Boris Johnson briefly relaxes lockdown in UK, allows residents to form 'Christmas bubble'
- The four UK governments said they had been working together to find a way for families to meet over Christmas.
- Scientists have warned that the relaxation of Covid restrictions could spark another wave of infections.
- On Tuesday, the UK government recorded another 608 deaths.
A time-limited one-off respite from COVID-19 lockdown rules has been confirmed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UK, which will allow families to get together to form a Christmas bubble between December 23 and 27.
In a video message on Tuesday evening from Downing Street, where he continues to self-isolate after being in contact with a COVID-positive politician, Johnson said a family can get together with two other households to form such a bubble in order to spend the festive period together.
“All four nations of the UK (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales) have agreed that from the 23rd of December to the 27th of December, you will be able to form a Christmas bubble with up to two other households,” Johnson said.
It would mean that up to three households will be able to come together from any part of the UK to celebrate the festive four-day period, also attending church and communal services if they wish to.
“We can’t afford to throw caution to the wind. The virus doesn’t know it’s Christmas and we must all be careful,” he said, urging people “think carefully” about the festive plans.
“I know this doesn’t equate to a normal Christmas and it won’t work for everyone. And it is up to each of us to think carefully about how we use this time-limited special dispensation. The virus has not gone away and families will need to make a personal judgement about the risk of forming a bubble with or visiting elderly relatives and the vulnerable,” he said.
"'Tis the season to be jolly but 'tis also the season to be jolly careful," he added.
Johnson expressed hope for a better period early next year following a tough 2020, referencing recent news about the COVID-19 vaccine(s) by Pfizer & BioNTech, Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca.
“I have to level with you and say we face some tough weeks and months ahead. But if we follow the rules, remembering to wash our hands, wear a face covering and keep our distance from anyone we don’t live with, then after this tough winter, we can look forward to a much, much brighter spring,” he said.
England remains under a strict stay-at-home lockdown, set to expire next Wednesday after which it will move into a tougher three-tier system.
Different regions will find out on Thursday which tier they fall under, a decision that is based on a number of factors including case numbers, the infection reproduction rate – or R number – and pressure on local National Health Service (NHS) capacity.