Families will be able to meet up in “Christmas bubbles” over the festive period, following an agreement between the UK government and devolved administrations.
Up to three households will be able to meet up for five days between 23 and 27 December, although the leaders have warned people to be cautious, saying that it “cannot be a normal Christmas”.
The collectively-agreed policy was announced on Tuesday (24 November) evening and further details may be announced as Christmas approaches.
There may be slight variations in approach across the four nations of the UK, but here’s everything we know about the “Christmas bubbles” rules so far.
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What is a Christmas bubble?
From 23 to 27 December, people throughout the UK will be able to form a bubble with up to three households.
These bubbles will be able to meet up and stay overnight without social-distancing, and can go to places of worship and public outdoor spaces.
Once a Christmas bubble is formed it cannot be changed and you should only meet with anyone who is not in your bubble in public outdoor places, according to the rules of the tier your local area is in.
How many people can be in a Christmas bubble?
There is no specific limit on the number of people who can be in your Christmas bubble, but it should not exceed more than three separate households.
Guidance for those in England recommends that people consider that the more people they see, the more likely it is the virus will spread.
The Scottish Government stated that people should keep the numbers as low as possible and minimise the length of contact between different households.
What about children whose parents are separated?
The only group of people who are able to be part of two different bubbles are children under the age of 18, whose parents don’t live together and have formed separate Christmas bubbles.
Can I join a different Christmas bubble to the people I live with?
Guidance for people in England states that people are allowed to join a different bubble from people they normally live with.
However, it is recommended that in this case you should try to stay with people in your bubble over the Christmas period, and extra precautions should be taken after people visit your household.
The Scottish Government has said that “different people in a household should not pick their own bubble.”
Can childcare and support bubbles continue?
Guidance for people in the UK states that existing support bubbles will count as one household.
In England, childcare bubbles can continue, but only “where there are no reasonable alternatives”. If households will be meeting socially over the festive period then they should count toward the three households Christmas bubble limit.
Guidance on childcare and support bubbles in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet been confirmed and may differ.
Can I travel?
You can travel to anywhere within the UK to join your Christmas bubble, but you should only travel there and back within the 23 to 27 December period.
However, for those travelling to or from Northern Ireland, travel is permitted between 22 and 28 December, though you should only meet with people during the official period.
If you travel to a different part of the UK, or a different tier in England, you should follow the guidance for that area while you are there.
Can I join a Christmas bubble if I’m self-isolating?
You must not form a Christmas bubble if you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.
What about those who are extremely clinically vulnerable, or in care homes?
As there is no longer a formal requirement for those who are extremely clinically vulnerable to shield, they are able to join Christmas bubbles.
However, the Government has stressed that people should carefully consider the heightened risks involved.