Christmas mixing rules set to be ‘tightened around the edges’

Scottish Government finalising rules, which allow up to three households to meet over five-day Christmas period.

Christmas mixing rules set to be ‘tightened around the edges’ Getty Images

Rules allowing people to meet up over Christmas are likely to be tightened when they are set out later.

Up to three households will be allowed to mix over a five-day festive period between December 23 and 27.

They will be able to use the travel window to move between council areas and across the UK to form a bubble – but each household must only join one bubble.

The guidance is not expected to loosen but rather look “tighter around the edges” when officially set out on Thursday.

The First Minister said staying at home should be the “default” position but the easing of restrictions to allow households to gather over Christmas is a “recognition of a reality that exists over the Christmas period, whether I like it or not”.

During a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Sturgeon said guidance is still being finalised but the Scottish Government will not be “encouraging” people to meet up.

She said: “The expectation should be that the guidance will probably look to tighten around the edges rather than further expand and that will be true with the travel window of opportunity as well – we want to limit that window, not expand it.”

The UK Government and devolved administrations agreed a joint plan to relax social distancing rules over the festive period.

Sturgeon said in England, due to the current form of bubbles there, “three households there, potentially, depending on how they draw the guidance, could effectively become six households”.

The First Minister added: “I think that would be going too far and it would not be something I would be comfortable with in Scotland.”

Scotland currently has a different form of bubbles than England – north of the border, one person who lives alone or with children under the age of 18 can join another household and become an extended household.

Sturgeon asked Scots not to visit relatives in other households over Christmas if they can help it, despite the relaxation of rules.

“If you can get through this Christmas staying in your own home, within your own household, please do so,” she said.

“I want to stress today that just because we’re allowing people to form a bubble (that) does not mean that you have to do it.

“If you do choose to do it at all, you don’t have to do it to the maximum permitted.

“We are relying on people to make informed choices about whether or not to come together at all over the Christmas period.”

What we know about festive bubbles:

  • A bubble should be formed household to household only. That means different people in a household should not pick their own bubble.
  • Between December 23 and 27, people can meet in bubble composed of three households.
  • Households are not required to use all five days and should keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible.
  • They should stay with their bubble where they are hosted and should follow the travel advice for the level they are in.
  • Within the bubble, they can gather in a home, an outdoor place or a place of worship.
  • In all other settings – such as hospitality – those who have formed a bubble must only socialise with members of their own household.
  • Households deciding to form a bubble will be advised to limit social contact before and after the period of relaxation.
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