The holiday is almost here and normally, we’d be thinking about office parties, family gatherings and Christmas meals out. But this year, it looks as though the Christmas lockdown rules will make things a little different.
The UK coronavirus Christmas lockdown rules are thought to be the primary thing that people have been waiting for at the moment, so they can plan their Christmas Day and the festive season with family and friends.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, revealed on Monday 23 November that while he couldn’t promise a ‘normal’ festive season this year, he is hoping that the Christmas lockdown rules, which have been agreed with the leaders of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, will allow those in the UK to see their loved ones in some capacity this Christmas:
“I can’t say Christmas will be normal this year,” Mr Johnson said, but he promised that “by maintaining the pressure on the virus, we can also enable people to see more of their family and friends over Christmas.”
“We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it. What we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flair up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.
This warning follows news from the British Medical Association, who have said that the previous system of tiered local measures failed to contain the spread of the virus, with the infection rate in the UK failing to slow down. In response to the rising coronavirus cases, some people believe that we’ll be in lockdown until March 2021. Especially as the government’s furlough scheme has been extended until then.
So what’s in store for us when those in England come out of lockdown on December 2? Did lockdown 2 work in England? And what can everyone in the UK expect their Christmas to look like this year? This is everything we know about the Christmas lockdown rules for 2020 so far…
What are the Christmas lockdown rules and will lockdown be lifted for Christmas?
On Tuesday November 24 it was announced that under the Christmas lockdown rules, up to three different households can gather together from December 23 to December 27 and form a “Christmas bubble”.
The guidance says that people will not be able to get together, however, with others from more than two other households and once the bubble is formed, it cannot be changed or further extended. The “Christmas bubble” are are allowed to stay overnight at each other’s homes but they aren’t permitted to visit any hospitality settings together, such as pubs or restaurants, theatres or any retail settings.
Boris Johnson explained on Monday that all the devolved nations – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – would be under the same guidelines as he said: “To allow families to come together while minimising the risk, we’re working with the devolved administrations on a special, time-limited dispensation embracing the whole of the United Kingdom.”
However, he also added that families must still make careful decisions, “This virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce,” he said.
“Families will need to make a careful judgement” about who they see over the festive period and think carefully about visiting older relatives, Mr Johnson added.
The news of the Christmas lockdown rules comes as First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said that UK leaders agreed that they had to ease the rules, otherwise people would have broken the lockdown rules already in place to meet family members and create further risk. It’s thought that ministers came to the decision after being shown behavioural science evidence, Mark Drakeford told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday morning, as “too many people simply would not have been prepared to have gone along with such an instruction.”.
What will the Covid lockdown tiers be for Christmas?
The new tier system, which divides up England into tiers 1, 2 or 3 when lockdown ends in December, is put on pause for Christmas from December 23 to December 27. These new Christmas rules will replace the three tier system for the five days only, then all will return to how it was before.
This means that those in lockdown tiers 2 and 3 will be able to mix indoors with two other households over Christmas, but not before or after the festive measures come into place. Those in tier 1 are always allowed to mix indoors with up to six other people, so they will be the only ones unaffected when the government’s Christmas lockdown rules come to an end.
There are some rules in the Covid lockdown tiers that will stay for Christmas, despite the festive rules. In tier 3 for example, hospitality venues will have to stay closed to both indoor and outdoor patrons as the normal Covid lockdown tier system coming into place from December 2 requires them to stay closed until they move down into lower restrictions. In tier 2, only those within the same household (not the mixture of three households in the Christmas “bubbles”) will be able to socialise indoors.
Will households be able to mix for Christmas in ‘bubbles’?
We now know that households will be able to gather over Christmas Day, along with the two days leading up to it and two days afterwards, in “Christmas bubbles”. Other rules laid out by the government for the bubbling period include:
- You can form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ composed of people from no more than three households.
- You can only be in one Christmas bubble.
- You cannot change your Christmas bubble.
- You can travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble.
- You can only meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or in your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces.
- You can continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier where you are staying.
- You cannot meet someone in a private dwelling who is not part of your household or Christmas bubble.
This means that over the five-day festive period, groups of friends or other family members (unless they are in the Christmas bubble) are not allowed to meet in pubs, restaurants or other hospitality venues when they open again under the new tier lockdown system. The “Christmas bubble” is also not allowed to meet in these spaces so Christmas dinner will have to take place indoors at home.
However, the new rules do allow for families to get together over Christmas.
Will hotels be open for Christmas?
Although it’s not entirely clear whether all hotels will definitely be open over Christmas Day, the new tier system allows hospitality (including hotels and overnight accommodation) to open in tiers one and two so at the very least, it’s likely that they’ll be open in regions who are put into the bottom two tiers as of December 2.
In all tiers over the five day festive period, people are allowed to travel between tiers and UK nations to meet their “Christmas bubble” but as they’re not allowed to meet together anywhere other than inside homes, private spaces, places of worship or public outdoor spaces, it’s likely that there won’t be a blanket opening policy for hotels over Christmas.
New Year lockdown rules
Luckily as the UK Christmas lockdown rules have now been announced, we know that we’ll be able to see family and any friends in a bubble from December 23 to 27 – but the rules aren’t clear about New Year’s Eve just yet. Since the “Christmas bubble” period comes to an end before Christmas Eve, it’s likely that the tier system will decide what can and can’t happen for people as they ring in 2021.
Those in tier one are likely to be able to meet in groups of up to six indoors, while those in tiers two and three will have to meet outside. It’s thought that in tiers one and two, people could meet in pubs and restaurants (as long as they are having a substantial meal in tier two) as well but certainly not indoors at somebody’s house. So for the time being, it looks as though the days of big New Year’s Eve parties are off the table this year.