What are the coronavirus rules this Christmas?
On 25 December households in tiers 1, 2 or 3 will be able to form a 'Christmas bubble'. This bubble allows you to join up to two other households just on Christmas day, but the Government has strongly advised that you think carefully about whether this is necessary.
If you do decide to spend time on Christmas day with up to two other households, you can't change them. Your bubble remains the same throughout the day. For example, you can't spend Christmas morning with two households and then the evening with two different households.
Under the Christmas rules you can do the following things with your Christmas bubble:
- You can spend time in someone from your bubble’s home.
- You can spend time in someone from your bubble’s garden.
- You can go to a place of worship such as a church with your Christmas bubble.
- Spend time in public outdoor spaces or at outdoor events.
The rules for hospitality venues and who you can visit them with will not change during this time so you should continue to follow the guidance on visiting these venues based on the tiered guidance. You can find the tier guidance here
If you have symptoms, the rules don't change
If you have coronavirus symptoms then the rules don't change – you should still get tested and self-isolate. You shouldn't be part of a Christmas bubble if you have symptoms.
Are the rules the same for all three tiers?
No, the rules depend on your local alert level. The rules for Christmas only apply to those in Tiers 1, 2 and 3. If you're in Tier 4 you won't be able to form a Christmas bubble or travel outside your local area this festive season.
Why have the rules changed?
The Government announced updated rules on 19 December. Previously people could form Christmas bubbles in all tiers and the rules applied from 23 December to 27 December.
The new rules only apply to people in tiers 1, 2 or 3 and for one day on 25 December. If you’ve made plans for the festive season, you should check whether they can still go ahead and think about what changes you will need to make.
The Government has updated the rules in response to rising cases in parts of the country.
I'm already in a support bubble or childcare bubble. Will this affect my Christmas bubble?
If you're already part of a support bubble then you and the people in this bubble will count as one household and can meet with up to two other households.
However, if you're in a childcare bubble, you and the others in this bubble will count as separate households if you're in the same Christmas bubble and will still be limited to a maximum of three households.
Can I see people that aren't in my Christmas bubble?
You can't spend time indoors with anyone that isn't in your Christmas bubble but you can meet up with others outside in public spaces.
However, this has to be done in line with the guidance in your local area. You can find more information about tiers and your local alert level here.
Can I travel to form a Christmas bubble?
You can travel to form your Christmas bubble. However, the Government are advising people to remain local and to avoid travelling from higher to lower tiers where possible.
If you are travelling, you should plan this carefully and book ahead. You can only socialise with a Christmas bubble on 25 December, this includes travelling with anyone who isn't in your household or support bubble. For the rest of the Christmas period, the normal rules for your tier will apply.
Can I stay overnight during the Christmas period?
You can't stay overnight with your Christmas bubble.
You may be able to stay overnight away from home with members of your household or support bubble, for example in a hotel or private rented accommodation. However, you can only do this if it's allowed in your tier. You can find more information about tiers and your local alert level here.
How can I avoid catching coronavirus this Christmas?
As the lockdown measures are eased for the day there is an increased risk of the virus spreading. So, before forming a Christmas bubble, it's important to think through the risks and what you can do to stay as safe as possible.
So what can you do to help reduce the risk?
- You, and the people in your Christmas bubble, should do what they can to reduce their exposure to coronavirus in the two weeks leading up to 25 December. This means avoiding busier places and limiting who you see – no matter what tier you're in.
- Also, limit who you spend time with after 25 December to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading after Christmas.
- Where you are spending time with others, you may want to consider keeping it shorter and avoiding staying overnight.
- Although 3 households are allowed to meet, keeping the total number of people low will reduce the risk of transmission.
- Keep washing your hands regularly and avoid sharing food and drinks.
- If you're spending time indoors, keep the space as well ventilated as possible by opening doors and windows – it’s better to have the windows open and the woolly jumpers on if you can!
- You should also continue to keep your distance, try to ensure people are as spaced out as possible.
Can I form a Christmas bubble if I'm extremely clinically vulnerable?
Everyone can form a Christmas bubble, even if you're extremely clinically vulnerable. However, doing so might carry a higher risk. It's a good idea to think about the possible risks and what out what's best for you. This is a personal decision, and you should only do what you feel comfortable with.
If you do decide to form a Christmas bubble, you may decide to limit the number of people you spend time with and consider meeting up with just one other household instead of two. Or you may want to join up with smaller households rather than households with large numbers of people. The fewer people you interact with, the lower your risk of catching coronavirus.
You might also want to consider who's in your bubble and how likely they are to have come into contact with the virus in the run up to Christmas. For example, people with public-facing jobs or those who have had a lot of social contact in the two weeks before may be at higher risk of spreading the virus.
When spending time with those in your Christmas bubble you should try to socially distance and avoid physical contact. Everyone should make sure they wash their hands regularly and wipe down surfaces that are touched regularly, such as surfaces and door handles. You should also keep the space ventilated where possible by opening doors and windows – just keep an eye on the temperature. If it would make you more comfortable, you and those in your Christmas bubble could wear face coverings.
You might also want to consider meeting people outdoors rather than seeing them inside. Or keeping visits short – spending a few hours together is much less of a risk than spending several days in each other’s company
My relative is in a care home. Can they be part of a Christmas bubble?
Government guidance outlines that only those of working age (under State Pension age) in a care home can consider leaving their care home to be part of a Christmas bubble. This will also need to be agreed by the care home who should undertake an individual risk assessment. More information can be found here.
This bubble must only be formed with one household outside of the care home (or a bubble that includes a household attached to a support bubble).
For a visit to take place the following things must take place:
- All members of the household hosting the visit must have a negative coronavirus test immediately before the visit takes place – for example when the household collect the resident from the care home.
- The care home resident must have a negative coronavirus test immediately before their visit out of the care home. If the result is positive, the visit shouldn't take place.
If someone living in a care home does form a Christmas bubble, they should continue to socially distance, even with the other households in their bubble. The other people in the bubble should also take steps to reduce their exposure to coronavirus in the two weeks before 25 December and talk to their care home about testing.
On their return to the care home the person will have to be tested and self-isolate.
If it's not possible for your relative to leave their care home and become part of your Christmas bubble, it's advisable to speak to the care home about what other options may be available.
A Christmas bubble isn't for everyone
Everyone will feel comfortable doing different things during this period. There are some questions you should think about when planning this Christmas.