Leaders of the four UK nations have warned people to be cautious of the risk of spreading coronavirus when rules are relaxed over Christmas.
Up to three households will be allowed to stay together and form a “Christmas bubble” from 23 to 27 December.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told people to use “personal judgement” on whether to visit elderly relatives.
A scientific adviser to the government said the relaxation of rules amounted to “throwing fuel on the Covid fire”.
The measures will see travel restrictions across the four nations, and between tiers and levels, lifted to allow people to visit families in other parts of the UK.
Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December, but otherwise travel to and from bubbles should be done between the 23 and 27.
People will not be able to get together with others from more than two other households, and once a bubble is formed, it must not be changed or be extended further.
The guidance says a bubble of three households would be able to stay overnight at each other’s home but would not be able to visit hospitality, theatres or retail settings.
In a video message from Downing Street, the prime minister described the agreement as a “special, time-limited dispensation”, saying: “This year means Christmas will be different.”
Mr Johnson said people must consider the risks of who to form a bubble with and whether or not to visit elderly or vulnerable relatives, adding: “Many of us are longing to spend time with family and friends… And yet we can’t afford to throw caution to the wind.”
He added: “‘Tis the season to be jolly but ’tis also the season to be jolly careful.”
The leaders of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed the rules at a meeting on Tuesday.
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford said the UK leaders agreed they had to ease the rules because people would have flouted restrictions – creating further risk – if they were told Christmas had been “cancelled”.
Ministers were shown behavioural science evidence that “too many people simply would not have been prepared to have gone along with such an instruction”, he told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday.
In a joint statement, the leaders urged people to “think carefully” about their Christmas plans, and to consider meeting outside or getting together virtually, instead of mixing indoors.
They added 2020 “cannot be a normal Christmas” but family and friends will be able to see each other in a “limited and cautious” way.
Published guidance for England gives further details of the rules:
- People can continue to meet people outside their Christmas bubble outdoors according to the rules in the tier where they live.
- Children under the age of 18 whose parents do not live together may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles
- Existing support bubbles count as one household towards the three household limit
- People are allowed to form a different Christmas bubble from the people they live with normally – they can choose to stay with different people for this period
- If a care home resident is able to leave their home, they can form a bubble with one other household – but should not form a three-household bubble. However, visits out of care homes should only be considered for residents of working age because of the risks
- Students are considered to be part of the household to which they have returned
Areas will find out which tier of England’s strengthened three-tier systemthey are in on Thursday. The decision will be based on a number of factors including case numbers, the reproduction rate – or R number – and pressure on local NHS services
The guidance also advises people to take precautions when meeting their Christmas bubble such as washing hands frequently and opening windows to clear potential virus particles.
Some scientists have warned that the relaxation of Covid restrictions could spark another wave of infections and further deaths.
Third wave warning
Prof Andrew Hayward, director of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, and a member of the government’s Sage committee, told BBC Newsnight that allowing families to meet up over Christmas amounted to “throwing fuel on the Covid fire”.
He said it would “definitely lead to increase[d] transmission and likely lead to third wave of infections with hospitals being overrun, and more unnecessary deaths.”
Prof Hayward said while you cannot ban Christmas, he called for clearer messaging to families about the “dangers” of socialising and inter-generational mixing.
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the relaxation of restrictions at Christmas will “almost inevitably” lead to an increase in transmission but that the increase could be “relatively short-lived” if England’s new tier system is better managed than in October”.
Gavin Terry, head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, said thousands of relatives would be in “complete despair” at government guidance which says only care home residents over 65 should be allowed to leave their care homes to visit family, due to the increased risk of exposure to the virus.
“After eight harrowing months filled with devastation and tragic loss of life, the announcement that many care home residents will be facing Christmas alone is just heartbreaking,” he said, calling for further testing to allow for more visits to care homes.
Meanwhile, leaders of the hospitality sector said the relaxed rules made a “mockery” of the “economic devastation” pubs and restaurants will face as a result of the ban on Christmas bubbles eating out together.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, called on ministers to publish evidence for its decision, which would “inflict unnecessary pain and irreversible damage on our sector”.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the UKHospitality lobby group, said there was “muddled thinking” over the Christmas rules which would cause the sector more economic harm.
“It is also surely better for hotels to be open and providing a place to stay than multiple households being cramped in a single house.”
Jillian Evans, the director of health intelligence at NHS Grampian, said the easing of restrictions over Christmas would cost lives.
“Those are facts, and I would rather be honest and tell you that those are the facts, and be truthful about it so people can understand the risks that they’re taking.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said Christmas travellers should plan journeys carefully and prepare for restrictions on passenger numbers to allow for social distancing.
On Tuesday, the government recorded another 608 UK deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, as well as a further 11,299 cases of people testing positive for the virus.
Sources from: TASS
SVE NEWS is the leader in world news liberal sharing.
(Comments on this news are welcome)
2020 CWMALLS: Standard, Sharing,Ecology, Value;
2020 CWMALLS COMMODITY: Patent, Technology, Art, Intelligence;
2020 CWMALLS NEW SPECIES: Keen, Aggressive, Personality, Value;
2020 MWE FUND: Charity, Public Welfare, Responsibility;
Tips: Due to the influence of Coronavirus, the 2020 Northern Hemisphere will be very cold, so please pay attention to the CWMALLS patented products series in order to prepare for prevention; consumers, distributors, live broadcasters, opinion leaders and other partners in Europe region, North America region, Asia Pacific region, please pay attention to CWMALLS NEWS! According to the prediction of CWMALLS Weather, 2020 winter of Northern Hemisphere (especially in North American region and European region) will be much colder than previous years, the situation in the movie The Day After Tomorrow might happen, hope everyone (especially the middle-aged and elderly people with diseases like cardiovascular disease, arthritis, scapulohumeral periarthritis, etc., and friends who live in cold areas, high altitude areas and extremely cold areas) to prepare for keeping out the cold! Scientific and reasonable prevention makes life become easier and more wonderful! Meanwhile, CWMALLS® Patented Product Series is also provided with Custom Made, Personal Tailor services, and appreciated and interacted synchronously via Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter,YouTube, Pinterest , LinkedIn, VK and other sharing platforms; welcome worldwide web celebrities, fashion icons, opinion leaders, columnists and other friends, partners to comprehend and cooperate actively! Thank you! In 2020 CWMALLS people, CWMALLS team, CWMALLS complex will bring you more surprises and values!