Christmas Day Bubble Guidelines – What you need to know
Christmas Day bubble guidelines: This information applies in relation to 25th December only. For more general guidance, you should follow this link.
Government Wales has had to change the arrangements for Christmas so that people do not come into contact with the new, more virulent strain of coronavirus. They have, therefore, changed the relaxation to the rules which had previously allowed two households to come together to form a Christmas bubble over a five-day period. This rule change now applies to Christmas Day only.
If you were planning to spend Christmas elsewhere in the UK, different UK nations have different rules. You should read the Christmas Day bubble guidelines from England, Scotland or Northern Ireland if you are still considering going there.
For 25th December only:
- an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ can consist of more than two households (your household and one other household);
- you can only be in one Christmas bubble and you cannot change it;
- you can travel anywhere within the UK for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble (subject to the rules where you are travelling to).
Important – To recognise the risks of loneliness and isolation, a single person, a single-parent household or a household with a single responsible adult can join your Christmas bubble. Please see the section below on single-adult households and people with caring responsibilities.
Things to consider
If, on Christmas Day, you are travelling away from home, you should travel to meet your Christmas bubble and return home all in the same day.
A fixed bubble is a sensible and proportionate way to balance the desire to spend time with others on Christmas Day. The fixed bubble also limits the risk of spreading infection. However, the more people you see, the more likely it is that you will catch or spread coronavirus (Covid-19). This possibility is greater now there is a new variant of the virus. You can spread coronavirus to others even if you and the people you meet have no symptoms.
Everybody in your Christmas bubble needs to consider these risks carefully before agreeing to form a bubble. You do not have to form a Christmas bubble. You should consider ways to celebrate Christmas in other ways, such as through the use of technology or meeting outdoors. Any way is good as long as it doesn’t bring households together or mean travelling to different parts of the country. Forming a bubble if you have an increased susceptibility to coronavirus or clinically extremely vulnerable carries additional risks.
You should keep taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus. Acting in a safe manner will help ensure that you enjoy Christmas Day as safely as possible. These precautions include ensuring indoor spaces get as much fresh air as possible, social distancing (even from the members of the other household in your Christmas bubble if you can), adhering to rules on self-isolation if you, or someone in your household or Christmas bubble, develop symptoms or test positive for coronavirus.
Forming a Christmas bubble
Christmas bubbles are different from normal extended households and have their own specific rules. These Christmas Day bubble guidelines on forming and using a Christmas bubble will be the law. You must follow them to minimise the spread of infection.
Everyone is allowed to form a Christmas bubble. There are three main rules:
- you can only be in one Christmas bubble and you cannot change it;
- your Christmas bubble should not include people from more than two households;
- keep your Christmas bubble as small as possible – you do not have to form a Christmas bubble.
You must not form a Christmas bubble if you or someone in your own household or extended household is self-isolating.
Single adult households and adults with caring responsibilities
To recognise the risks of loneliness and isolation, a third household can join the Christmas bubble. It must meet one of the following criteria, however:
- it must be a household where one adult lives alone
- the household must have one adult living with any number of children under 18, or
- there must be more than one adult living in the household, but one adult has caring responsibilities for all of the other adults in the home
For example, if Laura lives with her parents, acts as a carer for them and also has two young children living with her, she is effectively the single responsible adult for the household. Her household would, therefore, be able to join a Christmas bubble with two other households. This measure will lessen the risk that Laura’s other family or friends choose to bubble with other people, thereby putting very significant pressure on Laura over the festive season.
Separated parents of children under 18
Children (aged under 18) whose parents do not live together may be part of their parents’ Christmas bubbles if their parents choose to form separate bubbles. Nobody else should be in two bubbles.
Forming a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally
You are allowed to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally.
For example, Kevin lives with 2 friends in a houseshare. All three members of the household would like to see their own families on Christmas Day. Kevin is able to form a Christmas bubble with his parents while the other members of the household form their own, separate Christmas bubbles. Kevin should avoid his fellow housemates as much as possible for two weeks after he sees his parents.
You should also check the guidance on households where everybody is not in the same Christmas bubble.
If you live in shared accommodation such as a house in multiple occupation or supported living
If your household is one household, eg you have your own tenancy, within a shared home, the same rules apply as for a household with its own home. In other words, you can share a Christmas bubble with one other household from outside of your shared home. You can also be with two households if your household is a single person household or a household with a single responsible adult.
