Covid 19: What are the current Christmas coronavirus rules?

16 December 2020, 09:20 | Updated: 16 December 2020, 09:48

LBC explains the rules around the current Christmas rules
LBC explains the rules around the current Christmas rules. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

With many people concerned over Christmas, LBC explains the rules around the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.

There is still some uncertainty over whether families will be able to enjoy Christmas with their loved ones this year, as concerns continue over rising coronavirus cases.

With talk of changes to the rules around household mixing during Christmas, LBC looks at what the current rules are for those in England.

Here's everything you need to know.

Is Christmas cancelled?

Not currently.

The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed a joint plan to allow a five-day "Christmas window" from December 23 to 27.

Read more: Robert Jenrick - Christmas mixing laws unlikely to change but use 'good judgement'

On Wednesday Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told LBC that while it was unlikely the rules would change that people should use "good judgement."

What does that mean?

During that period families will be able to form larger Christmas support bubbles of between up to three households.

Read more: Christmas Covid talks continue as PM urged to rethink rules

Those within bubbles will be able to share Christmas dinner inside and even hug one another, as long as it takes place in a private home.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) says the system is a "sensible and proportionate" way to enable people to spend time with their loved ones during the festive period.

Watch: Top medical journalist explains why PM must scrap Christmas rules

Watch: Eddie Mair challenges Tory MP over 'nonsensical' Christmas relaxation

So Christmas will be like normal then?

No. The relaxation does not mean all the rules have been scrapped. Tiered restrictions will still apply, the DHSC said.

For example, hospitality venues in Tier 3 areas will not be open for business during this period.

Stephen Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the system offered people "flexibility" to see their families but that it was not a case of "letting people loose".

But he urged families to do the "minimum possible," when he spoke to LBC's Nick Ferrari.

Read more: 'New variant' of coronavirus identified in UK, Hancock says

Do we... have to see our families?

The relaxed rules are not mandatory and ministers have stressed that people should take "personal" decisions as to whether or not they go to see family members, especially if they are vulnerable.

David Nabarro, a World Health Organisation special envoy working on Covid-19, has urged people to think of alternatives to family get-togethers this year.

The Government has said that people will not be "criminalised" for seeing family during the festive period, acknowledging it will be important for the mental health of many.

But the emphasis has been placed on people doing "the minimum possible", and if you'd rather not, then don't.

To those considering taking extra precautions, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: "You're not being Grinch at all. I think what you're doing is following the science."

Can I still do my Christmas shopping?

Even in areas with Tier 3 restrictions, non-essential retailers will stay open so you can still grab last-minute gifts.

However, people are being encouraged to be careful and "compliant" with Covid-secure rules when out at the shops and to shop locally or online if possible.

Are the rules likely to change?

Downing Street has insisted there are no plans to change the "Christmas bubble" policy despite some concerns.

However, Mr Barclay reiterated to LBC "all things were kept under review".

What do experts think?

Two top medical journals have called for the Government to call off its "rash" decision.

In a rare joint editorial, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal said the Government "is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives".

They added that the Government had been too slow to introduce restrictions in the spring and again in the autumn, and restrictions were needed over Christmas ahead of a "likely third wave."