Guidance

Guidance for the Christmas period

Guidance for the Christmas period.

This guidance was withdrawn on

The information on this page relates to the 2020 Christmas period and is no longer current guidance.

From 2 December, you must follow the guidance for the tier in your area. Find out what restrictions are in place in your area.

Meeting friends and family

On 25 December

This Christmas, it’s safest if you spend time only with your own household or support bubble. On 25 December you may choose to form a Christmas bubble if you feel you really need to but this only applies on Christmas day and to people who do not live in a Tier 4 area.

A Christmas bubble can only meet in a private home, a place of worship or an outdoor public space. If you are meeting someone who isn’t in your Christmas bubble or support bubble, you can only do so outside your home or garden and in accordance with the rules in your tier (either the tier you live in, or the tier you are meeting in - whichever is stricter).

In a Tier 4 area, you must follow the rules in your tier over the Christmas period. Christmas bubbles do not apply. This means that you cannot meet other people indoors over the Christmas period, unless you live with them, or they are part of your support bubble. Outdoors, you can only meet with your household, support bubble, or alone with one other person from another household in a public outdoor space.

After Christmas

From 26 December, you must follow the rules of your tier. Christmas bubbles will no longer apply. In most places across the UK, that means you cannot mix with other households indoors, including on New Years’ Eve.

Those who choose to form a Christmas bubble should exercise additional caution and cut down on unnecessary social contact after seeing their Christmas bubble to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Visiting bars, pubs and restaurants

From 2 December, the rules on who you can meet with in bars, pubs and restaurants will depend on your tier. The rules might be different for indoor and outdoor hospitality settings. Check the rules for your tier.

On 25 December, the rules on who you can meet in bars, pubs and restaurants will not change.

Although there are exemptions for work purposes, you must not have a work Christmas lunch or party, where that is a primarily social activity and is not otherwise permitted by the rules in your tier.

Visiting churches and other places of worship

From 2 December, you can attend places of worship in all tiers. The rules on who you can meet with whilst at places of worship will depend on your tier. Check the rules for your tier.

On 25 December, you may also attend a place of worship with members of your Christmas bubble if you choose to form one. You should continue to practise safe behaviours including making space between members of different households wherever you can.

There is further information in the guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic.

Visiting shops and Christmas markets

From 2 December, the rules on who you can meet with in shops will depend on your tier. The rules might be different for indoor shops and open air shops, such as Christmas markets or Christmas tree markets. Check the rules for your tier.

Santa’s grottos can go ahead in Tiers 1-3, in accordance with the venue restrictions and gathering limits of that tier. They should not take place in Tier 4. Venues should put in place appropriate COVID-secure measures, including social distancing.

On 25 December the rules on who you can meet in shops will not change. You should continue to practise safe behaviours including shopping online where you can, avoiding crowds, and if you are in crowded areas, wearing a face covering. You should not go shopping with your Christmas bubble.

There is further information in the guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Attending events, including performances and Christmas lighting ceremonies

From 2 December, the rules on attending events, including performances and Christmas or other festive lighting ceremonies will depend on your tier. The rules might be different for indoor and outdoor events. Check the rules for your tier.

On 25 December, the rules on indoor events will not change.

There is further information in the guidance for people who work in performing arts, including arts organisations, venue operators and participants.

New Year’s Eve

You must follow the rules according to your tier on where you can go and who you can meet on New Year’s Eve. Your Christmas bubble will no longer apply. In most places across the UK, that means you cannot mix with other households indoors. One in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it. It is essential that these rules are followed by everyone.

If you formed a Christmas bubble, you should reduce your contact with people you do not live with as much as possible after meeting your Christmas bubble. This includes not meeting up with friends or family outside your household, including for New Years Eve, even if you feel well.

Hospitality venues are all required to close by 23:00 at the latest. Check the rules for your tier.

Carol singing

Coronavirus spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact. Singing, shouting and physical activity increases the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols. If singing does take place, steps should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission, including limiting the number of people participating as far as possible. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means the more people involved, the higher the risk of transmission.

Indoor or outdoor carol singing or carol services should only take place in Tier 4 as part of an act of worship and continue to be subject to the gathering limits in that Tier.

Outside a Tier 4 area, carol singing or carol services can take place in accordance with gathering limits and if all attendees follow advice in the suggested principles of safer singing and guidance for the Performing Arts developed by an expert group coordinated by Public Health England. This applies to both professional and amateur choirs.

Those performing or rehearsing:

  • In a professional capacity; or

  • As part of a supervised activity for under 18s

are not limited in number and do not have to adhere to gathering limits but should still follow the performing arts guidance.

For adult amateur performances and rehearsals, you should consider the case for proceeding (or not), given the wider health context in your area and the context of your participants, particularly if vulnerable individuals are involved.

If you do proceed, you should follow performing arts guidance and will be subject to local gathering limits. This means that if more than one group of six (in tier 1) or household (in tier 2, 3 or 4) is performing or rehearsing indoors, they must not interact, ‘mingle’ or otherwise socialise together. You should maintain social distancing between groups or households at all times, including when entering or leaving the building or in any breaks. Direction can continue to take place during the activity i.e. between a conductor and a group, but other physical and social interaction is prohibited.

Indoor performances

Professional and amateur choirs may perform in any indoor venue permitted to open, as per the restrictions in each tier and should follow the rules outlined above.

Based on public health advice for indoor performances, the audience or congregation should not participate in any activity that can create aerosols, including singing, shouting and chanting. The maximum number of people present should take into account the area of the space and the requirement to maintain 2m social distancing at all times. This follows the advice generally for the Performing Arts. Particular attention should be paid to how participants can arrive and leave the site safely while maintaining social distancing.

