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What are the current coronavirus rules about Christmas in the UK?

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During that period families will be able to form larger Christmas support bubbles of between up to three households. But what does this mean, and what are the risks?

[PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS CONTENT WAS UP TO DATE AS OF THE 19TH DECEMBER, BUT IS NOW OUT OF DATE FOLLOWING THE U.K GOVERNMENTS TIER-4 RESTRICTIONS]

The relaxation of the rules over Christmas does not mean that we’re out of the woods, and that all rules and guidance have been scrapped. The tiered restrictions will still apply across the U.K.

However, under tier 4 restrictions, non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues must close, with a new “stay at home” message introduced.

People who need to travel for education or childcare are exempt, and exercise is unlimited. Where people cannot work from home, they will still be able to travel to work.

Under the measures, households are not allowed to mix, but one person is allowed to meet with one other person outside in a public space. Support bubbles and those meeting for childcare are exempt.

Those who are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable should not go to work and should limit time outside of their homes.

Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home, and cannot travel abroad.

The Tiered System

Across all tiers, everyone:

  • must wear a face covering in most indoor public settings, unless they have an exemption
  • should follow the rules on meeting others safely
  • should attend school or college as normal, unless they are self-isolating. Schools, universities, colleges and early years settings remain open in all tiers
  • should walk or cycle where possible, plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes when travelling
  • must follow the gathering limits at their tier except for in specific settings and circumstances.

Tier 3

Non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers and other personal care businesses can open. Places of worship can open and weddings are permitted. However, hospitality venues must close, with the exception of delivery and takeaway services.

Everyone who can work from home should do so, but you can travel within your area for work. You can also travel for reasons including education, parent and toddler groups, and to provide care or medical assistance, but you should avoid travelling outside your area and reduce the number of journeys you make wherever possible.

People must not socially meet those they don’t live with for social reasons, unless they are in a support bubble, except at a small number of outdoor locations including such as parks or beaches. There, you cannot socialise in groups of more than six.

Outdoor sports and amateur team sports can continue in all tiers, but in tier 3, spectators cannot watch sport.

You can read more on the tier 3 regulations, including the full list of exemptions, here.

Tier 2

Non-essential shops can open, as can gyms, hairdressers and other personal care businesses. Places of worship can open and weddings are allowed within local restrictions.

People living in tier 2 areas are not allowed to meet with people they don’t live with indoors, unless they are in a support bubble. Outside, including private gardens, you can only meet in groups of six people.

Everyone who can work from home should do so, but you can travel within your area for work. You can also travel for education and to provide care or medical assistance, but should only make journeys if they are essential.

You should avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier 3 areas unless it is strictly necessarily.

Hospitality venues can stay open, but only if they serve a substantial meal. The venues must take last orders at 10pm, and shut at 11pm. Pubs and bars which don’t serve “substantial” food must close altogether. Indoor entertainment venues, such as cinemas, casinos and bowling alleys, can open, but must close at 11pm.

However, you must not mix with anyone who is not part of your household or support bubble when you are indoors.

In tier 2, you can watch sports, but social distancing is in place and crowds are limited. Stadiums can fill 50% of the capacity or host 2,000 people – whichever is smaller – outdoors, or 1,000 people indoors.

You can read more on the tier 2 regulations, including the full list of exemptions, here.

Tier 1

Tier 1 is the lowest level of restrictions, and the only tier where you can meet people you don’t live with indoors and outdoors - both in groups of up to six.

Hospitality venues including museums, cinemas and pubs can stay open, but last orders must be made by 10pm and the venues must close at 11pm. Only table service can be used, and you must not mix in groups larger than six, unless you all live together.

People are encouraged to work from home where possible and to reduce their travel.

Residents in tier 1 areas are allowed to watch sport, but numbers are limited and social distancing must be in place. Outdoor stadiums can have 50% of capacity or 4,000 people, whichever is smaller. Indoors, the maximum capacity is 1,000.

You can read more on the tier 2 regulations, including the full list of exemptions, here.

The Christmas Guidance

In London and the south-east, people must stay at home over Christmas and must not meet up with other households. One resident could meet up with another one person for a walk, but not a whole household of people.

In the rest of England, the window for multiple households meeting has been reduced from a five-day window between 23 and 27 to just Christmas Day.

The Government has said that people will not be “criminalised” for seeing family during the festive period, acknowledging it will be important for the mental health of many.

But emphasis has been placed on people doing “the minimum possible”, and if you’d rather not, then don’t.

Can I hug and kiss people?

We still have to take the risk from Covid really seriously during Christmas. Don’t do stupid things. Don’t do unnecessary things just because the rules are relaxing. Think sensibly about whether or not the relative, or member of your mixed bubble is at risk if you are unknowingly carrying the virus.

The virus still poses a very real threat over the holiday, although we acknowledge the strong desire to get close to family. Everyone needs to make their own risk assessment and take care to be mindful of spreading the virus to elderly or vulnerable friends and family.

What do our experts think?

After such a tough year, we understand the importance of being able to spend time with our loved ones over the Christmas break. 2020 has been very exhausting for a lot of families, so relaxing, being with closest relatives is very good for our wellbeing.

However, all of our experts agree that this poses some risk, and that we should not lose sight of those risks as we settle down to enjoy a well-needed break from the pandemic.

Remember if you are in the lower Tiers, when you head into your chosen locations for Christmas to always;

  • Try to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

Our team are available across the festive period with help and support should you need advice or have health concerns.

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