People have been left slightly confused as to what they can and can’t do over the Christmas break – as confirmation that Christmas bubbles will still be allowed was followed by updated tier restrictions in England this week.
While some regions have been moved down a tier, an emergency review placed London and parts of Essex into tier 3 along with large parts of the country.
Can you travel between tiers to meet the other households in your Christmas bubble? And can you dine out with them at a restaurant or pub for Christmas lunch? Do the tier rules even apply over Christmas?
Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a Christmas bubble?
In the UK from 23 December to 27 December, you can choose to form a Christmas bubble if you’d like to see other members of your family, regardless of what tier they’re in.
However, mixing with other households over Christmas is not without risks – it will increase your risk of catching Covid-19 and passing it on to others. As Boris Johnson has now said, a smaller and shorter Christmas will be a safer one.
There are four key things to remember when making a Christmas bubble:
You can only be in one Christmas bubble
You cannot change your Christmas bubble
Your Christmas bubble should not include people from more than three households (and people who are part of a support bubble already count as one household in this limit).
Children (under-18) whose parents do not live together may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles, if their parents choose to form separate bubbles.
Where can Christmas bubbles meet?
Your Christmas bubble will be able to spend time together in private homes, to attend places of worship, or meet in a public outdoor place – this is the case across the whole of the UK.
But this means if you usually plan to eat at a restaurant or pub over Christmas, you’ll need to stick to your own household bubble (unless the tier you’re in specifies otherwise) and not see others for that part of the day – or you’ll all need to eat Christmas dinner at someone’s home instead.
Can you travel between tiers to see loved ones?
You can indeed. “You may travel between tiers and other nations of the UK if necessary to meet with other households in your Christmas bubble or return home,” reads government advice. “Once at your destination, you should follow the rules in that tier.”
People are urged not to travel to see their bubble before December 23, or to travel back home after December 27, except in “exceptional circumstances” – for example, if a member of your Christmas bubble develops symptoms of Covid-19 and you are required to self-isolate.
Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may also travel on the 22 and 28 December, however.
People can travel abroad from December 2 to visit friends and family – and this extends over the Christmas period as well – however those in tier 3 are urged to stay put and only travel abroad for work, education or caring responsibilities.
You can stay in a hotel during the Christmas period, including in places that are tier 3 – but only by yourself, or with other members of your household.
You can also stay in private rented accommodation with members of your household, or your Christmas bubble.
Do the rest of the tier rules still apply in England over Christmas?
In England, a tiered system will still apply during the festive period – with the Christmas bubble exception.
Between 23 to 27 December, you’re not allowed to meet friends or family in your home unless they are part of your Christmas bubble in England – but you can continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.
For tier 1 this means you can socialise using the “rule of six” in any outdoor setting. In tier 2, you are able to socialise with up to six people outside in a private garden, however in tier 3 you can only socialise outside with up to six people in public spaces. Find out the rules for each tier here.
What about New Year’s Eve?
The tighter restrictions will be back in place by New Year’s Eve so we’d advise planning for a quiet one. Here’s our guide to celebrating at home.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.