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Coronavirus UK: What do the new Tier restrictions mean?

Almost all parts of England started life today under new coronavirus curbs with a ban on households mixing indoors and restrictions on hospitality.

Large swathes of the Midlands, North East and North West have been put in the most restrictive tier three, but London and much of the South are in tier two.

Some 23.3million people are under the most stringent restrictions, while 32million people are in the second tier after the national lockdown finished at midnight.

In tier two, the restrictions mean a ban on households mixing indoors and pubs, and restaurants only able to sell alcohol with a ‘substantial meal’.

Tier three measures mean a ban on households mixing, except in limited circumstances such as parks, with restaurants limited to takeaway or delivery.

Here, MailOnline answers some of the key questions about the new system, which has slightly different rules to the tiers imposed before the second lockdown:  

How do I find out what tier I’m in?

The Government launched a postcode checker here. It initially experienced technical problems and was removed last week, but is now back up and running.

You can also scroll down for our list of what areas are in tier two and three. The only areas in tier one are Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and the Isles of Scilly.

When did the restrictions take effect?

The national lockdown for England ended at 00.01am this morning, with the new tier restrictions coming into effect at that point. 

How often will the tier placings be reviewed?

The tiers will be reviewed every two weeks, with the first review coming up on December 16. 

The new tiers will go be announced on the following day, December 17, and take effect on December 19, which is the last Saturday before Christmas.

TIER 2 – HIGH ALERT

What does ‘tier two’ mean?

This means the area is on a ‘high alert’ for coronavirus, with the Government saying it shows it has a ‘higher or rapidly rising level of infections, where some additional restrictions need to be in place’.

Can I see my friends or family indoors?

No, unless they are in your household. You cannot socialise with anyone you do not live with or who is not in your support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place

Can I see my friends and family outdoors, including in gardens? 

Yes, with restrictions. You cannot socialise in a group of more than six people outside, including in a garden or a public space. This is called the ‘rule of six’.

Can I go the pub?

Yes, with restrictions. You can only inside a pub with your own household, and they are only allowed to serve alcohol with ‘substantial meals’.

You can go outside a pub with members of other households within the ‘rule of six’, but the same rules apply regarding alcohol.

What is a substantial meal?

There has been some doubt over the exact definition, with Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick suggesting last month that a Cornish pasty would only fall within the rules if it came on a plate with a salad or chips.

The widely-accepted definition is that it must be a proper meal, rather than crisps, nuts or other bar snacks.

Can I go to a restaurant?

Yes, with the same restrictions as above regarding where you can sit with members of other households. 

Can I go up to the bar at a pub or restaurant?

No. Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises are required to provide table service only, in premises which sell alcohol. 

Are nightclubs reopening?

No, nightclubs still remain closed by law. 

Is the curfew on pubs and restaurants still in place?

Yes, but it has been put back an hour. Now, hospitality venues serving alcohol must close between 11pm and 5am, and stop taking orders after 10pm.

Are there exemptions to the curfew? 

Yes, hospitality venues in airports, ports, transport services and motorway service areas are all exempt from the curfew.

Can you still get a takeaway after 10pm?

Yes. Hospitality businesses and venues selling food and drink for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is through delivery service, click-and-collect or drive-through.

Are other businesses also under the curfew?

Yes, the 11pm closure applies to casinos, cinemas, theatres, museums, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and bingo halls. 

Are there exemptions for cinemas and theatres with late shows?

Yes. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls can stay open beyond 11pm in order to conclude performances that start before 10pm.

Are there new capacity rules on audiences at events?

Yes. Public attendance at outdoor and indoor events is permitted, limited to whichever is lower: 50 per cent capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors

The City of London is surrounded by haze this morning. The capital will be in tier two next week

The City of London is surrounded by haze this morning. The capital will be in tier two next week

Can I go to watch live sport?

Yes. Public attendance at spectator sport and business events can resume inside and outside, subject to social contact rules and limited to whichever is lower: 50 per cent capacity, or either 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors.

Can I go to church?