Attendees should walk or cycle to the event and avoid public transport or sharing a car with anyone outside their household in line with safer travel advice.

Outdoor performances

Professional and amateur choirs may perform outdoors in any venue permitted to open, as per the restrictions in each tier and should follow the rules outlined above.

Where a performance is held outdoors, an audience or congregation may join in with singing and should follow performing arts guidance. This means that audience or congregation members should follow social distancing of 2m and event organisers should ensure this is maintained. Attendees should remain seated where possible. The maximum number of people present should take into account the area of the outdoor space and the requirement to maintain 2m social distancing at all times. Particular attention should be paid to how participants can arrive and leave the site safely while maintaining social distancing.

Door-to-door carol singing can take place in a group(s) of no more than six participants in Tiers 1 to 3. If there are more than six people in total, each ‘group’ must not interact, ‘mingle’ or otherwise socialise. In Tier 4 singers must only be in a group(s) of no more than two participants, unless they are from the same household or support bubble. Participants should adhere to public health advice, including to ensure that you maintain at least 2m distance from anyone you do not live with and the threshold of any dwellings.

Attendees should walk or cycle to the event and avoid public transport or sharing a car with anyone outside their household in line with safer travel advice.

For further information, please refer to the Performing Arts guidance and guidance for the safe use of places of worship during the pandemic.

Going to work

If you are working during this period, you should continue to do so from home where you can do so.

Childcare

Over the Christmas period, local restrictions and exemptions remain in place. Therefore, registered childcare, other supervised activities for children, and childcare bubbles are permitted. If your childcare bubble is part of your Christmas bubble they count as a separate household so you could only join with one other household on 25 December.

Visiting relatives in care homes

In all tiers you can continue visiting relatives in care homes, except where there is an outbreak in the care home. Using rapid (lateral flow) tests provided to care homes, residents can have indoor visits from up to two visitors each week by Christmas. If a visitor has a negative test, is wearing appropriate PPE, and following other infection control measures, then it may be possible to have limited physical contact with their loved one, such as providing personal care, holding hands and hugging.

Visits can also be held outside or in other COVID-secure visiting areas with social distancing and PPE in place.

Access guidance on visiting care homes during COVID-19

Travel within the UK

From 2 December, the advice on travelling outside of your tier, including for overnight stays, will depend on your tier. Check the rules for your tier.

If you are permitted to join a Christmas bubble on 25 December, you should consider carefully the risks of travelling to see them. If you live in an area with a higher level of prevalence, for example, tier 3 in England, you should avoid travelling to lower prevalence areas where possible. If you have to travel, book ahead to enable you and others to travel safely and plan your outwards and return journeys carefully. Once at your destination, you should follow the rules in that tier, stay local and avoid unnecessary travel within the area after you arrive.

If you plan to travel to Wales or Northern Ireland, you must follow the rules of that country and should read guidance from Wales or Northern Ireland before you travel. You cannot travel to or from Scotland to form a Christmas bubble and you cannot leave a Tier 4 area to join a Christmas bubble in a Devolved Administration.

You cannot mix with the other households in your Christmas bubble (unless otherwise permitted by your tier rules) after 25 December except in the event of unforeseen travel disruption, or if a member of your Christmas bubble develops symptoms of coronavirus and you are required to self-isolate. This includes anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland.

Transport routes may be busier than normal. You should:

  • plan ahead, check for disruption before you leave, and avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times
  • avoid making unnecessary stops during your journey
  • avoid sharing a car with people not in your household or Christmas bubble
  • keep your distance from other people when you travel, where possible
  • wash or sanitise your hands regularly
  • wear a face covering on public transport in England unless you’re exempt

If necessary, you can stay in a hotel, hostel or B&B in England during the Christmas period, in line with the rules in your tier. This includes in a tier 3 area between 24 and 26 December, as long as you’re staying by yourself or with other members of your household, or support bubble. You should not gather as a Christmas bubble in a hotel, hostel or B&B in any tier unless a member of your Christmas bubble lives there permanently.

If necessary, you can stay in private rented accommodation such as short term holiday lets with members of your household, or your Christmas bubble.

If you need to travel with your Christmas bubble, wherever you are, you should follow Safer Travel guidance.

Travel abroad

From 2 December you may travel abroad, including to visit friends and family, subject to any restrictions in place at your destination. Those in Tier 3 should avoid leaving their tier other than for work, education or caring responsibilities. Before travelling you should check relevant travel advice. If you live in a Tier 4 area, you can only travel internationally - or within the UK - where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

Travel to the UK from abroad will continue to be governed by the travel corridor approach. Individuals will need to self-isolate for 10 days if arriving from or have travelled through a non-travel corridor country or territory. From 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government’s travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after 5 days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate.

You cannot join a Christmas bubble until you have completed your self isolation period of 10 days, or 5 days with a negative test result. You should not form a Christmas bubble if you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.

On 25 December, the rules on international travel will not change.

Volunteering

Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting people over the Christmas period and you can continue to do so in all tiers.

Where possible, you should volunteer from home. If you cannot do so, you can volunteer outside your home.You should also follow advice on how to help safely. If you are volunteering, you must follow social distancing guidance. One in three people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and will be spreading it without realising it. If you do not follow this advice, you could put yourself at risk of infection, or risk spreading it to others. If you’re volunteering in a workplace, it should meet coronavirus safety standards.

Find out more about ways to volunteer.

Weddings, civil partnerships and funerals

From 2 December, the rules on weddings, civil partnerships and funerals will depend on your tier. Check the rules for your tier.

On 25 December, the rules on weddings, civil partnerships and funerals will not change.

Published 29 November 2020
Last updated 23 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. translations updated

  2. New guidance issued.

  3. Update in line with the latest government guidance.

  4. translations added

  5. Update to guidance.

  6. First published.