On Tuesday 24 November, the government announced that Britons will be able to form “bubbles” over the Christmas period.
After months of speculation about what coronavirus rules might mean for December festivities, it was confirmed that from 23 to 27 December, families across the UK (unlike many other policies this is a four-nations approach) will be able to gather in one another’s homes.
However, there are various restrictions in place that limit how many households can form a so-called “Christmas bubble”.
The announcement comes after Boris Johnson unveiled a new three-tier system for England, to be implemented from the 2 December once the nationwide lockdown lifts.
In a speech to the House of Commons, Mr Johnson addressed the fact that coronavirus restrictions will impact the Christmas period, stating that “Christmas cannot be normal” this year.
While the temporary Christmas measures will apply to all four UK nations (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), leaders have expressed concerns over the safety of a temporary easing of restrictions.
For example, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned people that just because you can see family members from outside your household, it “doesn’t mean you have to”.
“We will remind families that just because you might be able to mix a bit… that doesn’t mean you have to do that if you don’t think it is necessary,” she said.
So what do the Christmas bubbles allow people to do over the festive season? Here’s everything you need to know.
How many households can form a Christmas bubble?
Up to three households will be permitted to form a temporary Christmas bubble.
This means that within your bubble you can mingle indoors, stay overnight at one another’s houses and gather together at places of worship.
You can also meet in outdoor public and private spaces together.
You can form a Christmas bubble with people outside of your regular household.
This means you can stay somewhere else for the five day period, but this will count as two households, meaning that just one other household will be able to join you for the festive season.
People within a Christmas bubble do not have to maintain social distancing. However, the government advises continuing to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus.
This includes ensuring indoor spaces get as much fresh air as possible, washing your hands regularly and for 20 seconds.
Can you see your own family and then your partner’s family over Christmas?
Christmas bubbles are fixed for the duration of the five day period.
This means that you can only see both your family and your partner’s family over Christmas if together, you do not exceed the three household limit.
Additionally, households you are in a Christmas bubble with cannot also be in other bubbles.
So you can only see both your partner’s and your family if you are able to form a bubble together and commit to not forming a bubble with anyone else at a later date.
Can you spend time in one Christmas bubble on Christmas Day and form another for Boxing Day?
Given that Christmas bubbles are fixed, you cannot mix with two households on Christmas Day and two different households on Boxing Day.
You can, however, spend time with one household in your bubble on Christmas Day and a different household on Boxing Day, so long as they are also in your bubble and have not formed a bubble with a different household.
Do support bubbles count as one household?
In England, if you have already formed a support bubble with another household, that will count as one household under the Christmas allowances.
This means that you and the person with whom you have formed a support bubble can spend the festive season with two other households in a Christmas bubble.
Again, this is dependent on both you and those in your support bubble not forming a Christmas bubble with anyone else.
There is no limit to the number of people in a household joining a Christmas bubble. In theory, this means that a total of six households could come together over the festive period if each household also has its own support bubble.
The government website states: “A fixed bubble is a sensible and proportionate way to balance the desire to spend time with others over the Christmas period, while limiting the risk of spreading infection.
“However, the more people you see, the more likely it is that you will catch or spread coronavirus.”
Can you travel between tiers to form your Christmas bubble?
Yes, from 23 December, people in England will be able to travel between tiers and UK nations to meet those within their chosen Christmas bubble.
However, the government advises taking precautions while travelling over the festive period, such as maintaining social distancing and avoiding travelling during busy periods.
Can children with divorced parents see both of them during Christmas?
Children under 18 whose parents do not live together are permitted to be part of both of their parents’ Christmas bubbles.
However, if their parents choose to form separate bubbles. Nobody else should be in two bubbles.
Can you form a Christmas bubble if you are self-isolating?
You cannot form a Christmas bubble if you are self-isolating due to having coronavirus symptoms or having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
Additionally, if a member of your Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops coronavirus symptoms between the 23 and 27 December, or up to 48 hours after members of the bubble last met, all members of the bubble must self-isolate as if they were members of the same household.