Covid in Scotland: What are the latest rules on Christmas bubbles?

Covid in Scotland: What are the latest rules on Christmas bubbles?

The Scottish government has updated its guidance on forming household bubbles over the festive period.

The original advice covered how many people would be able to meet in Scotland and the rules on where that can happen.

However the latest instructions say people should limit these interactions as much as possible and that the guidelines should be seen as the “legal maximum”.

The current Covid rules will be relaxed between 23 and 27 December to allow people to travel within the UK and spend Christmas together. This five-day period is to be seen as a “window of opportunity, not a recommended time”.

The Scottish government recommends meeting people in your bubble on no more than one of those days.

Up to three households can form a bubble, however the first minister said two households “would be better”.

The Scottish government initially recommended that these bubbles should contain a maximum of eight people – although children under the age of 12 do not count towards that total, and do not need to physically distance from others. The updated guidance said people should keep “as far within” this limit as possible and “the smaller the better”.

Everyone else is encouraged to keep 2m (6ft 6in) away from those outside their own household as much as possible to lower the risk of transmitting the virus.

You can only be in one Christmas bubble, and cannot change to a different one.

The government says anyone thinking of creating a bubble should carefully consider the risks. It stresses that people do not have to meet other people or feel pressured to spend Christmas with another household.

The advice is to keep in touch using technology wherever you can, limit the number of times that you meet in person – and to gather outside if possible. For example, go for a walk rather than having a meal together.

Those in extended households can form a bubble, but it can only contain one extended household.

Where parents do not live in the same household, children can still move between their homes if they are in different bubbles.

Those in a bubble can only gather in a private home, outdoors or at a place of worship – but should minimise the length of time spent with the bubble, especially indoors.

For those meeting in someone’s home, it is possible to stay overnight but the government has warned against doing this “unless it is unavoidable”.

If you are meeting in someone’s home it is recommended that you:

People should not mix with other households elsewhere. If you are going to a pub, restaurant or a leisure or entertainment venue, you are urged to stay within your own household.

The opening hours for hospitality venues will follow the rules which apply in that area at the time.

The government says people in a bubble should not stay in tourist accommodation together as a group.

In addition, you should not go shopping with those in your bubble, and should shop on your own wherever possible.

Travel restrictions will be relaxed from 23 to 27 December to allow people to travel between local authority areas and the four UK nations to join a bubble.

Again, the latest guidance warns against all travel, particularly between areas of high to low prevalence of the virus.

Nicola Sturgeon said: “That means avoiding travel to or from Scotland and tier three areas in England, and to or from any level four areas in Scotland (of which there are currently none).”

You must follow the travel rules for the area you are staying in when you arrive – for example in level three areas in Scotland, you should avoid non-essential travel outside the local authority.

If you are using public transport, the advice is to book ahead where possible and follow the rules on wearing face coverings while travelling.

Anyone travelling to or from a Scottish island should make their journey within the five-day period from 23 to 27 December.

Once you have arrived, you should then follow the travel guidance which applies in the area where you are staying. If that is in level three or four, for example, you would have to avoid any non-essential travel outside that council area.

People living in level three and four areas must not travel abroad and those in level one and two areas are “strongly advised” not to.

Students who return home at the end of term will be part of the household they have returned to. Plans are already in place to allow students return home over Christmas if they return two negative Covid-19 tests.

People other than students who live in a shared flat or house are considered a household.

The government is urging them not to split up and enter separate bubbles over the festive period.

If people are joining different bubbles, they should isolate from their flatmates for about a week both before and after joining the bubble.

The government says anyone who has previously been advised to shield because they are at highest clinical risk from Covid-19 should “take time to think” about forming a bubble because it would bring greater risks.

It says people should not feel pressured to enter an environment which makes them anxious.

People can still go into another household to provide care and support for a vulnerable person.

However, if you visit someone in a hospital, hospice or care home the government says the safest way to spend Christmas would be not to form a bubble with another household.

That is because doing so would increase the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 and passing it on to other people, and those in care homes, hospitals and hospices can be particularly vulnerable.

If someone in a bubble develops Covid-19 symptoms, everyone within the bubble must isolate immediately if they met that person any time between two days before and 10 days after their symptoms started.

If that person tests positive, all members of the bubble must self-isolate for 14 days from the start of symptoms or their most recent contact.

UK government guidance for people in England does not set a limit on the number of people in a bubble, but says this should be kept “as small as possible”.

It adds that the rules on meeting people outside your home will depend on the regulations which apply in the tier you are staying in.

In Wales, Christmas bubbles will be limited to two households.

Following a joint meeting of the four nations on Thursday, Boris Johnson urged people to keep Christmas celebrations “short” and “small” to reduce the risk of spreading Covid over the festive period.

People can travel to or from Northern Ireland on 22 and 28 December. The NI executive is meeting on Thursday to discuss the rules for the festive period.

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