Staying safe over the festive period

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Video call with family over the Christmas period.

Christmas is an important time where people like to come together.

This year we all face difficult choices and we know that Christmas is going to look very different.

With COVID-19 cases in practically every neighbourhood and a new variant spreading rapidly in parts of the country, it is vital that everyone puts safety first.

Think about those who are most vulnerable to serious effects of COVID-19, particularly those aged over 70, people who have a long term illness or those who are already unwell.

The fewer contacts you have, the less chance you have of spreading the virus and this in turn keeps people safe and saves lives.

The safest way to celebrate over the festive period is to keep it short (24 hours), local and wherever possible celebrate at a distance.

Tips for reducing household transmission

Most infections happen indoors in private homes where people get close to friends and family. This Christmas, the best way to keep your loved ones safe is to stay within your household and make sure that you agree a household plan with family and friends to help you prepare for social interactions in the home.

This could include:

  • Replacing in-person interactions with online events or postponing until in a lower tier
  • Moving indoor events outside where there is better ventilation
  • Checking that rooms are laid out to best allow for social distancing and are as well ventilated as possible
  • Limiting how many people you see and how long you see them for
  • Ensuring that those who are socially isolated have support – either outside, by phone or online

Tier rules for the festive period

The rules vary depending on which tier you live in. You can find out which tier you are in by using the online checker. 

Those living in tier 4 areas cannot mix with anyone outside of their household or support bubble indoors and should stay home. They cannot form a Christmas bubble on 25 December. Meetings outdoors can be with one other person only.

Those living in the other tiers can see a maximum of two other households from their Christmas bubble on Christmas Day (December 25) only. Overnight stays should be avoided and you should not travel into a tier 4 area.

It’s important that you don’t mix with other people or households if you have symptoms of COVID-19, are awaiting a test or results of a test or if you’ve been advised to self-isolate as a confirmed case or close contact of a case.

Across all tiers, everyone:

  • must wear a face covering in most indoor public settings, unless they have an exemption
  • should follow the rules on meeting others safely
  • should attend school or college as normal, unless they are self-isolating. Schools, universities, colleges and early years settings remain open in all tiers
  • should walk or cycle where possible, plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes when travelling
  • must follow the limits on the numbers permitted to gather together in their tier except for in specific settings and circumstances. These exemptions are detailed at the end of this guidance

Self-isolation and testing 

The changes to rules on Christmas Day do not change self-isolation or testing guidance.

You must still self-isolate and not form a Christmas bubble if:

  • you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • you’ve tested positive for COVID-19
  • you live with someone who has symptoms or tested positive
  • someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive
  • you’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • you arrive in the UK from a country with a high COVID-19 risk

You must also still get tested for COVID-19 if you get symptoms.

If a member of your Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus or develops coronavirus symptoms, while you are all together, all members of the bubble must self-isolate as if they were members of the same household. This means for 10 days from the first day of that person’s symptoms or the positive test date. The 10 day isolation requirement also applies if a member of the bubble tests positive or develops symptoms for up to 48 hours after members last met.

We know that these restrictions are difficult for everyone but it really is important that we all follow the guidelines and stick to the rules.  On behalf of everyone at Public Health England, we wish you a happy, peaceful and safe Christmas.