Yes. Places of worship will be open but you cannot socialise with people from outside of your household or support bubble while you are indoors there, unless a legal exemption applies.

Are weddings back on?

Yes. Weddings can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees – 15 people can attend wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Are funerals still permitted?

Yes. Now 30 people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events such as wakes or stonesettings.

Can organised sport continue?

Yes. Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue.

What about organised indoor sport?

Yes, with restrictions. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes will only be permitted if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). 

There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.

Will gyms be open?

Yes.

Are there restrictions on travel?

Yes. The Government says you can travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.

Do the rules change if you travel to a tier one area?

No. If you live in a tier two area, you must continue to follow tier two rules when you travel to a tier one area. 

What about if you go to a tier three area?

The Government advises people to avoid travel to or overnight stays in tier three areas ‘other than where necessary’, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities.

It adds that people can travel through a tier three area as a part of a longer journey.

If moving between tiers, which rules do you follow?

You must follow the rules of the tier you are in, or the tier you are visiting – whichever is higher. 

Can you go abroad?

Yes, with exemptions. For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list.

What areas are in tier two?

Here is a full list of the areas in tier two, according to the Government website. 

East of England

  • Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
  • Cambridgeshire, including Peterborough
  • Essex, Thurrock and Southend on Sea
  • Hertfordshire
  • Norfolk
  • Suffolk

London

  • all 32 boroughs plus the City of London

South East

  • Bracknell Forest
  • Brighton and Hove
  • Buckinghamshire
  • East Sussex
  • Hampshire (except the Isle of Wight), Portsmouth and Southampton
  • Oxfordshire
  • Reading
  • Surrey
  • West Berkshire
  • West Sussex
  • Windsor and Maidenhead
  • Wokingham

North West 

  • Cumbria 
  • Liverpool City Region 
  • Warrington and Cheshire

South West

  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole
  • Devon
  • Dorset
  • Gloucestershire
  • South Somerset, Somerset West and Taunton, Mendip and Sedgemoor
  • Wiltshire and Swindon
  • West Midlands
  • Herefordshire
  • Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin
  • Worcestershire
  • Yorkshire
  • North Yorkshire
  • York

East Midlands 

  • Northamptonshire 
  • Rutland

TIER 3 – VERY HIGH ALERT

What does ‘tier three’ mean? 

This is a ‘very high’ alert level – the highest of the three-tier system – for areas with a very high or very rapidly rising level of infections, where tighter restrictions are in place. 

Can I see my friends or family indoors? 

No, unless they are in the same household. The rules for this are the same in tier two.

Can I see my friends and family outdoors?

Yes, but not in private gardens. You can only socialise in groups of up to six people in other outdoor public spaces, including parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, a public garden, grounds of a heritage site or castle, or a sports facility.

People out in Leeds today, before the city enters tier three next Wednesday after lockdown

People out in Leeds today, before the city enters tier three next Wednesday after lockdown

Can I go the pub or restaurant?

No. These all have to shut under law, except for takeaway. 

Can I get a takeaway?

Yes. Hospitality settings, such as pubs, cafes and restaurants are allowed to continue sales by takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery services.

Can I stay in a hotel?

No. Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close. There are several exemptions, such as for those who use these venues as their main residence, and those requiring the venues where it is ‘reasonably necessary for work or education and training’.

What venues have to stay shut?

The majority of entertainment and tourist venues must close, including:

  • indoor play centres and areas, including trampolining parks and soft play
  • casinos
  • bingo halls
  • bowling alleys
  • skating rinks
  • amusement arcades and adult gaming centres
  • laser quests and escape rooms
  • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
  • snooker halls

Can indoor attractions at outdoor venues stay open?

No. Indoor attractions at mostly outdoor entertainment venues must also close, although indoor shops, through-ways and public toilets at such attractions can remain open. 

This includes indoor attractions within: 

  • zoos, safari parks, and wildlife reserves
  • aquariums, visitor attractions at farms, and other animal attractions
  • model villages
  • museums, galleries and sculpture parks
  • botanical gardens, biomes or greenhouses
  • theme parks, circuses, fairgrounds and funfairs
  • visitor attractions at film studios, heritage sites such as castles and stately homes
  • landmarks including observation decks and viewing platforms

Can leisure and sports facilities stay open?

