Coronavirus Christmas rules UK: What is a Christmas bubble and what are the rules for Christmas 2020?

The coronavirus Christmas rules for the UK in 2020 have been announced and Christmas bubbles are the new 'normal'...

Excited Grandchildren Greeting Grandparents With Presents Visiting On Christmas Day under the new coronavirus Christmas rules UK 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The coronavirus Christmas rules for the UK in 2020 have been announced by the government and they will involve a relaxation of lockdown restrictions that will allow extended families to form Christmas 'bubbles'.

Following the government's emergency COBRA committee meeting on Tuesday 24 November, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove confirmed that all the leaders of the devolved governments had agreed that it was important to allow people to be with their loved ones at Christmas. 

The COBRA meeting was attended by the first ministers of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and so the new coronavirus Christmas rules will apply to the whole of the UK. 

What are the coronavirus Christmas rules in the UK 2020?

The newly announced coronavirus Christmas rules for the UK in 2020 will allow up to three different households to form a 'Christmas bubble' together for five days over the festive period. 

This five day period will start on Wednesday 23 December and end after Sunday 27 December. 

Travel restrictions and the tiered lockdown systems in place across the UK will also be lifted for this five day period, allowing families who live in different parts of the UK to visit each other.

After announcing the new rules Michael Gove told SkyNews: "We all know that Christmas this year won't be as it has been in years past. 

"But all the governments agreed we should balance the need to protect public health with also allowing people to be with their loved ones."

Multi-Generation Family In Kitchen Helping To Prepare Christmas Meal Together

Under the new rules, up to three different households will be allowed to mix for five days. 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What is a Christmas bubble and what are the Christmas bubble rules?

A Christmas bubble is similar to the concept of a support bubble, but is made up of more households. 

The Christmas bubble rules allow three different households to form a bubble over the five day festive period, meaning they can meet up and mix in their private homes, a place of worship or outdoor public spaces without the rule of six applying and regardless of what tier of lockdown rules their area was in before Christmas.

Those who have formed a Christmas bubble will not be required to wear face masks will together inside a private home.

Households that have formed a Christmas bubble cannot meet up inside indoor public spaces. So this includes pubs, bars and restaurants. Interactions must remain limited to outdoor spaces, private homes or places of worship.

Under the new coronavirus Christmas rules about 'Christmas bubbles', once a Christmas bubble has been formed, it cannot then be changed or extended.

This was clarified by Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who explained, "You can't see two households one day and then another two households the next day."

The Scottish leader added: "We're asking people to keep well within these limits because there is a risk to households coming together…try to limit your interaction [with other households]."

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Are the Christmas Covid rules the same in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England?

Largely yes, the Coronavirus Christmas rules will be the same in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

Each part of the UK is set to further clarify their position and rules around support bubbles and extended households over Christmas.

However, what we do know so far is that people in Northern Ireland will be allowed a seven day window (instead of a five day window) over Christmas to allow for the time it takes to travel between NI and the rest of the UK. Their Christmas covid rules will apply from Tuesday 22 December until Monday 28 December.

Rachael Martin
Rachael Martin

An internationally published digital journalist and editor who specialises in SEO strategy and content production, Rachael has worked as a writer and editor for both news and lifestyle websites in the UK and abroad.


Rachael's published work covers a broad spectrum of topics and she has written about everything from the future of sustainable travel, to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world we live in, to the psychology of colour.


She prides herself on being an excellent giver-of-gifts and is equally respected and loathed amongst her friends and family for starting her Christmas shopping every year in August.


When she's not writing or editing, Rachael can be found hiking, running, surfing or enjoying other outdoor pursuits, such as standing in line for a table at the latest Big Mamma restaurant.