Families across the UK can unite to form “Christmas bubbles” this December, despite the Covid pandemic, after leaders agreed a joint plan.
Three households can be together for five days between December 23 and 27, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said, in a move he says “will offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year”.
It followed a Cobra meeting between first minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Wales Mark Drakeford, Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster and Gove on Tuesday.
Here is everything you need to know.
Who can meet and when?
Three households can come together between December 23 and December 27 to form a Christmas bubble.
Once a bubble has been formed it cannot change.
Children under 18 whose parents live apart can be a part of both parents’ bubbles if they chose to form different groupings.
Students in England going home for the holidays are part of that one household, rather than their student household. This may be different for other nations once further guidance is published.
All those within the bubble must obey the tier 1, 2, or 3 rules within the area they are visiting.
People can travel between the four nations or between tiers.
Where can you go together?
The Christmas bubble can meet in private homes, outdoors or in places of worship. They cannot meet in hospitality settings, such as a pub, restaurant or hotel.
Do I need to self-isolate?
People will not have to self-isolate before meeting other households, even if someone within their bubble is among the “extremely clinically vulnerable” group deemed most at risk from serious illness.
The government is, however, expected to issue guidance that urges people to reduce unnecessary contact in the run-up to the five-day period.
What about New Year?
There is no similar bubble plan for the New Year. This is to allow families to celebrate Christmas only.
What if I am flying to Northern Ireland?
There is an extra two days added either side of the bubble period, so the plan for Northern Ireland spans December 22 to December 28.
What about transport?
The government does not expect there will be additional public transport for those travelling and advises people to plan sensibly.
What if I am visiting from abroad?
There is no change to the rules related to international journeys, and those asked to quarantine under the travel corridor rules will still need to do so.