What UK’s new ‘Christmas bubble’ rules mean for you and your family in full

There will be a temporary relaxation of social distancing rules over Christmas to allow families to see each other, the UK Government has announced.

Between December 23 and 27, up to three separate households can mingle indoors together for festivities after what will have been nine months of social distancing laws.

The news follows weeks of speculation that Brits would be exempt from coronavirus restrictions during the festive season in the interests of the nation's mental health.

But critics say the move is "risky" and will likely lead to yet another surge in cases early in the New Year.

Here's what the Government says and what it means for your holiday plans.

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Christmas bubble rules

In a break from the new Covid Winter Plan announced yesterday, as many as three different households will be allowed to mingle indoors for up to five days over Christmas.

This is intended to allow family members, many of whom have been separated for much of the year, to spend time together in a temporary "Christmas bubble" between December 23 and 27.

  • There is no limit on the number of people allowed in a bubble as long as they don't come from more than three different households.
  • The bubbles will need to be exclusive and cannot change to allow new members within the five-day-period.
  • A previously established "support bubble" will count as a single household in the formation of a Christmas bubble.
  • Members of a Christmas bubble can meet up in homes, public spaces or places of worship. However they will not be able to meet in their bubbles in pubs or restaurants.

  • Members of a Christmas bubble living in different regions of the UK and thus different "tiers" will be allowed to travel between them during this time.
  • People will also be able to travel to and from Northern Ireland for an extra day either side of that period, to allow for the extra travel time.
  • They can also meet up with non-members of their bubble, but only outside and in accordance with local laws.
  • Children whose parents are separated or do not live together will be allowed to move between two different Christmas bubbles.
  • In England, a group of housemates living together would all be allowed to return home to their separate families for Christmas.

The rule change came about after an emergency COBRA meeting between the UK Government and the devolved administrations on Tuesday.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove chaired the meeting, and Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster, the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all attended virtually.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not attend and his absence was criticised by Mr Drakeford, who said to the Welsh parliament: "You might think that given the significance of the decisions we are having to take there that the prime minister might think that was a conversation in which he would choose to be engaged."

All four chief medical officers worked on the Christmas bubble plan, and have said it strikes the right balance between caution and much-needed emotional relief for lonely Brits.

However public health experts have warned that each day of loosened restrictions will have to be made up for with an extra five days of tough measures in order to avoid a spike in cases.

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told a Commons committee on Tuesday the five-day bubble scheme was a "risky" move.

"I guess I have to speak bluntly – the virus doesn't care if it's Christmas," she said.

"We still have pretty high prevalence across the country. It is risky for people to mix indoors with alcohol with elderly relatives at this point in time."

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