UK Covid Christmas advice: What is the guidance for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

The 2020 festive period will remain a three-family Christmas in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is understood. Credit: PA

It was never going to be a smooth sleigh ride to Christmas, given the year 2020 has been.

With coronavirus lockdowns and rule changes aplenty, it's been difficult to plan trips to the shops, let alone a festive family get-together.

And with the prime minister under pressure to scrap Christmas plans in order to bring down Covid-19 numbers ahead of a "likely third wave" - many arrangements have been thrown into disarray.

So, what are the rules and guidance across the four nations of the UK and how do they differ?

The 2020 festive period will remain a three-family Christmas in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, meaning three households can form a "bubble" and meet up indoors from December 23 to 27.

The prime minister, in a press conference from Downing Street, said "a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas". Credit: PA

People will be left to make their own judgments on whether Christmas celebrations are worth the risk, with warnings to avoid elderly relatives and a recommendation to isolate in the run-up to the festive period.

However, with just over one week to go until the big day, Wales has announced changes to its rules.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be “inhuman” to ban Christmas entirely and confirmed the festive bubble policy allowing households to mix would remain in place despite warnings it will lead to more deaths.But he said people should “think hard” about what they do and a “smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas”.The Prime Minister admitted the coronavirus situation had deteriorated since the festive bubble rules were set by the four nations of the UK.

Mr Johnson said: “While it would not be right, we think, to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones, we’re collectively – across the UK governments at every level – asking you to think hard, and in detail about the days ahead.”

He said the laws were remaining the same but “a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas”.

He added: “Have yourselves a merry little Christmas – and I’m afraid this year I do mean little.


First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that only two households can meet indoors, down from the three which had previously been agreed - and this move has been put into law.

  • ITV Correspondent Adrian Masters describes the situation in Wales

Mr Drakeford also announced Wales will start moving into stricter level 4 restrictions - the equivalent of a lockdown - from 6pm on Christmas day, lasting for three weeks.

The Welsh Labour leader announced that all non-essential retail and gyms would close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve with hospitality having to close from 6pm on Christmas Day.

On December 28, stricter restrictions for household mixing, staying-at-home, holiday accommodation and travel will be enforced.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said that the fire-break would help "protect lives". Credit: Welsh Government


Scots should stay in their own homes at Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has advised, but the rules have not changed.

If people feel it is “essential” to meet with others indoors, she said this should be for one day only and not overnight.

  • ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith breaks down what's happening in Scotland

Scotland’s First Minister said her government intends to issue strengthened guidance on Christmas coronavirus regulation relaxations later on Wednesday and hopes this will have been agreed UK-wide.

She said governments across the UK do “not intend to take away the flexibility” over Christmas, where coronavirus restrictions have been relaxed to allow up to eight people from three households to meet between December 23 and 27.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people should stay in their own homes this Christmas Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

Northern Ireland

The rules for Northern Ireland will remain the same, with three families able to meet over the festive period.

Health Minister Robin Swann is due to bring proposals for further Covid-19 restrictions to the Stormont executive on Thursday.

First Minister Arlene Foster said she did not expect Mr Swann to be recommending that new measures be introduced before Christmas.

“I don’t think he will be proposing closing down before Christmas but we will of course look to see what Robin and his team of advisers have to say to us, I don’t want to prejudge what he is going to say to us tomorrow but we are in a serious situation,” she said.

Mrs Foster said she could not rule out further restrictions after the Christmas relaxations end on December 28.

What do the experts make of it all?

Two top medical journals have called for the Government to call off its “rash” decision.

In a rare joint editorial, the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal said the Government “is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives”.

They added that the Government had been too slow to introduce restrictions in the spring and again in the autumn, and restrictions were needed over Christmas ahead of a “likely third wave”.