Three households allowed to celebrate Christmas together under new UK rules

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Families from three households will be able to celebrate Christmas together across the UK.

Three households will be able to bubble together between December 23 and 27 inclusive, in a festive relaxation of the coronavirus rules, the Government has confirmed.

The five-day Christmas exemption will supersede the new tier restrictions coming in on December 2, which ban households from mixing indoors in Tier 2 and 3 areas.

The rules allow families to travel across the whole of the UK during this period, regardless of the tier they live in.

The new rules will apply in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – all of which are currently under separate coronavirus restrictions. However there are some variations per nation.

People can form a fixed bubble with two other households, which cannot change during the Christmas period.

In England, if you already have a support bubble – such as an elderly relative or an adult child living nearly – this still counts as part of one household.

People will get a five-day window to see their loved ones over the festive period
(Image: Getty Images)

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You can stay overnight with those in your "Christmas bubble" and gather in private homes.

Families will be allowed to go to places of worship and outdoor spaces together but trips to the pub or restaurants in your bubble are banned.

The rules allow you to meet people not in your bubble outside your home, as long as its in line with the rules in your area.

In England, people living in house shares can go off to see their families separately or couples can split to visit their parents over the five-day window.

If someone leaves the bubble to return home then they must stay at home.

Students travelling back from university during the window at the beginning of December will be considered part of their parents' household – allowing larger families more flexibility if older children live away from home.

New rules will be in place to allow people to spend Christmas with family
(Image: Getty Images)

People going home to Northern Ireland are given an extra day on either side – December 22-28 – to allow for travel.

The plans were approved by leaders of all UK nations at a COBRA meeting on Tuesday afternoon, led by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove.

Mr 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.”

It comes after Boris Johnson admitted there would be risks to allowing people to gather over the Christmas period, saying it is the "season to be jolly careful".

However ministers were determined to give families the chance to meet up after months of restrictions.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned Brits of the prospect of transport chaos, if everyone tries to get trains in the short window.

He warned services could be limited due to engineering works and the need to maintain social distancing on the railways.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We have got to understand there are limitations to the (rail) network caused by, for example, things like the need on some trains to pre-book tickets at this time, in order to prevent overcrowding.

"So we are going to be appealing to people to look very carefully at the transport route they take.

“And of course even making a choice about whether they travel at all."

People in England will find out which tier they are being placed in once the lockdown ends on Thursday. 

More regions than before the lockdown are expected to face Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions, with tougher rules for hospitality in the areas with high infection rates.

In Tier 2, alcohol can only be consumed with a "substantial meal" while in Tier 3 pubs and restaurants will only be able to offer takeaway or delivery services.

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