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Boris Johnson implied during prime minister’s questions that the four nations had agreed on a joint position over Covid rules for Christmas. However, there has been some divergence.
The legal framework allowing people a five-day limited exemption from the normal rules remains the same in all countries, except for Wales. But the guidance in each country differs, creating a hotchpotch of advice across the UK.
By the letter of the law …
What you can legally do was set out by the government this month. The law states that between 23 and 27 December:
You can form an exclusive Christmas bubble composed of people from three households.
You can only be in one bubble and it cannot be changed.
You can travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting this group.
You can only meet them in private homes or gardens, 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 in which you are meeting.
If you form a festive bubble, you should not meet socially with friends and family that you do not live with in your home or garden unless they are part of your Christmas bubble.
Guidance in England
Johnson said the law had not changed but he admitted “the overall situation is alas worse and more challenging than we had hoped when we first set the rules”. He added: “A smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.”
He said three households could still meet on five days, but that was the maximum and not a target. People should avoid travelling from high-prevalence areas to low ones.
He also urged people to avoid staying away from home overnight and suggested not seeing elderly relatives until they had been vaccinated.
The first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, recommended people spend Christmas in their own home with their own household, and if they did mix with others then they should only do so for one day, with a limit of two households and “as far within the maximum of eight people over the age of 12 as you can”.
She also told Scots to avoid all travel between high prevalence areas and low prevalence areas – in particular, avoiding travel to or from Scotland and tier 3 areas in England.
The first minister, Arlene Foster, has suggested further Covid restrictions could be introduced after Christmas. She said she was not expecting to recommend tightening the rules before Christmas but she could not rule out further restrictions afterwards.
In changes to the law, only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period. All non-essential shops, plus leisure and fitness centres and close-contact services, will shut at the end of trading on Thursday 24 December. Hospitality premises, including pubs and restaurants, will close from 6pm on Christmas Day.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: UK Covid Christmas: what the law says and what the four nations say | Health policy