Coronavirus: Relaxed Christmas rules stay in law – but Wales and Scotland tighten ‘bubble’ advice

Wales advises just two households meet - as it announces December 28 lockdown    

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Wednesday 16 December 2020 13:23 GMT
Boris Johnson urges public to show “extreme caution” over the festive season.mp4

A relaxation of strict coronavirus rules over Christmas is expected to go ahead as planned after agreement between the four parts of the UK.

But ministers are expected to publish stronger guidance later today on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus over the festive period. 

And just hours after the decision was taken, Wales announced it would go back into lockdown on December 28.

First Minister Mark Drakeford also said the advice from the Welsh Government was now that just two households, not three, should come together to "form an exclusive Christmas bubble" in Wales.  

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon recommended that any Christmas bubbles in Scotland last just one day, if possible, and do not include an overnight stay. 

 As he faced accusations his government was rapidly losing control of the situation, Boris Johnson urged the public to show “extreme caution” over the festive season.

The prime minister told the House of Commons: “We should exercise extreme caution in the way we celebrate Christmas. We can celebrate it sensibly, but we have to be extremely cautious.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the government of “ignoring” the medical advice, days after ministers were forced to put London in the toughest coronavirus tier.   

Under the festive rules, up to three households will be allowed to mix between December 23 and 27.

Negotiations between the UK Government and the leaders of the devolved nations administration are understood to have agreed to press ahead with the plan,  albeit with a stronger warning about the dangers people face.

Ministers are understood to believe many will have made plans they would struggle to change if the rules were amended at this late stage. 

 Mr Johnson also appeared to suggest that that fragile consensus could yet shatter, telling MPs that the four UK nations have agreed to continue "in principle" with the easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas. 

Less than two hours after the meeting, Wales' First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that tighter restrictions  would apply across Wales from December 28. 

All non-essential retail will close after the end of trading on Christmas Eve, while all hospitality will close from 6pm on Christmas Day, he said.

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