Consider the risks of joining a Christmas bubble carefully. Take additional steps to prevent the opportunity for the virus to spread within your household and between bubbles.
This might include:
- choosing to meet other members of your bubble in their home rather than yours wherever possible;
- if you cannot meet the other members of your bubble away outside your home, avoid socialising with people from other bubbles who might be staying in your house;
- being aware of the potential risks associated with more than one bubble being in a shared home at any one time;
- taking steps to minimise exposure to coronavirus by limiting the people you meet for 10 days before 25th December;
- cleaning surfaces and contact points like door handles and letting in as much fresh air as possible, especially after sommeone has visited your household.
If you share facilities such as bathrooms or kitchens with other people, you should be aware of the increased risks of doing this. Take appropriate precautions to minimise that risk. You can only gather in shared facilities in groups of up to four people at a time. These groups must not include any children aged under 11. Please see guidance on visiting people in private homes and on supported living which includes further information on those settings.
If you’re a student who’s moved home from university
If you are a student who has moved home from university, you are now part of the household to which you have returned. You are not part of your term-time household for this period.
Meeting with your Christmas bubble
Everybody in a Christmas bubble is responsible for taking clear steps to prevent catching and spreading the virus. If you do not follow these steps, you increase the risk of catching the virus. You could also spread it to your friends and family.
You should take particular care if you are in a Christmas bubble with anybody who is at increased risk from coronavirus or extremely vulnerable. This is more important than ever. There is further advice on what to do if you are extremely vulnerable further down this page.
Before forming and meeting your Christmas bubble
You should reduce unnecessary contact with people you do not live with as much as possible in the 10 days before you form your Christmas bubble.
Children can attend childcare in the two weeks before your Christmas bubble and throughout the festive period. Childcare and playwork settings will be allowed to remain open. There may be some changes to their operating times, however. Please check this with your provider. It is acceptable to continue accessing informal childcare from family and friends.
You can go to work if you cannot work from home, but you should avoid unnecessary social interaction. Any increase in contact with other people furthers the risk of catching or spreading coronavirus.
If you experience any coronavirus symptoms, you should self-isolate and get a free NHS test immediately. Please also see the section on self-isolation as to how Christmas bubbles might be affected.
Meeting people in private homes and gardens
If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes on 25th December. You must not meet friends or family in your home or garden unless they are part of your Christmas bubble (other than in very limited circumstances).
We know that it’s easier to catch and spread the virus in an indoor space, especially if there is little flow of fresh air. Therefore, when meeting your Christmas bubble, you should take these measures to prevent the spread of the virus:
- wash your hands frequently;
- clean touch points regularly, such as door handles and surfaces.
If you are only visiting someone for a short time, you should:
- keep socially distanced from anybody you do not live with as much as possible;
- open doors and windows to let as much fresh air in as you can during a visit and after visitors have left.
Meeting people in other indoor settings
Wales is at alert-level 4. This alert level means that pubs, restaurants, bars, cafes and non-essential retail will all be closed. Additionally, strict restrictions mean you cannot meet anyone outside your Christmas Bubble on Christmas Day. There are very limited exceptions.
If you have made reservations over the Christmas period, the venue should get in touch with you to confirm the cancellation.
Accessing informal childcare from family and friends
You can continue to access informal childcare provided by family and friends.
As a general rule, informal childcare should only be used where there are no alternatives available. If you want to meet socially with the other household providing childcare for you, you should include them in your Christmas bubble.
You and the other household providing childcare for you would count as two households towards the three household limit for Christmas bubbles.
Meeting people outdoors
You can spend time with any number of members of your Christmas bubble on Christmas Day in your garden or in any outdoor public place. Outdoor public places include:
- parks, beaches, parts of the countryside open to the general public;
- public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them);
Households where everybody is not in the same Christmas bubble
You may choose to form a different Christmas bubble from other people in your household (the people you live with normally). In this case, you should take additional steps to prevent the virus spreading within your household and between bubbles.
This might include:
- choosing to meet the other member(s) of your bubble in their home rather than yours where possible
- if you cannot meet the other member(s) of your bubble away from your home, avoid socialising with people from other bubbles who might be in your home
- taking extra precautions such as cleaning surfaces and contact points like door handles and letting in as much fresh air as possible after someone has visited your household
Rules for self-isolation
These rules apply if you have tested positive for coronavirus, you have recently entered the UK from a non-exempt overseas country or a contact tracer has notified you that you should self-isolate. This means you should not form a Christmas bubble if you are self-isolating.
