As noted in the Government's Covid-19 Winter Plan, Christmas is an important time of year for many people, all across the UK. Regardless of faith, the Christmas period is a time often spent with family and friends, with schools and offices closing and people travelling over the bank holidays. The fact that this has been a difficult year for everyone means that time with loved ones will be even more important. For this reason the Government is considering carefully how to balance the increased risk of transmission while allowing some increased social contact for everyone, supported by guidance on how to celebrate safely, over the Christmas period.
On Tuesday 24th November, agreement was reached on a single set of UK-wide coronavirus measures to allow family and friends to see each other over Christmas.
This cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas. But as we approach the festive period, we have been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if it is for a short time, and recognising that it must be both limited and cautious.
The UK Government and Devolved Administrations have agreed that:
- Travel restrictions across the four administrations and between tiers will be lifted to provide a window for households to come together between the 23rd and 27th of December.
- Up to three households can form an exclusive ‘bubble’ to meet at home during this period. When a bubble is formed it is fixed, and must not be changed or extended further at any point.
- Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout this period.
I am sure that many of you in Brentwood and Ongar have already begun making plans, and this agreement provides clarity to help people make the right choices for them, and enjoy time with those closest to them while staying within the rules to protect us all. Even where it is within the rules, meeting with friends and family over Christmas will be a personal judgement for individuals to take, mindful of the risks to themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable.
Further guidance available on gov.uk. This sets out how to form a Christmas bubble, and the steps the public should take to ensure that they meet friends and family - within or outside a Christmas bubble - as safely as possible during the festive period.
For updated information on the potential vaccines, please take a look at the following article here.
What is a Christmas 'Bubble'?
Each household across the UK can form one exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ with up to two other households. In England, existing support bubbles will count as one household.
How long does the Christmas 'window' last?
People can meet with their Christmas bubble any time in the window from 23 to 27 December. During this period, travel is permitted between tiers and between nations for the purposes of joining a Christmas bubble. People coming to or from Northern Ireland will be permitted to travel a day either side of 23-27 December. Importantly, existing local restrictions on contact outside the home will remain in place. It is essential that everyone follows the rules of the country they stay in across the different parts of the UK.
What can I do once I form a Christmas 'Bubble'?
Time can be spent with a Christmas bubble in private homes (including gardens), in places of worship, or in outdoor public places.
What about care home residents?
Spending time with others outside the care home will increase risk of exposure to coronavirus for the resident and the other residents in their home on their return. Given this, visits out of care homes should only be considered for care home residents of working age. A care home resident may form a bubble with one other household and should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point. Residents, their families and care homes should very carefully consider whether this is the right thing to do, or whether visiting at the care home would provide meaningful contact in a safer way.
Members of the bubble should talk to the care home about getting tested prior to meeting the resident. In order to return safely to the home, the resident will need to be tested and isolated.
More information can be found on the following article here, which is being updated regularly.
What about the vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable?
Everyone must continue to take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and protect our loved ones. For someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, forming a Christmas bubble carries additional risks but it is a personal choice. These people should take all precautions, including maintaining social distance from those they don’t don’t live with at all times, and consider seeing their bubble outside where the risks are lower.
Do university students count as a separate household when they return?
College and University students who have moved home from university for the holidays will be counted as part of their family’s household.
Will hotels be open in Tier 3 areas?
In England, hotels and other accommodation will be able to open in Tier 3 areas (where they are otherwise required to close) for the period 23-27 December, enabling people to stay near the other members of their Christmas bubble where necessary.