Lockdown laws will be eased UK-wide for five days over Christmas despite fears about surging coronavirus rates.
Three households will be able to join under the same roof in an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ for five days from December 23-27.
Bubbles can gather in private homes, outdoor public spaces, or places of worship together – but not the pub.
The new rules will let many people who are under the toughest Covid rules see their families for the only time before Easter.
But while the law remains (except for a small element in Wales), guidance is being toughened up.
People are being asked to keep their bubble as small and short as possible – not to aim for three households and five days.
People are being urged not to stay overnight away from home, or travel from high to low-prevalence areas, if they can help it.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different sets of local or national lockdown rules through December.
This includes a ban on socialising indoors with anyone who isn’t in your household or bubble for almost the entire population of England (Tier 2 and Tier 3).
Under a Christmas plan, these will essentially be suspended for five days for the purposes of family gatherings and replaced with one set of national, UK-wide rules.
This is designed to stop people breaking the rules anyway and “criminalising” family gatherings.
Up to three households will be legally allowed to create a ‘Christmas bubble’ temporarily for up to five days from December 23-27.
Everyone in the bubble can stay in any of those three people’s houses, and go to outdoor public spaces like parks and places of worship together.
You must be back home in your normal household by midnight on the 27th – you can’t stay overnight into the 28th. (There’s an exception for Northern Ireland below).
Crucially, each Christmas bubble will be “fixed” and exclusive – you can’t be in more than one Christmas bubble.
That means you can’t go to your mates’ house for a booze-up on Christmas Eve, followed by smoked salmon with family on Christmas Day.