It may be too early to put up the tree, but that doesn’t mean Christmas isn’t on the minds of many Britons. But what exactly could the festive season look like this year?
The Government has indicated that we could be allowed five days of “freedom” over Christmas to celebrate with our families.
But The Telegraph understands that households across the country could be banned from mixing even after lockdown ends on December 2, despite Boris Johnson’s vow not to extend restrictions.
Matt Hancock has admitted that it’s “too early to know” whether current restrictions have been beneficial – and therefore they could be extended past early December.
And according to the chief medical adviser to NHS testing, Dr Susan Hopkins, even if lockdown in England ends, a “strengthened” three-tier system would still be needed because the lowest tier had “very little effect”.
However, Tory MPs have made demands for a “clear route out of lockdown” and Boris Johnson has been warned that he will face a revolt from dozens of backbenchers if he tries to extend it, or “effectively continue the lockdown by another means”.
An “end of lockdown package” is set to be announced in the week beginning the 23 November, including a vaccination schedule and the potential extension of mass testing.
But scientists have also suggested that as the season draws closer, “Christmas bubbles” may be implemented – which could last for five days and allow a variety of households to “bubble” together for a short period of time.
On October 28, Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We want people to be able to celebrate Christmas as normal as possible, but it is too early to say exactly what situation will be come Christmas, and to say what different parts of the country will or will not be able to do.”
How is Covid-19 going to affect Christmas this year?
Determined to save Christmas, the Prime Minister introduced a second national lockdown after Britain’s infections increased and Tier 3 restrictions across much of England failed to stem the spread.
Restrictions are set to last a month before the UK transitions back into the regional three-tiered system. But further measurements could be announced in Parliament next week, which could ban households from mixing before Christmas.
The Prime Minister said: “Christmas is going to be different this year, perhaps very different. but it’s my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now we can allow families across the country to be together.”
If the country returns to the tiered system, the rules in your area’s tier will once again apply – if you plan to enjoy a Christmas meal at a pub or restaurant, it is forbidden to have more than five friends at the table at any given time and more than two families mixing indoors and outdoors. Higher tiers are not allowed to mix with other households indoors at all, including in restaurants.
These rules will likely apply across England to all ages, and include not just private homes, but also parks, pubs, restaurants and sporting events.
However, the country may see a lockdown extension, followed by new rules to allow households to mix – all of which will be outlined in the coming weeks.
Read more on tiered restrictions:
Will we be in lockdown at Christmas?
Perhaps. One option the Government is considering is to ban mixing between households and return to tiered restrictions, which means further restrictions could be in place
Mr Gove told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on November 1 that over the month the Government would review the data, adding that he hoped the reinfection rate would be “significantly reduced” by December 2.
But asked if the national lockdown could be extended, he replied: “Yes.”
Will there be Covid rules for over Christmas?
Christmas-specific rules are set to be announced by the Government, with changes subject to a vote in the House of Commons.
But if lockdown is lifted on December 2, families will have to comply with the rules under the three-tier system and all social gatherings between households could be banned.
One Government source said: “It doesn’t seem possible that there would be any part of the country that would be in what’s now called Tier 1. It’s likely that everyone would fall into Tier 2 as minimum, and we are looking at bolstering the tiers.”
Can I still meet other households and see my family at Christmas?
Based on the potentially new restrictions being introduced by the Government, overnight stays for families outside of the area they reside in can be banned.
But under Government plans to rescue Christmas, the ban on households mixing could end before Christmas arrives and you may still be able to meet other households and see your family at Christmas, as long as the ‘rule of six’, social distancing, mask-wearing and hand washing guidelines are adhered to at all times in private gardens. However only a maximum of two households and support bubbles can mix.
Read more: Christmas gift guide – best ideas for 2020
Can I travel abroad over Christmas?
Christmas holidays are not necessarily off the cards. It just depends on where you want to go.
Travel corridors and travel restrictions are continuously reassessed based on rise in cases and R rates amongst other factors. Whilst the official guidance discourages all non-essential travel, you may still be allowed to travel internationally – as long as you are aware of the risks.
The ‘green’ list of travel corridor countries, which Britons can visit without needing to self-isolate upon return, is shrinking – which means you may be out of pocket if your trip is cancelled due to new lockdown restrictions.
Travelling against official government advice is not illegal, but most tour operators will not offer trips to destinations which the Foreign Office (FCO) deems unsafe. In a pandemic, that’s just about everywhere – and it does make travel insurance complicated.
If you choose to visit a country to which the FCO advises against travel without invalidating your insurance – here’s what you need to know.
How to have a Covid-secure Christmas
To ensure family gatherings at Christmas are as safe as they can be, it will be important to adhere Government guidelines.
It would probably be best to also do your Christmas shopping early for both gifts and food, to avoid the Christmas Eve rush to the supermarket and the late delivery of packages.
Maybe creating your own Christmas decoration could be an option too? But most of all, try not to be miserable this Christmas – and to focus on your mental and physical wellbeing as much as the situation allows.
What will Christmas be like during coronavirus?
It’s hard to tell, but it certainly won’t be what we’re used to. With social distancing, the ‘rule of six’ and numerous questions marks in the weeks (and months) ahead, smaller family gatherings will most likely have to take centre stage, if new measures do not come to an end before then.
Christmas on Zoom for big families? We shouldn’t rule it out.
What we do know – you can expect a face mask and hand sanitiser under the tree.
Source: The Telegraph Travels