Boris Johnson urges Britons to have a merry 'little' Christmas

What are the new Christmas lockdown rules?

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have issued new guidance for festive period, while Wales has changed its rules in law

Joe Middleton
Wednesday 16 December 2020 22:08

Plans for the four nations to have the same guidance at Christmas descended into farce as politicians all gave differing statements on what people can do.

The leaders of the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met two days ago to discuss the festive period after a worrying spike in Covid-19 cases, amid warnings that any increase in freedoms could leave the NHS overwhelmed.

They agreed on the current regulations for a five-day “Christmas window” from December 23-27 when people can form bubbles of up to three households across the UK.

Boris Johnson told the Commons that there was “unanimous agreement” across the four nations “that we should proceed in principle with the existing regulations”.

But it didn’t take long for differences to emerge in the advice given today by leaders across the UK.

What’s the advice for England?

The prime minister said that “we don’t want to criminalise people’s long-made plans” but issued a warning for people to be “extremely cautious” over their actions.

He later told a press conference that the public should have a “merry little Christmas – and, I’m afraid this year I do mean little” in passing the judgement on whether to meet up in smaller numbers over a shorter period to the public.

Mr Johnson insisted that the limits on meeting are maximums and “not a target to aim for”.

And he advised people to minimise their contacts with others “to the lowest possible” for five days before mixing with loved ones at Christmas.

He did not go as far as other national leaders in advising people to specifically limit their Christmases to only two households as others have done.

Wales to bring in tighter coronavirus restrictions after Christmas

What about Wales?

First minister Mark Drakeford changed his advice for the Welsh public so that “only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble” over the five-day period.

A Welsh government spokesperson later said this change would be made into law.

“It makes it easier, so we don’t have the position where the law says one thing and the guidance says something else,” the spokesperson explained.

Mr Drakeford earlier said: “The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.”

What is happening in Scotland?

Nicola Sturgeon said that her “strong recommendation” is that people do not mix households over the period in what is “unequivocally the safest way to spend Christmas”.

The Scottish first minister said that meetings should take place outdoors if possible but if it was “essential” to meet inside then she advised people to meet for only one day and to not stay overnight.

Ms Sturgeon urged people against travelling between areas of high and low infection rates and asked people to consider “postponing” Christmas.

How about Northern Ireland?

First minister Arlene Foster said people needed to take “all and every precaution” when they come together at Christmas but could not rule out further restrictions in the days afterwards.

The health minister Robin Swann is due to bring proposals for further Covid-19 restrictions to the Stormont executive on Thursday but Ms Foster said she did not expect a recommendation for new measures to be introduced before the festive break.

Ms Foster said she noted the more stringent advice on household mixing from her counterpart in Wales, but added: “I am not going to prejudge what the minister is going to bring to us but undoubtedly we will have something to say tomorrow and over the next few days."

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