These are the new Christmas rules across the UK

The unified five day Christmas bubble plans have now been scrapped by the government, due to the increase of coronavirus infection rates, with rules now varying across the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday (19 Dec) that certain areas of South East England will move into new Tier 4 restrictions, with new rules coming into place throughout the rest of the country.

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The devolved administrations have now also implemented a change in Christmas plans, which vary across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What are the new Christmas rules across the UK?

The rules for Christmas now vary across the UK. Here’s what you need to know depending on where you live.


In England, those who moved into the newly implemented Tier 4 over the weekend will not be able to mix with any other households indoors, and individuals can only meet one person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Christmas Day restrictions will not be relaxed for those in Tier 4, which means households cannot mix.

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London, Kent and Medway, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Hastings and Rother, Havant, Gosport and Portsmouth, Hertfordshire, Essex (excluding Tendring, Uttlesford and Colchester), Central Bedfordshire, Bedford, Milton Keynes, Luton, and Peterborough are all now in Tier 4.

Those in Tier 4 must stay at home, apart from limited exemptions set out in law.

Non-essential retail, indoor gyms and leisure facilities, and personal care services in these areas have now closed, and people must work from home if they can.

Alongside this, people should not enter or leave Tier 4 areas, and Tier 4 residents must not stay overnight away from home.

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For those in Tier 1, 2 or 3 in England, a maximum of three households can meet indoors, but this is now for Christmas Day only. Those in these tiers cannot see anyone from a Tier 4 area.

Everyone, in all tiers, has been told by the government to stay local.


In Scotland, the relaxation of restrictions will only apply on Christmas Day. A maximum of eight people from three households can meet, but advice is to minimise the numbers, and, where possible, to celebrate at home in your own household or meet with others outdoors.

Travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK will not be legal, apart from specific exemptions. However, travel within Scotland will be allowed on Christmas Day.

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All of Scotland will then have Level 4 restrictions applied from Boxing Day (26 Dec), which includes the closure of non-essential retail and hospitality.

Travel across local authority boundaries between areas in Level 3 or 4 will not be legal, other than for specific exempt purposes, from 26 December onwards.

Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, alongside other island communities where restrictions have recently been reduced, will, however, be placed in Level 3.


In Wales, a maximum of two households can meet for Christmas Day only, forming a ‘Christmas Bubble’.

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However, “to recognise the risks of loneliness and isolation, the Christmas bubble can be joined by a single person, a single parent household or a household with a single responsible adult.”

If you are travelling away from home, you should travel to meet your Christmas bubble and then return home in the course of 25 December, the devolved administration explains.

Wales entered into a country-wide lockdown on Sunday (20 Dec), with gyms, beauty salons and non-essential shops closing, and bars and restaurants only able to open for takeaways.

During the level four lockdown period, people will not be allowed to mix with anyone they do not live with, with only single person households allowed to form an exclusive support bubble with one other household. Christmas Day rules are exempt from this.

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Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, up to three households can meet for one day between 23 and 27 December. This has been decided by the executive in order to provide “some flexibility for those working on Christmas Day.”

However, a set of stricter measures will come into place from 12.01am on 26 December 2020, and will remain in place for a period of six weeks, with a review after four weeks. The arrangements for Christmas household bubbles will continue to apply until 27 December.

From Boxing Day, restrictions will be in place each night from 8pm until 6am the following morning, including no indoor or outdoor gatherings of any kind. This includes no household mixing in private gardens.

Essential retail must close between these hours and outdoor exercise is only permitted with members of your own household.

No sporting events at any level, either indoors or outdoors, can be held between 26 December and 2 January.