What are the rules for the festive period?

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Chad Madden/Unsplash
Chad Madden/Unsplash

The government has outlined new COVID-19 measures for when the current four-week lockdown ends on 2 December, including how people will be able to gather this Christmas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday announced that a tougher version of the tier system in England will be put in place from 2 December. In tier one (medium alert), people should work from home as far as possible. In tier two (high alert), alcohol must only be served with “substantial meals” in hospitality settings. In tier three (very high alert), all forms of hospitality, except delivery and takeaways, must close.

In tiers where pubs and restaurants can open, they will have to stop service at 10pm, although customers will be allowed to finish up until 11pm.

In all parts of England, non-essential shops and gyms will be able to reopen, and outdoor sports will be able to resume.

The PM also announced the deployment of more rapid turnaround tests. Mass testing will be provided to local authorities for a six-week period in tier three areas.

Students are encouraged to take two tests, three days apart, before travelling home for the holidays within a “travel window” previously outlined by the government and adopted by universities.

The government has today announded UK-wide plans for family gatherings at Christmas.

From 23-27 December (with an extra travel day on each side for Northern Ireland), travel restrictions will be lifted, and up to three households (two in Wales), excluding over-65s in care homes, will be able to mix indoors together in Christmas bubbles. People can also meet people outside their Christmas bubble, observing the rules of their region’s tier.

Update: As of 19 December, people in tier four (stay at home) areas will not be able to form Christmas bubbles, which will only be able to meet on Christmas Day.

Individuals from shared households can split up and join different households for the period.

The bubbles can meet in homes, outdoor public spaces, and places of worship but not in hospitality settings.

Nevertheless, the government is urging people to be careful about gatherings and consider the health of friends and family.

Vaccines are coming ever closer to being approved and licensed, including those from Pfzifer, Moderna, and Oxford University with AstraZeneca. The government has already ordered over 350 million doses.

More information on the new rules for each tier can be found on the government’s website, alongside details on Christmas bubbles.

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