Christmas bubble rules - everything you need to know

Alessio Perrone
·4-min read
<p>Shoppers in London on Saturday</p> (OLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Shoppers in London on Saturday

(OLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Christmas bubbles have been cancelled for areas in southeast England and all London boroughs after Boris Johnson announced the introduction of a new tier 4 from Sunday.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Mr Johnson said that people facing tier 4 measures will be required to “stay home”, while non-essential retail, indoor leisure and entertainment venues will close. Personal care services must also close.

“Given the early evidence we have on this new variant of the virus, the potential risk it poses, it is with a very heavy heart I must tell you we cannot continue with Christmas as planned,” Mr Johnson said.

Read more: Tier 4 rules and restrictions explained

The prime minister said the decision was taken after scientists confirmed that a new variant of the coronavirus was spreading more rapidly, especially in London and in southeast England, where it was more prevalent.

He said there was no evidence suggesting the new variant was more lethal or caused people to be more severely ill, but early data suggested it could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible.

“We’ve said throughout the pandemic that we must and we will be guided by the science,” Mr Johnson said.

“When the science changes we must change our response. When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defence.”

With that in mind, here’s a look at what people can still do over Christmas.

Can I still form a Christmas bubble?

It depends on where you live. If you live in areas in southeast England and London, which will be moving into tier 4 restrictions, you will not be able to form a Christmas bubble.

“In England, those living in tier 4 areas should not mix with anyone outside their own household at Christmas,” the prime minister said.

If you live in the rest of England, you may still be able to form a Christmas bubble, but only on Christmas Day.

Previously announced rules would have allowed three different households to meet up for five days. Now, this temporary easing of restrictions will be limited to Christmas Day only.

If you live in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, you should look out for announcements by your devolved government. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to hold a press conference at 5:30pm.

If I’ve already made plans to form a Christmas bubble, should I cancel them?

If you planned to reunite with people from different households in an area that is being placed under the new tier 4 restrictions, you will have to revisit your plans.

Mr Johnson said people should not enter or leave tier 4 areas, and residents will not be allowed to stay away from their homes overnight.

Residents in areas facing the new tier 4 measures will be able to see someone over Christmas, but they will only be allowed to see one person from another household and the meeting will have to take place outdoors.

Residents in other areas may still have to cancel their plans if they entailed spending more than one day in the same house during the holiday season, as the temporary relaxation of the rules will cover only Christmas Day.

Can I travel abroad?

The prime minister issued new advice after saying that while the new variant of the virus had spread the most in the tier 4 areas, it seemed to be present in much of the country.

During the press conference, Mr Johnson asked everyone – including people in areas under tier 1, 2 or 3 measures – to “stay local” if possible.

“People should carefully consider if they need to travel abroad and they should follow the rules in their tiers,” Mr Johnson said.

Residents in tier 4 areas will not be allowed to travel abroad except for specific exceptions such as work purposes.

Will I be able to form a Support Bubble?

People will still be able to form support bubbles – even under tier 4 restrictions – if they are at particular risk of loneliness or isolation.

According to guidance on the government’s website, you can form a support bubble if you live by yourself; you are the only adult in your household; your household includes a child under the age of one; or your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5.

A support bubble entails linking two separate households. Once two households form a support bubble, they can have close contact with one another without social distancing and should think of themselves as being in one and the same household.

You can only form a support bubble with one other household.

So, if I live in tier 4 areas, what can I do for Christmas?

People spending Christmas in areas under tier 4 rules may still be able to gather in places of worship, as Mr Johnson confirmed that communal worship would continue to take place in tier 4 areas.

You can also arrange to meet with one person from another household at a time, provided that the meeting takes place outdoors.

As for the rest, people in tier 4 areas will be required to stay at home. Non-essential retail, indoor leisure and entertainment venues, and personal care services will close.