Yes, with restrictions. Group exercise classes including fitness and dance should not go ahead. Saunas and steam rooms should also close.

Can I attend a live sports event?

No. There should be no public attendance at spectator sport or indoor performances and large business events should not be taking place. However, elite sport events may continue to take place without spectators.

People walk through Birmingham today, before the region goes into tier three rules next week

People walk through Birmingham today, before the region goes into tier three rules next week

Can large outdoor events take place?

No. The likes of performances and shows should not take place, with the exception of drive-in events.

Can I still go to church?

Yes. Places of worship remain open, but you must not attend with or socialise with anyone outside of your household or support bubble while you are there, unless a legal exemption applies

Can a wedding take place? 

Yes. weddings can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees – 15 people can attend the ceremonies, and receptions are not allowed.

Can I go to a funeral?

Yes. Thirty people can attend funeral ceremonies, and 15 people can attend linked commemorative events

Can organised outdoor sport take place?

Yes. Organised outdoor sport, and physical activity and exercise classes can continue, however ‘higher-risk contact activity should not take place’.

Can indoor sport take place?

No. Organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes cannot take place indoors. 

There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s.

Can I still travel to places? 

Yes. You can continue to travel to venues or amenities which are open, but should ‘aim to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible’.

Can I go on holiday to other parts of Britain?

No. You should ‘avoid travelling to other parts of the UK’, including for overnight stays other than where necessary, such as for work, education, youth services, to receive medical treatment, or because of caring responsibilities. However, you can travel through other areas as part of a longer journey.

Can I go abroad?

Yes, with restrictions. For international travel see the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office travel advice for your destination and the travel corridors list. 

What areas are in tier three?

Here is a full list of the areas in tier three, according to the Government website. 

East Midlands

  • Derby and Derbyshire
  • Leicester and Leicestershire
  • Lincolnshire
  • Nottingham and Nottinghamshire

North East

  • North East Combined Authority:
  • County Durham
  • Gateshead
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • North Tyneside
  • Northumberland
  • South Tyneside
  • Sunderland
  • Tees Valley Combined Authority:
  • Darlington
  • Hartlepool
  • Middlesbrough
  • Redcar and Cleveland
  • Stockton-on-Tees

North West

  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Blackpool
  • Greater Manchester
  • Lancashire

South East

  • Kent and Medway
  • Slough (remainder of Berkshire is tier 2: High alert)

South West

  • Bristol
  • North Somerset
  • South Gloucestershire

West Midlands

  • Birmingham and Black Country
  • Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent
  • Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull

Yorkshire and The Humber

  • The Humber
  • South Yorkshire
  • West Yorkshire

GATHERING EXEMPTIONS FOR ALL TIERS 

Are there exemptions from gatherings limits in all tiers?

Yes, the following exemptions to the ‘rule of six’ apply below: 

  • as part of a single household, or a support bubble
  • for work or providing voluntary or charitable services, including in other people’s homes
  • for childcare, education or training – meaning education and training provided as part of a formal curriculum
  • for supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care (before and after-school childcare), groups and activities for under 18s, and children’s playgroups
  • for formal support groups, and parent and child groups – up to 15 people aged 5 and older
  • to allow contact between birth parents and children in care, as well as between siblings in care
  • for arrangements where children do not live in the same household as both their parents or guardians
  • for prospective adopting parents to meet a child or children who may be placed with them
  • for birth partners
  • to attend a funeral – with no more than 30 people present – or a commemorative event such as a wake for someone who has died – with no more than 15 people present
  • to see someone who is terminally ill or at the end of life
  • to attend a wedding or civil partnership – with no more than 15 people present
  • to provide emergency assistance
  • to avoid injury or illness, or to escape a risk of harm
  • to fulfil a legal obligation, such as attending court or jury service
  • to provide care or assistance to someone vulnerable or to provide respite for a carer
  • to facilitate moving home

CHRISTMAS 

As Britons plan their festive travel and look forward to spending time with their families after months apart, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas for many.

