The four nations of the UK have agreed a unified plan to allow families to “bubble” together at Christmas with Covid restrictions to be suspended for a short period over the festivities.
Ministers in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast have agreed that limits on household mixing will be lifted on Christmas Eve, across the country, for up to four days.
How many households can meet and for how long has not yet been decided with the The Telegraph tonight (Sunday) reporting that “sources have indicated it will be either three or four households, meaning families will be able to have both sets of grandparents to stay.”
They predict the pause will last from Christmas Eve until December 28 while the BBC reports that options being discussed include “three households” being “allowed to meet up” for “maybe five days”. The countries will return to their own rules when the “bubbling” period ends.
Discussions are continuing with travel arrangements a key issue given how family relatives are spread across different parts of the country. Bubbles will have to be decided in advance as mixing with any other households during the festive period will not be allowed.
Other restrictions “are also expected to be eased” over the four-to-five day suspension, meaning pubs may could also reopen. The four nations will return to their own rules and restrictions when the family-bubbling-interlude ends.
Heed warnings and remain cautious
A Cabinet Office statement said the leaders of the nations had “endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days.”
The need to heed warnings and remain cautious was emphasised in the statement which advised “that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact”.
The Scottish government said “no agreement has been reached” while Northern Ireland minister’s have “recognised that people will want to see family and friends across the island of Ireland, and this is the subject of discussions with the Irish government”, the Cabinet Office said.
“Work is continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel. The UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive hope to conclude this work this week, subject to agreement by each administration.”
Gov’t U-turn gives Christmas tree sellers green light
The news comes as specialist Christmas tree sellers in England were given the green light to reopen after the government reclassified them as “essential” retailers.
The move follows successful lobbying from the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association – which has more than 320 members selling eight million trees every year – who reminded the government that much of their business is conducted outdoors.
“We got the news of the U-turn at the eleventh hour on Friday night and reopened on Saturday morning, within fully Covid-safe conditions.,” said Canalside Christmas Trees’ David Whitehead. “The atmosphere all weekend has been absolutely magical – people are so pleased to be out in the open air and getting into the festive spirit.”