Can I stay overnight and can I hug my family? UK Christmas Covid restrictions explained

Who are you are allowed to see over the festive period?

Senior man gives his young granddaughter a Christmas present after their Christmas meal.
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Can I hug my family? Can I stay overnight? What are the rules for travel? What will happen after the Christmas bubble ends?

After Tuesday's news that Covid rules will be relaxed for five days to allow families in the UK to meet up at Christmas, these are some of the pressing questions people have been asking. Here they are all answered.

Who are you allowed to see?

Between December 23 and December 27, three separate households will be allowed to form an “exclusive” Christmas bubble.

Northern Ireland is granted slightly longer, between December 23 and December 28, to allow for travel.

Under the guidance, people will be allowed to meet indoors at each other’s homes, at a place of worship or an outdoor public space.

The three main rules include:

  • You can only be in one Christmas bubble
  • Your Christmas bubble is fixed and cannot be changed
  • It cannot include people from more than three households

There is no limit to the number of people that make up a household but the government advises to keep the bubble as small as possible.

A bubble cannot be formed if you are self-isolating or have tested positive for coronavirus.

What are the rules for meeting indoors and can I hug my family?

If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes and stay overnight.

Technically you are also allowed to hug people in your bubble but Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, warned against it.

"The fact you can do something doesn't mean you should," he told a Downing Street press conference on Thursday.

He said that people may be asymptomatic and may accidentally transfer the virus to elderly relatives by hugging and kissing them.

Can I meet my bubble outside of my house?

You are also allowed to meet your bubble at a church.

However, you will not be allowed to go with your Christmas bubble to hospitality venues, including pubs and restaurants, or entertainment venues.

UK's Christmas bubbles
UK's Christmas bubbles

What are the rules for travel?

There will be no restrictions for travel across the UK nations or between regional tiers.

People are advised to return home within the five-day window.

Public transport will be busier than usual but the government said there will be no additional services.

What happens after the Christmas bubble ends?

England is expected to return to its three-tier Covid-19 alert system after the holiday season ends.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said there would be no special exemptions made for New Year’s Eve.

The tiered approach will last until the end of March.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK "wouldn't throw caution to the wind" and let the virus spiral out of control again.

What are the rules for Tier 1?

In the medium alert-category, people must not socialise indoors or outdoors in groups of larger than six.

People are also encouraged to work from home, where possible.

Hospitality venues must close at 11pm, with last orders called at 10pm.

Spectator sport can also return in a limited capacity with crowd restrictions at 50 per cent capacity of the venue, or 4,000 people indoors and 1,000 people outdoors, whichever is lowest.

Shops, gyms and leisure centres can reopen.

What are the rules for Tier 2?

Under high alert, indoor gatherings between households are banned with the exception of social bubbles for single-adult homes.

People must stick to the rule of six outdoors.

Hospitality venues must only serve alcohol if it comes with a substantial meal, while pubs not operating as restaurants must close altogether.

Attendance at spectator sports is reduced to 50 per cent capacity, or 2,000 people outdoors or 1,000 people indoors, whichever is lowest.

People who live in Tier 2 areas must continue following Tier 2 rules when they travel to a Tier 1 area.

Shops, gyms and leisure centres remain open.

What are the rules for Tier 3?

People who live in areas of very high alert must not meet anybody who is not in their household.

Hospitality venues such as restaurants and pubs must close if not operating a takeaway or delivery service.

Accommodation such as hotels, B&Bs, campsites, and guest houses must close except for business travellers and those who use these venues as their prime residence.

Indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close.

Spectator sports and other events must not take place.

People are told to avoid travelling to other parts of the UK.

UK gets ready for Christmas - gallery