The four nations of the United Kingdom have agreed to relax COVID-19 restrictions for Christmas to allow up to three households to meet at home for five days.
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken differing approaches to handling the pandemic so far but the leaders of the devolved nations reached agreement with London on Tuesday on rules governing the festive period.
Three households will be able to form a “Christmas bubble”, allowing them to meet up at home, places of worship and in outdoor public places but not at indoor hospitality or entertainment venues from December 23 until December 27 under the plans.
“People want to be with their loved-ones and those close to them for what is the most important holiday of the year,” senior minister Michael Gove said on Tuesday.
Limits on travel will also be scrapped so that people can meet up, with an additional day on either side for those going to and from Northern Ireland.
A national lockdown in England is due to end next week after which different parts of the country will face varying restrictions as part of a tiered system announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A decision is expected later this week on which areas will fall into the different categories.
The United Kingdom has one of the highest tolls from the coronavirus pandemic, reaching 55,838 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to government data published on Tuesday.
“The virus won’t take time off, so please be cautious,” said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. “If you can, stay at home with your own household.”