Coronavirus / What are the Christmas rules in Tiers 1, 2 and 3?

Coronavirus: What are the Christmas rules in Tiers 1, 2 and 3?

This information was correct as of 21 December 2020 but is subject to possible changes.

Unless otherwise stated, this page sets out the law and guidance which applies in England only.

New Tier rules came into force in England on 2 December 2020 and will remain in force until 2 February 2020. On 20 December, the rules around meeting other people at Christmas in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 were changed.

On this page, we explain the new rules which will apply during the Christmas period, and what this means for you. For more specific guidance on the rules in each individual Tier, see our pages on Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 respectively.

If you are looking for advice on the Christmas rules in Tier 4, please see here.

Can I meet family and friends this Christmas?

Yes. There is an exception to the new rules, meaning that if you live in Tiers 1, 2 or 3, you can meet up with family and friends who live in other households in a very limited way, as described below.

What is a “Christmas bubble”?

People from up to three households living in Tiers 1, 2 or 3 can link to form a “linked Christmas household” otherwise known as a “Christmas bubble”. Everyone in your proposed Christmas bubble must agree to being in it. You can only be in one Christmas bubble, and once you have formed one, you cannot change it.

People who live in Tier 4 are not allowed to join a Christmas bubble.

It is not necessary that all members of every household join the same bubble. It is possible under the rules to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you normally live with. For example, if you live in a house share, each housemate can form their own separate Christmas bubble with people from up to two other households.

There is government guidance on what you should do if you are in this situation to reduce the risk of the virus spreading within your household and between bubbles.

When can I form my bubble?

You are only allowed to form your bubble on Christmas Day – Friday 25 December 2020. Outside of this date, you are not allowed to form a Christmas bubble, and you will have to follow the rules on meeting others which apply in the Tier you live in.

There is an exception which allows you to gather in a Christmas bubble immediately after Christmas Day where one or more people at the gathering have not been able to return to their home because of unforeseen disruption to travel.

When can I travel for Christmas?

There are no legal restrictions on travelling within or between Tiers 1-3, only on who you gather with and where.

As noted above, the rules say that you can only meet with people in your Christmas bubble on Christmas Day.

Government guidance says you should consider carefully the risks of travelling and should avoid travelling from Tier 3 to lower prevalence areas where possible. There are no specific rules or guidance on when you should travel.

However, even though travelling before or after 25 December is not in itself an offence, gathering with friends or family from another household before or after that date may be. The normal Tier rules will apply so this will depend on which Tier you live in and whether one of the other exceptions to the rules on gatherings applies. See our pages on the rules in Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 for more information.

Can I form a Christmas bubble with family in other Tiers?

Yes, unless they live in Tier 4 (where Christmas bubbles are not allowed). However, if you travel to a different Tier, you are subject to the rules of that Tier.

For example, if you normally live in Tier 2, but travel to a family home in Tier 3 for Christmas, you must follow the rules in Tier 3.

Where can I go with people in my bubble?

You can spend time together in:

You cannot meet in other indoor settings such as pubs, shops, theatres and restaurants. In those settings, you must follow the rules on gatherings that apply in your Tier. See our pages on Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 for more information.

What counts as a “private dwelling”?

A private dwelling includes a person’s home and their garden. For the purposes of the rules on Christmas bubbles, it also includes accommodation in a campsite or caravan park, or in any of the following types of accommodation if it is used as the main residence of a member of your Christmas bubble:

  • a hotel, hostel, members’ club, boarding house or bed and breakfast;
  • care homes;
  • children’s homes;
  • residential family centres;
  • educational accommodation;
  • accommodation intended for use by the armed forces.

Does my child have a say in who they form a Christmas bubble with?

If you are a parent, you can decide which households to link with on your child’s behalf.

My child doesn’t live with me. Can I still see them at Christmas?

Yes. The rules say that children who do not live in the same household as one or both of their parents can be part of the Christmas bubbles of each parent – meaning children can see both of their parents at Christmas.

If your child does not live with you, you can therefore see them at Christmas regardless of whether their other parent has formed a bubble with other households that does not include yours. Your child can be included in both yours and the other parent’s bubbles.

This applies only to children under the age of 18.

My child lives in Tier 4. Can I still see them at Christmas?

Yes. In all Tiers there is an exception to the rules which allows you to gather indoors or outdoors if this is done for the purposes of contact arrangements between children (aged under 18) and their parents who don’t live in the same household.

Can I visit other people’s houses who are not part of my bubble?

No. You must only visit the homes of people who are part of your Christmas bubble on Christmas Day, unless one of the other exceptions to the rules on gathering in your Tier applies. See our pages on the rules in Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 for more information.

I am clinically vulnerable to coronavirus. Can I still travel for Christmas?

Yes. There is no legal restriction on travelling in Tiers 1 to 3, and this includes people who are clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable. However, travelling to see family or friends on Christmas Day may involve greater risks for you, and you may wish to look at government guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

I am already part of a support bubble – can they be part of my Christmas bubble?

Yes. If prior to Christmas Day you are in a support bubble with another household, you count as one household and can join with people from up to two more households to form a Christmas bubble. For more information on who can form a support bubble before Christmas, see here.

Where can I find more information?

The Government has produced guidance on forming a bubble with family and friends during the Christmas period, which you can find here.

What are my rights on this?

Find out more about your rights and how the Human Rights Act protects them

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