What exactly are the ‘Christmas bubbles’, and what are the festive rules right now?

Nevertheless, the PM Boris Johnson today warned that while he wished the nation ‘a merry little Christmas,’ it should be a ‘very little Christmas’ suggesting that we should even wait to see elderly relatives until they have been vaccinated.

While the rules won’t become any more strict as a result of the review, the onus is very much on us about how much interaction we have during the five-day window and who that’s with.

It’s official, the Christmas Covid rules that were announced at the end of November are staying the same for England after a review by the Prime Minister today.

Under the relaxed rules, up to three households can ‘bubble up’ for a period of five days to enjoy the festive period together, regardless of the tier restrictions currently in place in their local area.

Last month, news of the Christmas bubble system felt like a relief for some. Finally, some respite from the social isolation and rigid restrictions, with the possibility of some festive food, presents and good company. It would be good for both our mental and physical health, they said.

For others, the family politics of committing to a limited bubble meant it would just be kinder to spend Christmas alone this year.

Now though, as Covid-19 cases remain high, it’s raised fresh debate about the health implications of relaxing the rules. Earlier this week, the Christmas bubble system was said to be ‘in limbo’ after medical experts said that it could ‘cost many lives’ and the latest decision to stick with it in England is still being heavily criticised by scientists.

As it stands, here’s what the Christmas bubble rules mean for England, covering everything from overnight stays to breaking up with your bubble.

What is a Christmas bubble?

Between 23-27 December, people from across the UK can form a ‘Christmas bubble’ where they can spend time indoors with up to two other households.

A Christmas bubble can be formed of no more than three households and even though there is no limitation on numbers, under current restrictions, we are advised to keep our Christmas bubbles as small as possible and in the latest development, it is recommended that we do not see our bubble for the full five days.

How many Christmas bubbles can I be a part of?

Just one – and you can’t break up with your bubble and join another at any time.

Can I go to the pub with my Christmas bubble?

Sadly not. Christmas bubbles are only allowed to meet up in private homes, gardens, places of worship or public outdoor spaces, like parks, while the rules are relaxed for the festive season. That means no restaurant meals or pub visits, even if they’re open in your tier.

Am I allowed to travel to join a Christmas bubble?

Previously we were told that travel restrictions would be relaxed throughout the festive window and that it would be okay to travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble as long as it’s between 23-27 December.

Now, the PM has warned us against travelling from areas with high levels of Covid cases to places where those case numbers are low.

What if I’m in Tier 3?

When it comes to Christmas bubbles, the same rules apply to all tiers during the festive window but if you choose to meet up with people outside your Christmas bubble during this time, you must stick to the rules governing your tier.

I’m in a support bubble with someone I don’t live with, do we count as one household or two?

Existing support bubbles count as one bubble out of the three permitted. If they choose not to spend Christmas together, members of one support bubble can also join a different Christmas bubble.

Can I stay overnight with my Christmas bubble?

While we were previously told that during the festive window we could stay with our Christmas bubbles, we are now being encouraged not to stay stay overnight with members of a household we do not currently live with.

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