But questions remain over how busy trains will be and whether the roads will be jammed over the period when three households can bubble next month. 

People will be travelling across the country to be with their loved ones from December 23 to 27, with many having to decide which side of the family to visit.

And the roads and rails are therefore likely to be congested amid concerns of overcrowding and huge queues if everyone hits the network at the same time. 

The Department for Transport has appointed a Christmas travel tsar who will scrutinise whether rail, air and road networks are prepared for the surge in travel.

Meanwhile new guidance on Santa’s Grottos, carol singing and nativity plays has also revealed what to expect in the run up to Christmas in the coming weeks.

Here, MailOnline looks at the key questions from Christmas carols to train tickets, and from roadworks to Christmas bubbles: 

CHRISTMAS SERVICES, CAROLS AND GROTTOS 

Will carol singers be allowed this year?

Yes. Door-to-door carol singing can happen, but only in groups of six and while keeping at least two metres away from ‘the threshold of any dwellings’.

Participants are also expected to follow social distancing by staying at least two metres apart from anyone who is not from the same household.

Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, said the news that people can come together to sing outdoors over the festive season ‘will bring comfort and joy to many’.

This type of carol singing will not be allowed - participants must stand at least two metres from each other in groups of up to six. They must also stand at least two metres away from homes

This type of carol singing will not be allowed – participants must stand at least two metres from each other in groups of up to six. They must also stand at least two metres away from homes

Can you sing carols in church?

No, unless you are in a choir. Government guidance, published on Sunday to cover the Christmas period, allows indoor singing when England’s national lockdown ends on Wednesday, but only by choirs and with no audience participation.

Indoor singing by professional and amateur choirs can take place according to the particular area’s tier, but audiences or congregations are not to join in ‘any activity that can create aerosols, including singing, shouting and chanting’.

Those activities are known to increase the risk of virus transmission. For indoor choirs, the maximum number of people present ‘should take into account the area of the space and the requirement to maintain two-metre social distancing at all times’. 

Will normal church services resume again? 

Yes. Church services can take place again in all tiers from Wednesday. During the latest lockdown, places of worship have only been allowed to host private prayer. 

Can school nativity plans happen?

Yes, with restrictions. School nativity plays will be allowed to go ahead ‘within existing school bubbles’ and avoiding any mixing across groups.

Audiences will only be allowed to attend in Tier 1 and 2 areas – subject to ‘appropriate safeguards’. In Tier 3, schools are advised to use live-streaming or record the shows.

Santa Claus speaks to two-year-old Leo via live video stream in a UK virtual grotto experience

Santa Claus speaks to two-year-old Leo via live video stream in a UK virtual grotto experience

Can you take your child to a Santa’s grotto?

Yes. Santa’s grottos can open in all tiers – so long as they are in venues which are allowed to open and put in place Covid secure measures such as social distancing.

For people hoping to get in the festive mood by attending a Christmas market, the Government advises they must check the rules according to their tier.

It states: ‘The rules might be different for indoor shops and open air shops, such as Christmas markets or Christmas tree markets.’

TRAIN

Can I book tickets in advance?

Yes. Rail passengers are being urged to book ahead now amid fears of overcrowding with closures of some key stations and lines adding to the potential chaos.

When will trains be busiest? 

The crunch times could be around December 23 and 27, which are the start and end dates of the period when three households can bubble together for Christmas.

More than two million people normally travel by train in the week between December 25 and the first week of January, putting a significant strain on the system. 

Are tickets getting booked up?

Yes. For example, the cheapest LNER single on the morning of December 23 from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh is £74, but some trains are already sold out.

Those travelling from London Euston to Manchester on Avanti West Coast that morning can get a single for £30 if before 7am, but the price rises to £85 by 9.30am.

Some trains from Euston to Birmingham are already sold out, but more tickets will soon become available – and the Chiltern route from Marylebone is as little as £6.40.

On the same morning travelling from London Paddington to Cardiff the cheapest Great Western Railway single is £35.40, with decent availability on most trains.

Do you have to book an advance ticket?

