Covid: With fears of a surge this Christmas what are the different rules across the UK?

There are fears of a Covid winter surge Credit: PA

By Christmas, the Covid-19 rules of the four nations of the UK will diverge significantly amid fears of a winter coronavirus surge impacting the already beleaguered NHS.

In recent days, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all updated their Covid advice with Wales changing theirs last week.

On Tuesday, Stormont approved Covid passports in Northern Ireland for almost all hospitality venues.

This leaves just England as the only UK nation that does not have some form of mandatory vaccine passport.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have also all begun encouraging people to work from home again, whereas the government has resisted calls to do the same in England.

Covid passports will soon be required in three out of four nations in the UK Credit: PA

England also has the most relaxed mask-wearing rules out of any UK nation.

The government has encouraged people in England to take Covid tests before going to any social occasion or crowded place, but has so far refused to implement "plan B".

So what are the rules in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?


Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday the Scottish government would not be increasing Covid restrictions.

She said they would not be extending Covid vaccine passports to other hospitality venues outside of nightclubs and large-scale events.

Ms Sturgeon said the vaccine passport scheme would not be extended as doing so would “not be proportionate”, given its impact on businesses.

She also said from December 6 proof of a negative lateral flow can be used to access nightclubs or large events.

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Previously, unlike Northern Ireland and Wales, a negative Covid test without proof of vaccination was not enough to gain entry to the restricted areas.

By law in Scotland, everyone must wear a mask in most indoor settings.

In Scotland people who are not fully vaccinated are also asked to self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid.

School children have also been required to keep wearing face masks in Scotland.

Cases in Scotland have been decreasing slightly in recent days.

Northern Ireland

On Tuesday, the Stormont government agreed to introduce Covid passports in Northern Ireland for hospitality venues from the middle of December.

Nightclubs only reopened in Northern Ireland at the start of November.

It is understood the proposals will mean proof of vaccination, a negative test or evidence of recent recovery will allow a person to access any restricted venue.

Stormont also agreed on Tuesday to begin encouraging people to work from home again.

Leaders in Northern Ireland have been worried about increasing Covid cases, which surged 23% last week.

Masks are required in three out four nations in the UK Credit: PA

Cases have risen from just above 1,000 per day to around 1,800 a day since the start of November.

Face masks are also legally required in all indoor settings accessible to the public in Northern Ireland, although the government has expressed concern over low levels of adherence to the rules.

Unvaccinated people in Northern Ireland are also still required to self-isolate if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid.


Unlike in England, face masks have remained a legal requirement in indoor public spaces in Wales.

The Welsh government has also been encouraging people to work from home where possible, a step the national government has so far avoided.

They also recently changed self-isolation rules requiring an entire household to quarantine if one member of the family tests positive for Covid.

In Wales, Covid passes have been in use for several months and are the biggest difference between England's rules.


Within the UK, England has the most relaxed Covid rules.

Face coverings are not mandatory and people are not being urged to work from home.

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and unvaccinated or has had their second Covid vaccine dose less than two weeks ago must quarantine if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the illness.

It was originally used for large events but has been extended to most indoor entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres.

The pass can provide proof of recent recovery from Covid, a negative test, or proof of vaccination.

At the latest update on Covid-19 restrictions on November 17, Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford said there would be no changes to the current rules after cases began dropping from a record high.

In the middle of October Wales had the highest Covid infection rate out of any region of the UK.

Cases have now fallen from a high of around 4,000 to below 2,000 a day.