These rules are the law and you must follow them even if it means not meeting with friends or family over Christmas. We also strongly recommend you do not form a Christmas bubble if you are self-isolating for any other reason. If you or someone you live with has symptoms of coronavirus for example.
Once you have met up with your Christmas bubble, if any of you tests positive for coronavirus or develops coronavirus symptoms, all members of the Christmas bubble must self-isolate as if they were members of the same household. Additionally, this may also have self-isolation implications for the household or extended household you may have left or may plan to return to.
It is really important that when deciding whether to form a Christmas bubble with others, you make sure you understand the risks that you might pose to others. You must consider the vulnerability of the household you will go to. Additionally, you must understand the risks involved to people in your usual household or extended household after the temporary arrangements end.
You will need to think carefully about what you will do if you have to self-isolate with your Christmas bubble. Alternatively, you need to know if you have to self-isolate or develop symptoms when you are back in your usual household. If you have people who are at increased risk or extremely vulnerable in your Christmas bubble or your permanent household/extended household, what might this mean for them?
If you are extremely vulnerable
You are still able to form a Christmas bubble if you are extremely vulnerable, but it does involve greater risks for you. You will minimise your risk of infection if you limit social contact with people do not live with you.
Forming a Christmas bubble is a personal choice and should be balanced against the increased risk of infection. If you do decide to form a Christmas bubble, you can take extra precautions set out in this guide. Others in your bubble should be mindful of your increased risks and be extra vigilant in the days before you get together.
If you are a care-home resident
Care-home providers should accommodate the wishes of residents and their family or friends to ensure a safe Christmas visit or a meal, should they want to do this, subject to the needs of other residents. However, the visit will increase the risk of exposure to Covid-19. This exposure could have dire consequences for the resident and other care-home residents after the Christmas period.
Those in an older age group or those who are extremely vulnerable have a greater risk of severe Covid-19 infection. Therefore, visits out of the care home should only be supported after very careful consideration of the risks. The decision and discussion should always involve the care home, the resident and their family.
If there is an outbreak in the home, visits should not take place.
Please see this guidance on visiting care homes for more information.
Travel to see your Christmas bubble
On 25th December, you may travel anywhere within the UK if necessary to meet with other households in your Christmas bubble. You must, however, leave and return to your home on Christmas Day. This is also subject to restrictions put in place in other parts of the UK.
In particular, there are some areas, such as Tier 4 areas in England, where we understand that Christmas bubbles cannot be formed. This means that you may travel to other parts of the UK as long as:
- meeting with people travelling from Wales is also allowed in the place you are travelling to and you are able to return home by the end of 25th December.
- once at your destination, you should follow the rules in place there.
Different nations within the UK are likely to have different rules on how many people can take part in a Christmas bubble in that nation. If you plan to travel to England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you should read that country’s guidance before you travel.
Transport routes may be busier than normal. Plan your journey and check for disruption before you leave to help keep everyone safe when travelling for Christmas. You should avoid making unnecessary stops during your journey. Where possible, avoid public transport and avoid sharing a car with people not in your household.
If you need to travel with your Christmas bubble, wherever you are, you should follow travelling safely guidance. You should:
- plan and avoid the busiest routes and travel times
- keep your distance when you travel, where possible.
- wash or sanitise your hands regularly
- wear a face covering on public transport in Wales unless you are exempt
Different rules may apply in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Staying overnight with your Christmas bubble
You can no longer stay overnight with other members of your Christmas bubble on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day unless they are also part of your pre-existing support bubble.
Staying overnight in holiday accommodation
You can no longer stay in a hotel or other forms of holiday accommodation, such as holiday rental accommodation during the Christmas period.
After meeting your Christmas bubble
Wales will continue to be at alert level 4 after Christmas. This alert level means that all people in Wales should stay home unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. Extended households will not be permitted and you can only meet the people you live with or people you are in a support bubble with.
Children should continue to go to school once schools return where they remain open.
In the weeks after Christmas, you can go to work if you cannot work from home, but you should avoid unnecessary social interaction. Any increase in contact with other people increases the risk you will catch or spread coronavirus.
For further UK information, visit the gov.uk website.
For further information about Wales, visit the gov.wales website.
We hope you found the article “Christmas Day bubble guidelines” useful. For more of our Covid-19 public information, please click here.