Covid: What are the social distancing rules this Christmas?

What are the Christmas rules in England?

The PM said no new measures were required before Christmas, even though there is “no doubt that Omicron continues to surge with a speed unlike anything we’ve seen before”.

Instead, he said people should exercise caution and follow guidance – including keeping fresh air circulating and taking a test before visiting vulnerable and elderly relatives.

Restrictions in England don’t include limits on socialising – so people are legally allowed to have friends and family over for Christmas, or to meet in places like pubs and nightclubs.

However, England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty has advised: “Don’t mix with people you don’t have to for either work or for family things.” He urged people to prioritise the events which “really matter to them”.

What has been announced in Scotland?

People should cancel work Christmas parties and limit time spent with other households, the Scottish government says.

If families do socialise they are advised to meet just two other households either side of Christmas.

Guidance for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day includes:

  • keep celebrations as small as family circumstances allow
  • everyone should be vaccinated and must test in advance
  • rooms should be well-ventilated
  • hygiene rules should be followed

Care home residents will only be able to see people from two households in a single visit. Hospital patients will only be able to have two visitors at a time.

New restrictions come into force after Christmas.

From 26 December, all outdoor events will be limited to just 500 people. Indoor events such as concerts will be limited to 200 people if they are seated, or 100 for standing.

It means football matches will be largely spectator-free, and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party has been cancelled.

Physical distancing of 1m will need to be in place for all events that do go ahead.

And pubs and other hospitality venues selling alcohol will need to reintroduce table service from 27 December.

These rules will be in place for at least three weeks.

What is the situation in Wales?

Wales has put guidance in place in the run up to Christmas and will introduce tougher legal restrictions after Christmas.

Before Christmas, the Welsh government has advised everyone to:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Take a lateral flow test before socialising, going shopping or visiting people and do not go out if it is positive
  • Meet outdoors if possible but if meeting indoors make sure the area is well ventilated
  • Limit your socialising, especially with vulnerable or older people, and space it out
  • Take care to socially distance, wear a face covering and wash your hands.

The regulations will also be changed to include requirements to work from home wherever possible.

From 26 December, spectators will be banned from all sports events. From 27 December the 2m social distancing rule returns in offices and extra measures must be put in place to protect customers and staff – such as one-way systems and physical barriers.

Nightclubs will also have to close.

The NHS Covid Pass is already needed for entry to nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls and many other indoor and outdoor events.


What restrictions are in place in Northern Ireland?

There’s no requirement to socially distance outside.

A maximum of 30 people from an unlimited number of households can meet indoors in domestic settings. Social distancing should be maintained as much as possible.

Shops must take “reasonable measures to manage risk” and shoppers are asked to maintain physical distance with each other where possible.

Face coverings are compulsory in shops, indoor seated venues and visitor attractions, public transport and some other settings – unless you are exempt.

Vaccine passports are required for venues including nightclubs, bars and cinemas.

Why is social distancing important?

Coronavirus spreads mainly when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks – sending small droplets, packed with the virus, into the air.

The further apart people are, the lower the risk of the infection spreading.

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