Published: 17:43, 24 November 2020
| Updated: 20:01, 24 November 2020
A deal on who people can visit during Christmas has been agreed.
It comes after a Cobra meeting where the four nations agreed to relax restrictions for families and friends to meet over a five-day festive period.
Three households will be able to meet indoors for five days from Wednesday December 23 to Sunday December 27.
A joint statement issued by the four UK governments said: “As 2020 draws to a close, we recognise it has been an incredibly difficult year for us all.
“We have all had to make significant sacrifices in our everyday lives, and many religious and community groups have already had to change or forgo their customary celebrations to slow the spread of coronavirus and save lives.
“This cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas. But as we approach the festive period, we have been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if it is for a short time, and recognising that it must be both limited and cautious.”
Christmas bubbles can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place. The existing restrictive rules on meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout.
“This cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas..."
The restrictions will prevent bubbles from going to the pub for a Christmas drink.
People over the age of 65 and living in a care home will also be stopped from seeing their family.
In families where three children live away from home, they would not all be able to return for Christmas.
However, university students returning from halls at the end of term would automatically form part of their family household.
The decision comes on the same day it was reported there has been 608 Covid-related deaths recorded.
On Thursday Kent will find out which tier it will fall under when the nation's lockdown is lifted.
Swale, which is made up of Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham, has the highest infection rate in the country, which prompted an emergency meeting between its local authority and other organisations.
Earlier this month the council's leader Roger Truelove warned residents they could face a tough Christmas lockdown if the virus wasn't contained.
'We're appealing to people to look very carefully at the transport they take and even making a choice about travelling at all.'
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously mentioned the risks involved in a Christmas relaxation, saying it is the “season to be jolly careful”, but the government was determined to give families the chance to meet up at the end of a grim year.
Ahead of the Cobra meeting chaired by Michael Gove, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was hoped they could agree a “common framework” across the UK, although there may be some regional differences.
There could be variations on issues including the definition of a household – to “reflect the different circumstances in each nation”.
She said: “I know everyone has a desire to see loved ones over the festive period.
“However, there is also a very real and a very legitimate anxiety that doing so could put those we love at risk, set back our progress as a country and result in unnecessary deaths and suffering.”
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged people consider how they will be getting home for the festive period – and even consider not travelling.
He said: "We have got to understand there are limitations to the (train) network caused by, for example, things like the need on some trains to pre-book tickets at this time, in order to prevent overcrowding."
“So we are going to be appealing to people to look very carefully at the transport route they take and of course even making a choice about whether they travel at all.”