The U.K. will end its second lockdown on 2 December, and has outlined its vision for a British Christmas in 2020–it is to relax restrictions over Christmas but not for New Year.
During the U.K’s current lockdown, everyone has been advised to stay at home but can leave for work purposes or to buy essential items. Crucially for parents’ ability to work, schools have stayed open.
Like many of its European neighbors, critical public services remain operational and essential shops are open. Social interactions between different households are not allowed, unless in some kind of caring capacity. People have been told to avoid traveling either in the U.K. or overseas.
England to reintroduce tiers to restrict movement
From 2 December in the U.K., regions will be placed back in tiers, similar to the three-tier system which was being used before but on a slightly stricter scale. There are differing degrees of restrictions placed upon regions decided by Covid-19 infection rates and prime minister Boris Johnson said, “the scientific advice I’m afraid is that as we come out the tiers need to be made tougher.”
Tier 1 is where people limit travel and work from home, if possible. In tier 2, which is for a region experiencing higher Covid-19 infection rates, bars and restaurants can serve alcohol but only if they are serving proper meals. Sports venues can open in tiers 1 and 2 to “limited numbers”.
Tier 3 is the highest tier, where all entertainment venues are shut and hospitality businesses will close except for takeaway services, as reported by CNBC. The aim would also be to ramp up widespread testing in the community in tier 3 areas.
Between 23-27 December, household mixing allowed
For Christmas, the U.K. is allowing three households to mix together between 23 and 27 December, as reported by U.K.’s Mirror newspaper. The move applies to all four U.K. nations, who decided to implement joint festive restrictions, rather than initiating four different rules, as currently stands. During this period, this rule will supersede the tiered restrictions.
As reported by The Guardian, these three household “Christmas bubbles” can meet at places of worship, inside homes and in outdoor public spaces. They will not be able to go to pubs, restaurants or the like. The rules for the tier they are in, will remain in place.
There are very specific rules in that possibly families with more than three grown-up children might not be able to meet–one would have to stay at home. One exception is if one child is at university; when they arrive home for the holidays, they can join an existing family bubble and be counted as belonging to it.
Unlike other countries, such as France for instance, the relaxing of rules does not extend to New Year.
The first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon reminded people that, “just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to.”
The Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, called the plans “sensible” but reminded people not to “lose the hard-gotten gains of the last few months for the sake of a few days.”
There are signs that infection rates and hospital admission rates are starting to stabilize and that the R number–the number of people that an infected person could be expected to infect–is starting to reduce. That said, over 11,000 people tested positive Monday 23 November with 608 deaths.