The festive period is an important time for many people of all faiths and none who come together over the holidays. The UK Government and Devolved Administrations recognise that people will want to be with their friends and family over Christmas, particularly after an incredibly difficult year. For this reason, the government is changing some social contact restrictions for a short period of time. When following these new rules, we must each continue to take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and protect our loved ones, particularly if they are vulnerable. For many, this will mean that it isn’t possible to celebrate Christmas in the way you normally would.

Between 23 and 27 December:

- you can form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ composed of people from no more than three households

- you can only be in one Christmas bubble

- you cannot change your Christmas bubble

- you can travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble

- you can only meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or in your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces

- you can continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier where you are staying

- you cannot meet someone in a private dwelling who is not part of your household or Christmas bubble

You should travel to meet those in your Christmas bubble and return home between the 23 and 27 December. Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December.

Scientific advice is clear that the longer you meet others for, the higher the risk of you catching and spreading the virus. You should minimise the time you spend with your Christmas bubble and should not stay overnight unless absolutely unavoidable. You cannot meet your Christmas bubble before the 23 December or after the 27 December. The five day period is a window of opportunity and should be seen as a legal maximum, not a target. A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.

It is particularly important to think about the greater risks to more vulnerable people whilst recognising how hard it can be to maintain good physical and mental health without essential contact with family and friends. If you are over 70 or clinically extremely vulnerable, think carefully about the risks. The safest approach may be not to form a Christmas bubble. If you do form a Christmas bubble, then be especially careful to observe the guidance - meet outdoors where possible, wash your hands regularly, keep a distance from those you don’t live with, and, if you meet indoors, ensure good ventilation by letting in fresh air. If you are in an existing household or support bubble with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, the safest approach would be not to join a wider Christmas bubble to help reduce the risks to their health.

When seeing your Christmas bubble, you should keep taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and this will help ensure that the festive period is as safe as possible. This includes ensuring indoor spaces get as much fresh air as possible, making space between members of different households wherever you can, washing your hands regularly and for 20 seconds, and following rules on self-isolation if you develop symptoms or test positive for coronavirus. On no account should you visit another households if you, or anyone in your household, is feeling unwell or self-isolating. You should get a free NHS test if you have symptoms, have been asked to by your local council or your hospital, or are taking part in a government pilot project.

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