Rumours are circulating about government plans for Christmas - here’s when it could be decided across the UK
As Christmas quickly approaches, families are trying to plan this year’s festive arrangements - which is proving tricky due to potential coronavirus restrictions.
Different rules and laws are currently in place across the UK. The measures that will be in place over the festive period are unclear just now, including how many people will be able to meet indoors and if people can travel from one area of the country to another.
However, there are rumoured reports of the government preparing plans for Christmas, which could differ depending on where you live in the UK. Here is what has been alluded to so far.
UK-wide lifting of restrictions
It is reported that the government could implement a so-called ‘five day break’ across the UK, allowing families to meet up and household mixing rules to be lifted for a short period of time.
The plans could see a temporary lift in restrictions from Christmas Eve (24 December) until Monday 28 December, allowing five days of festivities to take place.
However, although it is rumoured that the four devolved governments are contemplating this UK-wide lift in restrictions, no plans have yet been confirmed.
It’s also reported that another proposal being considered is the exemption of under-12s from rules on gathering sizes, which would therefore allow larger groups with children to get together.
A spokesperson for Downing Street allegedly told The Sun, “We are looking at ways to ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year.”
England contemplating plans for after second lockdown
England’s second lockdown is due to come to an end on 2 December, but it hasn't yet been confirmed what restrictions will remain in place when the country-wide restrictions end.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said that there will not be any "definitive" decisions regarding if the blanket restrictions can end as planned on 2 December, until the end of November.
Scotland’s tightening of restrictions could allow for flexibility over Christmas
In Scotland, some areas will move up in the tier system for a three week period from 20 November, which means tougher restrictions will be in place for these areas.
However, when announcing this decision on Tuesday 17 November, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that these tougher restrictions will give more flexibility for the “limited and careful” easing of rules over the Christmas period.
Wales considering options
In Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said that the festive period this year “won’t be like normal,” but that it is too early to make a definitive decision regarding how Christmas will work this year.
Mr Gething said that discussions with the other UK countries regarding Christmas were still ongoing, explaining, “It does rely on the picture that we will see, and the developing evidence over the coming weeks.
“There won't be a definitive statement in the next few days, or weeks. We have quite a long way to go before we get to the Christmas period."
Talking to BBC Radio Wales, Mr Gething said, "Even if we don't get exactly the same rules, every Government wants to have as much agreement as possible to make it as easy as possible for people to know what the potential issues are in each of the four countries to allow people to make those plans.
"There is goodwill in all four governments to want to make this happen."
However, Mr Gething also said, “There are significant risks to pay if we behave as if it's a normal Christmas and have the sort of gatherings we've been used to in much larger numbers indoors."
Northern Ireland expected to introduce new measures before Christmas
Although Christmas plans have not yet been confirmed for Northern Ireland, chief scientific adviser, Professor AIan Young, has said that additional interventions are expected before Christmas.
The nation’s R value had risen in recent weeks, and the scientific adviser said additional measures will therefore be suggested to the hospitality industry, including reducing numbers and increasing ventilation.
Restaurants, pubs and hotels can reopen in Northern Ireland on 27 November, as coronavirus restrictions introduced on 16 October will come to and end at midnight on 26 November.
Deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, also said that the executive will do all it can to "protect" as much of the Christmas period that it can.
Education Minister, Peter Weir, also said that there were “no plans” to extend the Christmas break of schools in the country by closing early for the holidays, dismissing this possibility as a "rumour.”