Yes, but only on some lines. LNER, which runs from London King’s Cross to Leeds, Edinburgh and Newcastle, will only allow people to travel with a seat reservation.

Passengers wait for a train at London Waterloo railway station on Christmas Eve in 2013

Passengers wait for a train at London Waterloo railway station on Christmas Eve in 2013

Could tickets drop in price?

Yes. Operators have said more advance tickets will soon be available, and the Rail Delivery Group has advised people to keep checking and sign up for notifications.

Avanti West Coast, which runs trains from London Euston to Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester, is releasing more advance fares from tomorrow (December 1).

Are advance tickets being released later than normal?

Yes. Cheaper advance tickets are normally available 12 weeks in advance, but operators say they have been delayed due to short-notice timetable changes.

Are there ways to make your fare cheaper?

Yes. Consider whether you are eligible for a railcard such as a 16-25, 26-30, Two Together, Senior, Disabled, Family and Friends, Network or Veterans for a third off.

Also look at whether it is cheaper to ‘split’ tickets on the route – that is to split your journey route into different sections and buy individual tickets for the same journey.

This is a legal method as long as the train calls at each of the stations on your tickets. For example, if travelling from London to Newcastle and the train stops at York, you could split the fare by buying a single from London to York, and York to Newcastle.

You could also consider whether it is cheaper to travel at unusual times such as before the morning rush hour or late at night, when fares tend to be much cheaper. 

Are peak fares being suspended?

Yes, on some routes. Avanti is suspending peak fares between December 18 and 31, meaning a London to Manchester flexible peak fare will be £64.40 instead of £180.

Labour and Transport Focus are calling for a temporary suspension of peak fares across all lines in the UK as part of a wider package to help people travel safely.

Will there be Christmas engineering works too?

Yes. Most of the network has now been cleared of engineering works, but there will still be some closures taking place from December 23 to January 4.

King’s Cross will be shut for six days from Christmas Day, while there will also be a reduced service between Clapham Junction and Waterloo from Boxing Day.

LNER, which uses King’s Cross station for the East Coast Main Line, has warned that alternative routes will be ‘very busy and should also be avoided’. 

LNER has issued the above timetable for when people cannot travel to and from King's Cross

LNER has issued the above timetable for when people cannot travel to and from King’s Cross 

Will trains run on Christmas Day?

No. There will be no train services running on Christmas Day, as is standard each year. However there will be some coach services running (see below).

Will trains run on Boxing Day?

Mostly no, with some exceptions. Only limited services will operate. There will be no services at London King’s Cross, Euston, Liverpool Street, Waterloo or St Pancras. 

There will be no c2c, LNER, London Northwestern, South Western, East Midlands, Great Western, West Midlands, CrossCounty, TransPennine Express or Thameslink.

However, there will be Stansted Express services but only from Tottenham Hale every half-hour. The Heathrow Express will also run to and from London Paddington.

Are the Tubes running over Christmas?

Yes, but not on Christmas Day. The London Underground will operate a Saturday service on Christmas Eve, which will be reduced at 8pm and finish at Sunday times.

On Boxing Day, reduced services start from 7am, but there will be no service on sections of the Piccadilly and District lines and much of the London Overground.

Are trains running over the New Year’s period?

Yes. New Year’s Eve trains will be operating on most lines, but the last train may be earlier than usual. Trains on New Year’s Day may start running slightly later too.

COACHES

Are coach operators increasing their services?

Yes. Coaches will have a role to play in moving people around the country because trains are likely to struggle with demand.

National Express said it will increase its services after seeing a ‘significant’ increase in website traffic after the Government announced its Christmas bubble rules.

But it added that this is still a reduced service with this year’s timetable for Christmas Day covering only around half of the locations compared with last year.

Megabus said it had seen a rise in bookings in recent days with demand expected to grow more, with extra seats put on to help the university exodus from this Thursday.

Will coaches run on Christmas Day?

Yes. Both National Express and Megabus will have services on Christmas Day.

Are tickets cheaper than the train?

