Political leaders of four nations in the UK have agreed to the guidance that up to three households can meet up during a Christmas period (from December 23 to 27).
They said people can meet in their homes, places of worship, or outdoor spaces. They also said travel restrictions will be eased.
However, a formed “Christmas bubble” must be “exclusive,” which cannot visit restaurants or pubs together.
The leaders have urged people to “think carefully about what they do,” keeping the risk of increased transmission in mind. They added this year’s Christmas cannot be normal, but family and friends can see each other in a “limited and cautious” way.
However, some experts have warned that such relaxations of COVID-19 restrictions during the festive period could give rise to a surge in new infections and deaths.
According to the guidelines, a bubble of three households can stay overnight at each other’s home, but they cannot visit the hospitality, theatres, or retail settings.
The guidelines also advise people to take necessary precautions when meeting their Christmas bubble.
The leaders of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland said in a joint statement, “Even where it is within the rules, meeting with friends and family over Christmas will be a personal judgment for individuals to take, mindful of the risks to themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable.”
“Before deciding to come together over the festive period we urge the consideration of alternative approaches such as the use of technology or meeting outside,” they added.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the agreement as a “special, time-limited dispensation,” stating, “this year means Christmas will be different.”
He urged people to make a “personal judgment” about the risk of who they form a bubble, adding, “many of us are longing to spend time with family and friends… And yet we can’t afford to throw caution to the wind.”
Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales and Leader of the Welsh Labour Party, said it was “not an instruction to travel, it’s not an instruction to meet with other people. People should still use a sense of responsibility.”
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the Scottish National Party, said, “The virus is not going to be taking Christmas off, so although we want to give a little bit of flexibility for Christmas we are still urging people to be very cautious and to use this flexibility responsibly and only if you think it is necessary.”
Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland, said she hoped people would have space to plan. She said, “We of course recognize how important Christmas time is for so many people.”
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill urged people to “be responsible,” as any relaxation in COVID-19 restrictions would increase opportunities for the virus to spread. The article originally appeared on the BBC.