Covid lockdown restrictions are expected to be relaxed for a short period over Christmas, to allow a limited level of mixing between households across the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced details of a stricter new three tier lockdown system for England on Monday (23 November), and said Christmas will not be normal this year.
This system will take effect when the national lockdown comes to an end on 2 December.
What will be allowed?
The government is working on a plan for managing Covid at Christmas, but this is yet to be confirmed.
Reports so far indicate that households are expected to be allowed to meet up in so-called “festive bubbles” for Christmas, as lockdown rules will be paused for five days.
On 22 November, ministers confirmed a major breakthrough, with administrations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, agreeing to a joint approach for the festive period.
It is expected that up to three households will be able to come together to celebrate Christmas indoors, subject to final agreement with the devolved nations. It is hoped that these festive bubbles will be able to go out for Christmas meals together, provided they do not mingle with other households.
Plans suggest that households will be allowed to create a temporary bubble between 22 and 28 December, with the plans covering all four nations of the UK.
Restrictions on church services are also due to be lifted, allowing Christmas Day services to be held.
A different Christmas to normal
While the plans for Christmas have yet to be officially set out, ministers have made clear that this year’s festive season will be different to normal.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove held discussions on 22 November with leaders from the devolved nations, discussing shared arrangements for the Christmas period.
The ministers “endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days.”
However, the public are advised to “remain cautious,” and - wherever possible - should avoid travelling, and minimise social contact with others.
The Cabinet Office said talks are still ongoing to finalise the agreement, including over travel arrangements, but it is hoped a conclusion will be established “this week.”