Northern Ireland reduces Christmas bubbling to one day

21 December 2020, 05:40

Northern Ireland has tightened Covid restrictions around Christmas
Northern Ireland has tightened Covid restrictions around Christmas. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

The Northern Ireland Executive has reduced the original five-day Christmas bubbling arrangements to just one day following concerns over rising Covid-19 cases across the UK.

The relaxation of the rules means that three households will no longer be able to gather between 23 and 27 December, and can instead only meet on Christmas Day.

The rules do however state that those working on Christmas Day are permitted to rearrange their bubbling day to another date that suits them.

Across the UK, people in Scotland, Wales and parts of England not in Tier 4 will only be allowed to mix with two other households on Christmas Day itself.

There will be no Christmas bubbling allowed in Tier 4 areas of England.

Stormont leaders made the decision during an emergency virtual executive meeting on Sunday evening in response to the new variant of coronavirus that has taken hold in London and the South East.

The Executive said: "The safest place for everyone to spend Christmas is in their own home and people are strongly advised to stay at home for Christmas.

"Those who feel they need to meet with their bubble should keep it as small as possible, as close to home as possible and keep the visit short."

Ministers also discussed introducing a temporary ban on travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland following a rise in cases and new strain of Covid being detected.

Sinn Fein supported the move, however the DUP position was that UK internal travel is already banned from Tier 4 areas in England, so there is no need for added legislation.

The party also said the responsibility for stopping flights and ferries within the UK is an issue for the UK government.

It is understood the NI Health Department is to seek further legal advice on the issue ahead of the executive resuming discussions on Monday.

On Sunday, Northern Ireland's Department of Health confirmed another 13 people with COVID-19 had died with Covid-19, bringing the death toll to 1,196.

A further 505 new cases of the virus were also reported.

There were 421 patients with COVID-19 in hospitals, including 30 in ICU.

The Northern Ireland Executive decided last week to impose a six-week lockdown from 26 December.

The new restrictions will include the shutting of all non-essential shops as well the closure of pubs, bars and restaurants apart from takeaway services.

The first week of the new lockdown will also see even stricter measures, with all sporting activity to be banned and essential shops told to close at 8pm.