UK PM Johnson offers days off from lockdown to form 'Christmas bubble'
In a video message on Tuesday evening from Downing Street, Boris Johnson said a family can get together with two other households to form such a bubble in order to spend the festive period together.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a time-limited one-off dispensation from COVID-19 lockdown rules agreed by all parts of the United Kingdom for families to get together to form a Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27.
In a video message on Tuesday evening from Downing Street, where he continues to self-isolate after being in contact with a COVID-positive politician, Johnson said a family can get together with two other households to form such a bubble in order to spend the festive period together.
“All four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) have agreed that from the 23rd of December to the 27th of December, you will be able to form a Christmas bubble with up to two other households,” Johnson said.
It would mean that up to three households will be able to come together from any part of the UK over the brief four-day period and also attend church and communal services.
“We can’t afford to throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful,” he said, urging people “think carefully” about the festive plans.
“I know this doesn’t equate to a normal Christmas and it won’t work for everyone. And it is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this time-limited special dispensation. The virus has not gone away and families will need to make a personal judgement about the risk of forming a bubble with or visiting elderly relatives and the vulnerable,” he said. "'Tis the season to be jolly but 'tis also the season to be jolly careful."
Making a reference to some good news from at least three COVID-19 vaccines in the last few weeks, Johnson expressed hope for a better period by early next year at the end of a tough 2020.
“I have to level with you and say we face some tough weeks and months ahead. But if we follow the rules, remembering to wash our hands, wear a face covering and keep our distance from anyone we don’t live with, then after this tough winter, we can look forward to a much, much brighter spring,” he said.
A joint statement issued by the four UK governments said they had been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, recognising it must be “limited and cautious”.
They also urged people to "think carefully" about their Christmas plans and to consider meeting outside or getting together virtually, instead of mixing indoors.
England remains under a strict stay-at-home lockdown, set to expire next Wednesday when it will move into a tougher three-tier system.
The different regions will find out on Thursday which tier they fall under, a decision based on a number of factors including case numbers, the infection reproduction rate – or R number – and pressure on local National Health Service (NHS) capacity.
Some scientists have warned that the relaxation of Covid restrictions over Christmas could spark another wave of infections and further deaths.
On Tuesday, the UK government recorded another 608 deaths, pushing the country's death toll to 55,838.