Can I see my family at Christmas? Rumoured government plans for household mixing over festive period explained

New Covid guidelines could allow families to meet up in groups over the Christmas holidays

By Jenna Macfarlane
Wednesday, 18th November 2020, 5:32 pm
New Covid guidelines could allow families to meet up in groups over the Christmas holidays (Shutterstock)
New Covid guidelines could allow families to meet up in groups over the Christmas holidays (Shutterstock)

Families in Scotland could spend Christmas together under plans being considered by the government.

Nicola Sturgeon said she is “determined” to make it possible for people to see their loved ones, suggesting people may be able to form Christmas “baubles” indoors.

She said ministers from all four nations are looking at relaxing Covid-19 restrictions in a bid to allow households to mix for a few days.

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This would mean families could be together for a limited time over the festive season.

Speaking at her daily coronavirus briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: “I want people to have the ability to see loved ones at Christmas. I want to see loved ones at Christmas. And we're determined to try to make that possible."

The First Minister’s comments came as the UK Government’s medical adviser on coronavirus, Dr Susan Hopkins, told Downing Street that the four nations’ plan is for Christmas to be “as close to normal as possible”.

Here’s what we know about the government’s Christmas plans so far.

How might the government relax restrictions for Christmas?

During her briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the government may allow “a bit of leeway” when it comes to the strict restrictions at Christmas time.

She added that it was “better” to “treat people like grown ups” and permit them to see loved ones rather than have the public trying to get around the current rules.

The First Minister did not go into specifics about how many people may be allowed to form a bubble and what the limits may be.

Similar plans for Christmas household mixing are being made in Downing Street.

The Sun reported that the UK Government may relax rules in a “four nations approach” so families across the country could mix indoors for five days, starting on Christmas Eve.

The break in restrictions would end on the Bank Holiday Monday on 28 December, giving families a full long weekend to celebrate in more normal circumstances.

According to The Sun, households that choose to meet up would be unlikely to be able to mix with others outside the group, forming a sort of extended bubble.

And these indoor groups could be larger than the “rule of six”, with Sage scientists reportedly modelling what impact this would have on the spread of the virus.

Former Sage scientist Prof Neil Ferguson told the BBC that “bubbles” of up to four households could be a possibility of allowing people to see each other without virus cases soaring.

However, families may still be asked to stick to social distancing rules, told not to hold large gatherings and advised to travel by car instead of public transport.

The plans may not be approved by any of the devolved nations until December.

A No 10 spokesperson told The Sun: “We are looking at ways to ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year.”

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What would Christmas look like under the current restrictions?

Whether the Christmas plan comes into place is said to be dependent on if the current restrictions in Scotland, and in the rest of the UK, work to bring cases down.

The devolved administrations are expected to outline a shared approach so families living in different places across the UK will have a single set of rules to follow.

Here, apart from in the three island health board areas, households are unable to mix inside homes at all.

Some places, such as Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and Stirling, have been placed under the harshest Level 4 restrictions in a bid to drastically reduce virus cases so families can be together over Christmas.

Under Level 1, 2, 3 and 4 restrictions in Scotland, families from different households would not be able to celebrate Christmas together, and many people would be isolated from each other.

After England's lockdown is supposed to end on 2 December, Boris Johnson has said areas will be placed back into the localised tiered restrictions system.

Under the highest two tiers, Tier 2 and Tier 3, households are unable to mix indoors unless it’s as part of a support bubble.

Even people living under Tier 1 restrictions would only be allowed to mix in groups of six inside.

Wales has come out of its “firebreak” lockdown, which was instated on 23 October, but the country will still be under strict restrictions with households unable to mix in homes.

People in Northern Ireland are also currently unable to mix inside homes, and the chief scientific adviser has warned further Covid-19 restrictions could be introduced in the country before Christmas.