Coronavirus has thrown the Christmas season into doubt for many this year.
Boris Johnson announced last week that bubbles allowing travel and household mixing for five days over the festive period would no longer be allowed, due to a new variant of coronavirus spreading that is believed to be more infectious.
For some in the new tier 4 areas, Christmas plans were cancelled completely as household mixing indoors was banned except for with a support bubble.
Even for those outside of London and the south east, the rules will be relaxed for one day only instead of almost a week as planned.
But with a hotch-potch of different restrictions covering England, what are you actually allowed to do, and what are the exemptions?
Here’s what Christmas looks like in each tier in England.
Unfortunately for those under tier 4 restrictions – which includes London, parts of southern England and the south east – different households will not be able to meet indoors for Christmas celebrations except for with a support bubble.
Having multiple households gathering inside with a turkey dinner and present opening won’t be allowed – and people from tier 4 are not allowed to travel to another area on December 25 either to meet people in a lower tier.
People will still be able to meet up alone outside with one other member of another household.
Those in tier 4 who are in a support bubble are allowed to see them on Christmas Day – even if they live in a different tier – but they should not meet with anyone else.
Although Matt Hancock announced today that more areas would move into tier 4, this will only happen from 12.01am on Boxing Day so those areas are still allowed to celebrate Christmas Day as planned.
People in Tier 3 will still be able to form a bubble of three households on Christmas Day itself.
It means Christmas dinner will still be possible even for those who do not live together.
However, staying overnight at a house where you do not live will not be possible, as – like in Cinderella – the rules go back to the way they were before at midnight.
And people are not allowed to form a Christmas bubble with anyone coming from a tier 4 area, unless they are already part of their support bubble.
Again, the rules are relaxed for one day only on December 25.
Three households will be able to meet, but overnight stays are not allowed becasue in the general rules for tier 2 which apply from Boxing Day, people are only allowed to mix with other households outdoors in a group of no more than six.
Again, people cannot form a Christmas bubble with anyone coming from tier 4.
There are only a few areas still in tier one, including Cornwall, Herefordshire and the Isles of Scilly.
People will be able to stay overnight on Christmas Eve with those they do not live with, but must follow the ‘rule of six’ whether indoors or outdoors.
Unfortunately, many will not be able to stay overnight on Christmas Day because some areas are moving into tier 2 at midnight.
This includes Cornwall and Herefordshire, where cases have risen ‘sharply’.
Christmas bubbles of three households are allowed, but not with anyone coming from a tier 4 area.
There are some exemptions which apply to all tiers, including Tier 4.
The rules on support bubbles changed earlier this month, and now all families with a baby under one year old are able to form a bubble with another household, allowing them to meet indoors.
Under the section ‘who can make a support bubble’ on the Government website, official guidance states: ‘You can form a support bubble with another household of any size if… your household includes a child who is under the age of one or was under that age on 2 December 2020.’
It means families with young babies are able to mix indoors with another household, whether on Christmas Day or otherwise.
This will include Boris Johnson and his fiance Carrie Symonds, who have a baby called Wilfred.
However, aside from on Christmas Day a support bubble can only be formed with one other household.
Children under 18
Children whose parents live apart can join two Christmas bubbles, allowing them to see both parents.
Students living away from home are still allowed to travel home for Christmas, even if they are coming back from or going into tier 4 area.
Existing support bubbles
Collectively, people in a support bubble count as one household and will be allowed to meet with two other households on Christmas Day.
Those meeting a support bubble from tier 4, however, should not meet with any other households than their support bubble.
Read the full rules on support bubbles here.
The full details
The full government details about forming Christmas bubbles in tiers 1 to 3 are here – check them out to make sure you’re staying within the rules.
What about in the rest of the UK?
In Wales and Scotland, Christmas bubbles will also only be allowed on December 25.
They will be made up of two households in Wales and three households (up to eight people) in Scotland.
People will not be able to travel to or from other parts of the UK to Scotland, however.
In Northern Ireland, people will be able to form a Christmas bubble for one day between December 23 and 27. They gave people the choice of day to accommodate for those who are working on December 25.
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