BRITS wanting to spend Christmas with loved ones should isolate for at least five days first, Boris Johnson says.
The Prime Minister has refused to ditch his festive bubbles plan – but says those celebrating the season must follow five rules when seeing friends and family.
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And Christmas must be kept as safe, and short as possible, he said.
Tonight, the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments have issued a rare joint statement warning: "This cannot be a normal Christmas".
The PM has faced opposition on all sides for his plans over the big day as virus cases remain stubbornly high, despite the three-tier system.
Despite that, people in England will be allowed to meet with others from no more than three households between December 23 and 27.
The five rules are:
- A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas – cut the number of bubbles and days of socialising if you can
- Keep it local: Don't travel from higher tiers to lower ones
- Isolate beforehand: cut contacts five days before you see other households
- Think of the vulnerable: avoid seeing them if you can
- Ditch Boxing Day crowds and don't party at New Year: to keep risk down
All unnecessary social contact outside immediate families should be cut from at least the 20th, and preferably before, Government guidance says.
Bubbles must be decided in advance and can't be changed – although Brits can travel between tiers and nations, as long as it's within the rules.
Agreed contacts can only be met in private homes or gardens, places or worship, or public outdoor spaces.
Those in Tiers 1 and 2 can meet friends – provided it's outside, as per the current rules.
Mr Johnson has advised people to decide on their bubbles by Friday.
And crowded Boxing Day sales and New Year parties are out, with the PM telling people to stay at home in order to keep safe.
Anyone over the age of 70, or those who are clinically vulnerable, are asked to consider not meeting with any other bubbles.
Students returning home will be considered a household with their families for the five-day break.
Overnight stays are out unless they're 'unavoidable', according to the guidance.
‘A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas’
Tonight, the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments have issued a joint statement, which reads:
A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
The safest way to spend this Christmas is with your own household or your existing support bubble in your own home – and we strongly recommend that this is what you do if at all possible.
We know the extraordinary lengths that people have gone to this year to protect their loved ones and the NHS.
We know that people want to see life return to normal. And with vaccines now being deployed, next year we are confident it will do.
But to get there safely, this cannot be a normal Christmas. We must continue to work together to prevent the spread of the virus, and to protect our friends, our families and our front-line workers.
In some areas, the number of people with COVID-19 is rising rapidly, as it is in much of Europe. It is vital that we all act responsibly over Christmas to limit the risk of further transmission and keep each other as safe as possible.
One in three people who have COVID-19 don’t show symptoms but can still pass on the virus.
To protect you and your loved ones, we recommend that you think very carefully about the risks of forming a bubble.
Discuss alternatives to meeting up in person, or ways of meeting up outdoors instead.
Only form a bubble if you feel you absolutely need to.
In a public address this afternoon, Mr Johnson said: "A smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
"When we say three households can meet on five days, I want to stress that these are maximums not targets to aim for.
"So, have yourselves a merry little Christmas and I'm afraid this year, I do mean little.”
Today, the UK has recorded a total of more than 65,000 Covid deaths, with another 613 reported.
And the number of positive tests recorded is soaring towards two million.
Meanwhile, another ten million people across London and the south-east have gone into Tier 3 lockdowns as cases surge.
Areas including Oxfordshire and Sussex could also face tougher rules, it's feared.
Mr Johnson warned the nation was "already seeing worrying rises in some parts of the country" and it was "vital that everyone exercises the greatest possible personal responsibility".
He added: "The overall situation is, alas, worse and more challenging than we'd hoped when we first set the rules.
"We are collectively, across the UK Government, at every level, asking you to think hard, and in detail about the days ahead, and whether you can do more to protect yourself and others while keeping the laws, the same, but we all want to send the same message."
Families should avoid staying overnight, and not to travel from high risk Tier 3 areas to lower risk areas if they can.
But the PM refused to scrap the laws allowing people to meet, telling the nation it would be "frankly inhuman" to ban Christmas and "against the instincts of everyone in this country".
Professor Chris Whitty said of the laws today: "Just because you can, it doesn't mean you should.
"You wouldn't drive at 70pmh on an icy road – these are icy and treacherous conditions."
The elderly should delay seeing family and friends until they have got the vaccine, he warned.
People in England will have more freedom this Christmas than those in Scotland and Wales.
What is the new Christmas advice across the UK?
WALES: Only two households should form a bubble over Christmas. Shops, pubs and other venues will shut ahead of a full 'Stay at Home' lockdown from December 28.
SCOTLAND: People should meet up in small bubbles for just one day over Christmas, and no overnight stays. People should keep windows open and not share dishes if they can. If people have not made plans, they should stay at home. People shouldn't travel to areas where there are fewer cases of the virus. Limit of 8 people in bubbles – but under 12s don't count.
ENGLAND: Keep it small, with as few bubbles as possible. Keep it short, but no specific rules on length of gatherings. Think of the elderly and avoid seeing them if you can. Avoid busy Boxing Day sales and New Year parties. And isolate for five days before seeing people.
NORTHERN IRELAND: Not yet clear. Medics and politicians to hold further talks.
Today's announcements leave the public facing a moral dilemma about whether to see family and friends over the Christmas period – and for how long to meet up.
Ms Sturgeon said this lunchtime that people shouldn't form a bubble for more than ONE day over the five-day period.
She said: "If you do form a bubble, you should not meet up with any one in it for more than one day over that period if possible and you should not stay overnight unless it is overnight.
"If you are intending to form a social bubble, you should already be avoiding unnecessary social contact. If you haven't made plans to form a bubble, please don't.
"If you have made plans but they're not really essential, please postpone them to later in the year."
Mr Drakeford said the advice from the Welsh Government was that only two households should come together to "form an exclusive Christmas bubble" in Wales.
All non-essential retail, hairdressers, and gyms will have to shut on Christmas eve, too.
Pubs, restaurants and cafes must close at the end of the day on Christmas Day – and the country will then go into a new lockdown from 28 December.
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