Yes, in many cases. The cheapest National Express ticket from London to Newcastle on the morning of December 23 is £38.80. The cheapest train ticket on LNER is £71.

From London to Cardiff it is £28 on the coach, or £35.40 on the train. However London to Birmingham is £22 on the coach, but just £6.40 on the train with Chiltern.

Have ticket restrictions been relaxed?

Yes. National Express have changed terms and conditions on restricted tickets so customers can now get one free change. They can get a refund on a standard ticket.

The National Express route map shows where the operator runs coach services across Britain

The National Express route map shows where the operator runs coach services across Britain

ROADS  

Will the roads be busy?

Yes. The roads are expected to be busy over the Christmas period as many people shun public transport over fears of catching Covid-19 on overcrowded trains.

To enable to rush to the roads, there are likely to be fewer roadworks than normal – with 500 miles of them cleared on motorways and A-roads to ease congestion.

The RAC has said its breakdown team expects the roads to be busy during the five-day period of December 23 to 27, but it is still unsure quite how busy they will be. 

Will roadworks be lifted for longer than the five-day period?

Yes. Highways England has said the ‘current plan’ is to remove ‘non-essential’ roadworks from December 20 this year to January 4 next year.

Are there doubts over how congested it will be?

Yes. The AA has said it is not ‘overly concerned’ about traffic congestion, with a poll finding two-fifths of drivers had already cancelled festive travel plans.

Does the Congestion Charge operate on Christmas Day?

No, the Central London Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone do not operate on Christmas Day only. But they are back in operation from Boxing Day.

FLIGHTS 

Are UK flights running over Christmas?

Yes. EasyJet has already seen a 200 per cent surge in flight and holiday searches in the days after the Government’s announcement on Christmas bubbles last week.

The most popular routes included London and Bristol to Belfast, and London to Edinburgh, with the carrier saying it has increased seats on some of its UK routes.

EasyJet will still be running only a fifth of its normal flight schedule over this winter, with other airlines such as Ryanair and British Airways also reducing timetables.

BA has also seen in increasing in people searching for flights and holidays on its website and has insisted it will put on larger aircraft where possible if needed.

Irish airline Aer Lingus will be operating a ‘much-reduced schedule’ due to a ‘lack of demand’ for air travel, but it has put on extra capacity on the Dublin-Heathrow route.

Are ticket prices expensive?

Yes. The cheapest London to Belfast single on the morning of December 23 is £164 via Stansted with easyJet. The cheapest London-Dublin single is £79 with Ryanair.

The cheapest London to Edinburgh single on the morning of December 23 is £78 from Luton via easyJet – which is roughly the same price as the LNER train that day.

CHRISTMAS BUBBLE RULES 

Plans revealed last week to allow people to form a temporary bubble over the festive season were welcome news to families across the country.

But how much do we know about what is being proposed? Here, are some key questions based on information released by the Cabinet Office for England:

What is a Christmas bubble and when can I join one?

People will be allowed to form an exclusive Christmas bubble made up of people from no more than three households between December 23 and 27.

This rule applies across the whole of the UK.

Christmas bubbles can only meet in private homes and gardens, places of worship and public outdoor spaces.

Can I be in more than one Christmas bubble?

No. Christmas bubbles will be fixed for the period they are permitted.

You are also not allowed to change your Christmas bubble once it is formed.

Is there a limit to how many people can be in a Christmas bubble?

The Cabinet Office guidance only stipulates that the bubble should not include people from more than three households.

However, it highlights that the more people someone sees, the more likely they are to catch or spread Covid-19, and asks the public to be mindful of risks before agreeing to form a bubble.

The Scottish Government said people should keep the numbers within a bubble as low as possible and minimise the length of contact between different households in the bubble.

Will we have to social distance within Christmas bubbles?

Social distancing will not be necessary in bubbles, but people will be advised to exercise restraint and judgment if they plan to mix with vulnerable friends or family.

It means friends and family will have the chance to hug for the first time in months.

What happens if I’m self-isolating?

If you have Covid symptoms or are required to self-isolate then you must not join a Christmas bubble.

