What are the social distancing rules in place across the UK this Christmas?

·5-min read
Christmas shoppers make their way along the High Street in Winchester (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)
Christmas shoppers make their way along the High Street in Winchester (Andrew Matthews/PA) (PA Wire)

Nicola Sturgeon has announced new social distancing measures for Scotland on Tuesday in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron variant.

It comes as Boris Johnson said no further Covid restrictions will be put in place in England before Christmas.

What are the new measures being introduced in Scotland?

Nicola Sturgeon imposed new restrictions for a three-week period after Christmas.

From December 26, only 500 people will be allowed to attend an outdoor events.

Indoor events such as concerts will be capped at 200 people for seated and 100 for standing.

Football matches will be largely spectator-free while Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party - which is held for New Year’s Eve - has been cancelled.

People must be able to stay one-metre apart for all events to go ahead.

Table service at pubs and other hospitality venues will be reintroduced from December 27.

The Scottish Government has said the rules will be in place for at least three weeks.

There is no limit for how many people can meet up at Christmas, although Nicola Sturgeon previously advised people to limit their socialising with other households in the run-up to the day.

What’s already been announced?

Scotland’s First Minister asked people to cancel their work Christmas dos and limit how much they socialise with other households.

It has also been advised people meet up with just two other households in both the run-up and aftermath of Christmas.

Current guidance for the festive period includes keeping celebrations as small as possible, getting tested and vaccinated in advice, ventilation in rooms and following hygiene rules such as handwashing.

Measures on care homes will mean they can only see people from two households in a single visit and hospital patients will only be able to have two visitors at a time.

Face coverings has been compulsory in most public indoor settings throughout the year.

Covid passes are required for all over-18s at nightclubs and other venues.

What are the rules in England?

People can still meet up in homes and public settings such as pubs and nightclubs.

At present there is no limit on socialising with other households and Boris Johnson has confirmed it will stay this way until Christmas.

But surging Covid-19 cases has caused England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty to advise people to prioritise how they socialise over the festive period.

He said people should pick events which “really matter to them” and avoid those that don’t.

People should take a lateral flow test before attending an indoor gathering, according to Government guidance.

Face masks have been reintroduced in most indoor settings but not in pubs, restaurants or nightclubs.

People are being advised to work from home where possible, and venues and events are legally required to check Covid passes for over-18s.

What could happen in England in the New Year?

The Prime Minister ruled out bringing in any tougher Covid measures before Christmas.

He said on Tuesday there is currently not enough evidence on the severity of Omicron, the hospitalisation rate and the impact of the booster rollout to justify tougher measures before Christmas.

But he stressed the Government will continue to monitor the data closely and will not hesitate to act after Christmas if necessary.

He said: “Naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas - and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.

“But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas.”

It comes as Covid-19 cases reached record highs in December, with a further 90,629 positive tests and 172 deaths reported on Tuesday.

What is the situation in Wales?

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has introduced guidance for the run-up to Christmas.

He said it will introduce more stringent measures after December 25.

Before Christmas, people in Wales are being advised to get vaccinated as well as take a lateral flow test before socialising or doing essential activities and limit who you socialise with. Also, people have been urged to follow social distancing and hygiene measures.

People are also being asked to work from home where possible.

From Boxing Day, tougher measures come into force for example, spectators will be banned from all sports events.

From December 27, the two-metre social distancing rule will return in offices and extra measures must be put in place to protect customers and staff - such as one-way systems and physical barriers.

Nightclubs must close in Wales.

The NHS Covid Pass is already required for entry into venues such as cinemas, theatres and concert halls as well as indoor and outdoor events.

What restrictions are in place in Northern Ireland?

People are not being asked to socially distance outside but a maximum of 30 people form an unlimited number of households can meet indoors in domestic settings.

Social distancing should be maintained as much as possible.

Shops must take “reasonable measures to manage risk” and shoppers are asked to maintain physical distance with each other where possible.

Face masks are legally required in shops, indoor seated venues and visitor attractions, public transport and some other settings, unless exempt.

Nightclubs, bars and cinemas must check vaccine passports.

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