UK governments announce 'Christmas bubbles' plan to let three households meet

Michael Gove says plan will allow people to meet up ‘in a limited and cautious way across the UK should they wish’
A person wearing a face mask passes a Christmas tree at Covent Garden. Photo: PA

By John Johnston

25 Nov 2020

Ministers have announced a new 'Christmas bubble' plan to allow up to three families to meet together for five days during the festive period.

The new scheme will run from 23 December to 27 December with no cap on the limit of people allowed to meet together in their homes over Christmas.

The plans, agreed with the leaders of all four nations of the UK, will allow people to travel freely across the country, even if their home is in the highest tier of coronavirus restrictions.

Ministers said those travelling in and out of Northern Ireland will be given an extra day at each side.

Families in the so-called 'Christmas bubbles' will also be able to gather together in outdoor hospitality venues and attend places of worship, but will continue to be banned from meeting together in pubs and bars.

The Christmas relaxation, which was signed off at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, will allow those already in a support bubble to class themselves as a single household, meaning they can pair up with two other households during the five day period.

Once a bubble is formed it must remain "fixed", with Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon saying: "You can't see two households one day, and another two households the next day."

The newly announced guidance also allows for those living in shared households in England to return home but means that families with more than three people living in other households will not all be able to join the same bubble.

Meanwhile, university students returning to their homes will be classed as being part of the same household to which they returned, meaning those families can still form a Christmas bubble with two others.

And in a bid to reduce infections, the guidance urges people to isolate as much as possible for the two weeks leading up to the start of the new rules.

Speaking after the meeting, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said: "The UK-wide agreement reached today will offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year.

"We know that the Christmas period this year will not be normal, but following constructive discussions between the UK government and the devolved administrations, families and friends will now have the option to meet up in a limited and cautious way across the UK should they wish.

"In coming to this agreement, we have listened to scientific and clinical advice on how best to minimise the risk and reach a balanced and workable set of rules that we hope will allow people to spend time together at this important time of year.”

Speaking on Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said the "time-limited dispensation" would give families the opportunity to meet over the festive period, but insisted they would not "throw caution to the wind".

It is expected that regions will return back into the same tiers that they were previously in once the Christmas rules end on 27 December.

John Johnston is a reporter for CSW's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story first appeared.

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