If someone in a Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops symptoms between December 23 and 27, or up to 48 hours after the bubble last met, then all bubble members must self-isolate.

Can I be in a different Christmas bubble from people I normally live with?

Cabinet Office guidance says you can choose to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally.

To prevent virus transmission within your normal household and between bubbles, people should try to stay with another member of their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27 where possible.

Extra precautions such as cleaning surfaces and door handles and letting in fresh air after someone has visited your household are also advised.

However, the Scottish Government has said that ‘different people in a household should not pick their own bubble’. 

Can I still meet people outside of my Christmas bubble?

You will be able to meet people not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.

The tier system of restrictions applies to England, with rules in other parts of the UK varying.

Can I stay overnight with my Christmas bubble?

Yes. If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes and stay overnight, including in private rented accommodation.

Can I travel through different areas and across borders to join a Christmas bubble?

Yes. You are allowed to travel between England’s tiers and the four nations of the UK to meet your Christmas bubble.

When am I allowed to travel to and from my Christmas bubble?

You should only travel to meet your bubble and return home between December 23 and 27.

For those heading to or from Northern Ireland, they may travel on December 22 and 28 December, but should only meet their Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27.

Travel outside these periods is only allowed in exceptional circumstances, for example if your are required to self-isolate.

People are advised to avoid unnecessary stops on their journey and not to share a car with people not in their household.

If crossing borders, travellers should read the local coronavirus guidance as different rules may apply.

Does my support bubble count as one household still?

According to the Cabinet Office, existing support bubbles will count as one household contributing to the three household Christmas bubble limit.

A support bubble in England is defined as a support network between a single adult household, or a one adult household with one or more people aged under 18 on June 12, and one other household of any size.

Rules on household bubbles are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with full Christmas guidance still pending from those nations.

Can childcare bubbles continue?

In England, a childcare bubble is where one household links with one other household to provide informal childcare to children aged 13 or under.

Between December 23 and 27 you can continue to use a childcare bubble but ‘only if reasonably necessary’ and ‘where there are no reasonable alternatives’, Cabinet Office guidance states.

If meeting socially during this period, the two households should form a Christmas bubble, with one further household permitted to join the grouping.

Again, guidance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may differ.

What happens to children whose parents are separated?

Children who are aged under 18 can be part of both their parents’ Christmas bubbles if the adults do not live together and separate groupings are formed.

Nobody else is allowed to be in two bubbles.

Can care home residents join Christmas bubbles?

In England, visits outside of care homes should only be considered for residents ‘of working age’.

A care home resident that is allowed to leave, subject to a home’s agreement and individual risk assessments, may form a bubble with one other household only and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.

If a care home resident does join a household for Christmas they should maintain social distance and take steps to minimise risks.

Can students returning from university join Christmas bubbles?

Students heading home for the holidays will be considered part of the household they return to.

Can I form a Christmas bubble if I am clinically extremely vulnerable?

Yes, but people are warned this involves greater risks.

If someone decides to join a bubble they should take extra precautions, while others within the group should be extra vigilant in the days before getting together.

Can my bubble have Christmas dinner together at the pub?

No. Under the rules Christmas bubbles cannot meet up at indoor settings such as pubs, hotels, retail businesses, theatres or restaurants.

In England, rules on who you can and cannot meet will still depend on which tier of restrictions a venue is in.

Should I follow the rules of the tier I travel to or the tier I’ve come from when forming my Christmas bubble?

In England, if travelling to join your bubble you should follow the tier rules of your destination.

In Scotland, you must stay with your bubble where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in.

For example, people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area.

Can I stay in a hotel during Christmas?

In England, you can stay in a hotel during the Christmas period, including in a tier three area, but only on your own or with members of your household.

How will the Christmas rules be enforced?

No specific details have been released over how authorities might enforce the newly announced rules during the festive period.

Will we face tougher restrictions in January to make up for this?

We do not yet know. It has been speculated that a further circuit-breaker might be needed in January or February if transmission rates rise during Christmas.

The Prime Minister has urged families to still be ‘jolly careful’, warning against ‘a big blowout Christmas’ that could risk another lockdown in January.

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