming a 'Christmas bubble' is being published on GOV.UK.

As part of the agreement, each administration will be reminding households that they should remain alert to the risks still posed by the virus and consider how, where possible, they can celebrate and support more isolated friends and loved ones through alternative approaches such as video calls and meeting outdoors.

When following these new rules, people are being asked to take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and protect loved ones, particularly if they are vulnerable. The public is being advised that forming a bubble for those who are vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable carries additional risks.

The four parts of the UK have agreed work together to communicate these new measures across the country and ensure that communities are aware of any variations in approaches.


Joint statement on UK-wide Christmas arrangements from the UK Government and Devolved Administrations

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.

 
 
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