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COVID Christmas plans: What to expect during the festive season

Written by on 22/11/2020

Coronavirus rules will be relaxed over Christmas across the UK under a plan to let people celebrate with their families.

Leaders in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have agreed their respective restrictions should change to be harmonised “for a small number of days” over the festive period.

While the details are still being worked out, the aim of allowing “additional household bubbling” was confirmed in a statement released on Sunday.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Workers are seen placing lights on a Christmas tree outside the Houses of Parliament on November 21, 2020 in London, England. The 43ft Sitka spruce tree was felled on Tuesday in the Kilder forest in Northumberland, England before being transported to Parliament. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
Image: MPs will get a vote on the new restrictions replacing England’s lockdown

The prime minister is also working on the regional tier system due to come back into effect when the national lockdown in England ends on 2 December

Boris Johnson is to detail his winter strategy on Monday afternoon and ministers will set out which tier each area is going into on Thursday.

What is expected over Christmas?

Several households – potentially three – could be allowed to create a bubble temporarily between 24 and 28 December.

The plans could cover all four nations of the UK, according to reports.

Restrictions on church services could also be lifted allowing Christmas Day services to be held.

Official confirmation of the objective to let families see each other came in a statement from Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove following talks with leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Ministers endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days,” he said, adding talks are also under way with the Irish government to let people in Northern Ireland see family living there.

But the public will be “advised to remain cautious” and told that “wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact”, a statement from his department said.

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‘There will be a price to pay for Christmas’

What is the new system – 2 December until Christmas – going to look like?

The country will move back into a three-tier system of regional restrictions, which was in force from 14 October until 5 November.

More areas are expected to enter the higher end of the tiered-system next month and, while many measures will be similar to those in place previously, the tiers will be strengthened in some areas.

  • Non-essential retail will be allowed to open in all three tiers
  • Gyms will be allowed to open
  • The 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will be scrapped
  • A mass testing programme is to be launched in Tier 3 areas, using the Army, like the pilot programme in Liverpool
Measures under Tiers 1, 2 and 3 of England's lockdown system
Image: Measures under Tiers 1, 2 and 3 of England’s lockdown system

How long will the new system last?

The government is optimistic restrictions can be gradually reduced in the run-up to spring if vaccines are approved by regulators, allowing the rollout to begin next month before a wider programme in the new year.

But with no vaccines having been approved the timeline is uncertain.

What was the original tier system?

  • Tier 1 (Medium): Rule of six if meeting indoors or outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pm
  • Tier 2 (High): No household mixing indoors; rule of six applies outdoors; pubs and restaurants shut at 10pm
  • Tier 3 (Very high): No household mixing indoors or in some outdoor spaces; pubs and bars not serving meals are closed

Will Boris Johnson get his plan past the House of Commons?

A large group of Conservatives will be glad the harsher national lockdown is coming to an end but 70 of them, called the “COVID Recovery Group” of backbench Tories, have released a letter calling for the prime minister to publish a “cost/ benefit analysis” of the new system.

“We cannot support this approach further unless the government demonstrates the restrictions proposed for after 2 December will… save more lives than they cost,” they wrote.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak refused three times to commit to the demand when interviewed on Sophy Ridge On Sunday, only saying: “It’s right that we look at all of the impacts of fighting coronavirus in the round and they are not just economic.”

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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