UK unveils COVID Christmas mixing plan

The five-day grace period marks a joint push from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

UK unveils COVID Christmas mixing plan

LONDON — Boris Johnson handed a Christmas gift to Britain: freedom to see loved ones (and some less loved ones) despite coronavirus restrictions. 

The prime minister agreed a “Christmas bubble” scheme with the devolved nations of the U.K that will allow people across the country to spend time together over the festive period. 

It amounts to a five-day grace period, between December 23 and December 27, during which three different households will be allowed to mix. They can meet in private homes, places of worship and outdoors, but not in hospitality or entertainment venues.  

Ministers accept the scheme will not allow people to see everybody they hope to, but settled on three households as a compromise within ongoing infection control measures.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have, at times, gone for differing pandemic response measures. The aligned approach over Christmas was agreed after talks between U.K. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and first ministers of the three devolved nations.

In a statement, Gove said the pact would “offer hope for families and friends who have made many sacrifices over this difficult year.”

“In coming to this agreement, we have listened to scientific and clinical advice on how best to minimize the risk and reach a balanced and workable set of rules that we hope will allow people to spend time together at this important time of year,” he said.

“This has been a very long and difficult year for all of us. All our lives have been turned upside down,” added Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, in a statement. “We are all looking forward to Christmas and a chance to spend some time with all those we hold dear.”

The government is not asking transport companies to put on extra holiday season services, but is urging people to plan their travel well ahead and be sensible. Authorities are not expected to take a tough line on rule-breakers, except in extreme cases such as the holding of mass parties. Further guidance is expected on carol singing.

Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, told a Commons committee earlier Tuesday that any Christmas mixing scheme would come with risks. “I have to speak bluntly: the virus doesn’t care if it’s Christmas,” she said. “We still have pretty high prevalence across the country. It is risky for people to mix indoors with alcohol with elderly relatives.”

The announcement comes as Johnson prepares to unveil more details about what will happen when the current lockdown ends in England. Nationwide measures will end on December 2, when a three-tiered regime of restrictions will return. The government has set out what each tier will look like, but has yet to reveal which areas of the country will be in each tier.

Source : Politico EU More