The Government has announced an easing of coronavirus restrictions across the UK over the festive season. For five days, from 23 December to 27 December, up to three households will be able to form a ‘bubble’ with no social distancing required. While for some this will be a relief, many will be worried about keeping themselves safe. What are the questions we should all be asking in order to make the most informed decision about our plans?
It’s important to remember that restrictions being eased doesn’t mean that the virus has gone away. The very positive news about coronavirus vaccines over the past few weeks suggests we're moving towards more permanent easing of restrictions, and protection from coronavirus for the most vulnerable, but we're not there yet.
Who in the group is at high risk?
When you’re deciding who to meet up with, consider the risk coronavirus would pose to them if they were to catch it.
Age is the key risk factor for needing to go to hospital with, and dying from, coronavirus. Although fewer than 1 in every 5,000 people aged under 50 who catch coronavirus will die from it, 1 in every 100 people in their late 60s and 1 in 50 people aged 80+ are likely to die if they catch it.
The other key risk factors for having the worst outcomes from coronavirus are sex – men have a higher risk than women – and having certain health conditions. The NHS has information on the main health conditions that put people at risk.
Coronavirus Christmas rules explained
From 23 December to 27 December, the coronavirus rules are changing, with each household able to form a 'Christmas bubble' with up to two other households.
Will anyone in the group have coronavirus?
It’s important to consider the chances that someone in the group will have caught coronavirus before the festive period and be infectious. Remember that you can have coronavirus, and be able to pass it on to others, while feeling well.
The 2 key things to think about when working out your risk of having caught coronavirus are:
- How many people in your local area, and the local areas of other members of your group, have coronavirus? If you live in an area with high rates of infection, it is more likely that you will have caught coronavirus. The tier that your local area is in gives an indication of this, and more detailed information about the number of people in every 100,000 people living in a local area who have coronavirus can be found here.
- Are you or other members of your group involved in activities, including work, which mean you have contact with lots of people? Or do you spend time in high risk places? The more people you have contact with, particularly if this is in high risk environments, the more likely it is that you will have caught coronavirus. High risk environments include indoor, unventilated places, where social distancing is difficult, people are not wearing masks, or where people are singing or shouting.
It may be possible for you and other members of your group to reduce your contacts with other people and your risky activities for the two weeks before the festive period to reduce the chances that you have caught coronavirus.
How risky are the festive activities you’re considering?
Many of our usual activities over the festive period involve spending long periods of time, inside, with lots of people. These are risky for passing on coronavirus, and so it may be worth considering alternative activities. For instance, your group may be able to meet outside for a walk rather than meeting in somebody’s home. If this isn’t possible, you could consider meeting online. If you do decide to meet in somebody’s home, consider keeping visits brief, not having too many people crowded together, avoiding hugging and kissing, and if you can keep warm enough, consider ventilating rooms where households are mixing for a few minutes every so often.
How important is getting together?
As well as thinking about the risk to you and others in your group of coronavirus if you do meet up, think about how much of a priority it is to meet each person. We have all spent a lot of time apart this year, and it may feel very important to take advantage of the easing of restrictions to be together. There may be isolated friends or family who it is very important to see, but if they are particularly at risk from coronavirus, consider the ways that you can minimise the risk to them.
Remember that you don’t need to join in with any activities that make you feel unsafe – friends and family should understand if you feel like joining in with what is being planned poses too great a risk to you or others.
Should we be celebrating the Christmas period differently?
Although the changes to guidance mean that we will be able to bubble with up to two other households, it is still likely that most of us won’t be celebrating the Christmas period in the way we are used to. In the lead up to Christmas we won’t be able to attend normal gatherings and larger families made up of multiple households won’t be able to meet up together in the normal way.
While this will be upsetting and disappointing for many people, it may help to think about different ways to stay in touch and celebrate. You could see about organising phone calls with the people you normally meet-up with, sending gifts or letters in the post, or having an online celebration or meal.