Half of all adults in Britain are planning to form a “Christmas bubble” during a relaxation of coronavirus rules, data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed.
In a report published on Friday it emerged that 50% of those surveyed in the past week by ONS said they would form a bubble when allowed, and the majority (55%) said they would be spending Christmas Day at home with their own household.
Boris Johnson has urged people to “think hard” over seeing family during the five day relaxation, but refused to backtrack on the plans despite mounting pressure from medical experts.
At a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday Boris Johnson issued a string of warnings about the risks of a family Christmas but said his decision to relax rules would stand.
The PM said he was “asking you to think hard and in detail about the days ahead” as he advised that a “smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas”.
Johnson stated the five-day easing of rules is not a “target to aim for” as he added: “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.” Spluttering, he continued: “I’m afraid this year I do mean little.”
Watch: “Have yourselves a very little Christmas”, says PM
Tim Vizard, principal research officer at ONS said: “We found that around half of adults planned to form a Christmas bubble. However we can see that, even before the updated guidance about socialising over Christmas, people were already making significant changes to the way they normally celebrate Christmas.
“This includes lower proportions of adults planning to stay overnight with others, travel overseas and travel by public transport compared to last year."
The ONS report also showed that compliance with most social distancing measures remains high, with 90% of respondents reporting always or often handwashing after returning home, 97% using a face covering, and 89% avoiding physical contact when outside their home. And 87% of adults reported always or often maintaining social distance when outside their support bubble.
When asked about their social and travel plans for the Christmas period this year the most frequently reported planned social activity for adults in this year's Christmas period was staying at home with their household, reported by over half (55%) of all adults. Just under half (48%) of adults reported doing this during last year's Christmas and New Year period.
And a lower proportion reported planning various social activities with family and friends than were reported by adults in last year's Christmas and New Year period. These included visiting family and friends and not staying overnight (26%, compared with 52% last year), having family and friends visit but not stay overnight (19%, compared with 39% last year), staying overnight with family and friends (11% compared with 28% last year),and meeting up in restaurants, cafés or bars 4% (compared with 44% last year).
On Friday Boris Johnson refused to rule out the possibility of a third nationwide lockdown as figures showed that COVID-19 cases are increasing across England and spiking in London.
Asked whether England would be forced to follow Northern Ireland in imposing stringent restrictions after the restrictions are eased for the festive period, he said: “We’re hoping very much that we will be able to avoid anything like that.
“But the reality is that the rates of infection have increased very much in the last few weeks.”
Data from the Office for National Statistics showed infections across the country leapt by 18% between 6 and 12 December, England’s first full week back in the three-tier system.