Significant changes to the rules and guidance in Wales have been made this week, and the Welsh Government has also released its Coronavirus Control Plan, which details what we can expect in 2021.
As cases continue to soar, tighter restrictions have been placed on people in Wales. Among them are a new legally-enforceable rule that only two households can mix between December 23-27 and that non-essential shops must close on Christmas Eve — this is e verything Mark Drakeford said as he announced the new rules.
It was also announced that Wales will enter alert level four, in effect a third full lockdown, in a bid to try and fight the virus. Here are all the rules for Christmas and the start of the new year explained.
What are the rules on meeting family over Christmas in Wales?
It will now be illegal for more than two households in Wales to get together over Christmas. However, a single-person household can also join this arrangement. So, the maximum you can possibly have is two households, plus a single person from a third household.
“The majority of people in Wales don’t make distinction between guidance and regulations, they just want to know what is the right thing to do,” said Mark Drakeford.
“And the right thing to do in Wales this Christmas is to stick to two households mixing. That is not two sets of two households, that is two households. People should stick to that.
“We will allow a single [person] household, who is not part of that extended household, to join with that other household over the five days of Christmas. That is still something that we would allow.”
So the rules are that between 23 and 27 December:
- you can form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ composed of no more than 2 households
- you can only be in 1 Christmas bubble
- you cannot change your Christmas bubble
- you can travel anywhere within the UK for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble
What about children with parents who are separated?
The rules will be similar to what they were during the fire-break with children allowed to move between parents.
“Children of people who are separated will be able to travel between them during the Christmas period as we have previously indicated,” said the First Minister.
What about travel to England?
Boris Johnson has said people in England should reduce the amount of contact they have but has not reduced the number of households that can meet from three to two.
According to Mr Drakeford, people should apply the rules to the country they are in.
He said: “People who move across borders have to observe the rules that exist in the part of the United Kingdom that they are visiting. It is the rules of the place you are in that you have to observe.
“People leaving Wales to go elsewhere must be careful to know the rules in whichever part of the UK they are visiting and to observe them.”
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A joint statement from the four nations of the UK said: “If you are forming a Christmas bubble you should consider carefully the risks of travelling at all. If you live in an area with the highest level of protection, for example tier 3 in England and level 4 in Scotland, you should avoid travelling to lower prevalence areas where possible.
“Each administration will issue specific travel advice based on its own circumstances. If you have to travel, book ahead to enable you and others to travel safely and plan your outward and return journeys carefully. Once you arrive you should stay local and not travel within the area.”
Travelling to see your Christmas bubble?
Between 23 and 27 December, you may travel anywhere within the UK if necessary to meet with other households in your Christmas bubble or return home. Once at your destination, you should follow the rules in place there.
You should not travel to see your bubble before 23 December, or travel back after 27 December except in exceptional circumstances (for example, if you develop coronavirus symptoms while you are staying with your Christmas bubble far from home and are required to self-isolate, in which case you should continue to stay where you are if you can do so safely until you have reached the end of the self-isolation period).
Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on 22 and 28 December, and may stay in hotels in Wales on the nights of 22 and 27 December.
Transport routes may be busier than normal. Plan your journey and check for disruption before you leave to help keep everyone safe when travelling for Christmas. You should avoid making unnecessary stops during your journey. Where possible, avoid public transport and avoid sharing a car with people not in your household.
If you plan to travel to England, Scotland or Northern Ireland, you should read guidance from England, Scotland or Northern Ireland before you travel.
If you need to travel with your Christmas bubble, wherever you are, you should follow travelling safely guidance. You should:
- plan, and avoid the busiest routes, as well as busy times
- keep your distance when you travel, where possible.
- wash or sanitise your hands regularly
- wear a face covering on public transport in Wales unless you are exempt
Different rules may apply in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What is the guidance for all parts of the UK?
The four countries have slightly different variations on the rules and guidance but they did issue a joint statement on Wednesday (December 16).
It said: “A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
“The safest way to spend this Christmas is with your own household or your existing support bubble in your own home – and we strongly recommend that this is what you do if at all possible.”
Their advice was:
- Think very carefully about the risks of forming a bubble
- Discuss alternatives to meeting up in person, or ways of meeting up outdoors instead
Only form a bubble if you feel you absolutely need to
Take precautions to minimise risk by stopping unnecessary social contact outside your immediate household as soon as possible, and for at least five days before you meet other households in your bubble
Work from home if you can
On no account should you visit another household if you, or anyone in your household, is feeling unwell or is self-isolating.
If you do intend to form a bubble, you should keep the bubble small and your visits short.
You should not stay overnight unless absolutely unavoidable.
The statement added: “The five day period is a window of opportunity and should be seen as a legal maximum, not a target. If you do form a bubble, we recommend that you meet with it for the shortest possible time.”
What is the advice if you do form a bubble with another household?
The joint statement said that if you form a Christmas bubble, practise safe behaviours:
- washing your hands
- making space between members of different households wherever you can
- letting in fresh air.
It says: “Following these behaviours, even within the home, will greatly reduce the risk of transmission.
“We will all need to carry on practising safe behaviours after Christmas. This means shopping only if you can do so safely: shop online where you can, avoid crowds and, if you are in crowded areas, wear a face covering and only go where it is well ventilated.
“It is also really important to cut down on social contact after seeing your Christmas bubble, to reduce the risk of chains of transmission. This includes not meeting up with friends or family outside your household for New Year’s Eve.
“The tier or level rules will be in place on New Year’s Eve/Hogmanay and it is essential, as the minimum, that these are followed by everyone.”
What about staying overnight in holiday accommodation?
You can stay in a hotel or other forms of holiday accommodation such as holiday rental accommodation during the Christmas period, but in Wales you can only do this with people you live with (or someone who is with you to provide care for a vulnerable person).
What is the advice for people who have been shielding?
The joint statement from the administers of Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland said that if you are in an existing household or support bubble with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable, “think carefully”.
It said: “To help reduce the risks to their health, the safest approach would be to celebrate with your household or support bubble and not with others.”
They said it is particularly important to think about the greater risks to more vulnerable people. If you are over 70 or clinically extremely vulnerable, “think carefully about the risks”.
The advice said: “The safest approach may be not to form a Christmas bubble. If you do form a Christmas bubble, then be especially careful to observe the guidance: meet outdoors where possible, wash your hands regularly, keep a distance from those you do not live with.”
When do shops and businesses close?
- All non-essential retail, including all leisure and fitness centres and all close contact services, like hairdressers, will close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve, meaning no Boxing Day sales this year
- All hospitality premises will close from 6pm on Christmas Day
- From December 28, tighter restrictions will apply to holiday accommodation and travel
- Everyone who can work from home should do so now
- Local authorities will now take decisions about the range of services they provide, such as libraries, leisure centres and recycling centres ahead of Christmas.
When will Wales’ latest lockdown begin and end?
Wales’ First Minister announced that Wales moves to Alert Level 4 lockdown from December 28 with the lockdown will be reviewed after three weeks, which would be around Friday, January 15.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Level 4 restrictions will come into force at 6pm on 25 December, but there will be exceptions for the Christmas period that will remain (the 2 household bubble, travel to or from your Christmas bubble and accommodation open).
“These Christmas exceptions will then lapse for most people by the end of the day on the 27 – and by the end of the day on the 28, for people travelling to/from Northern Ireland.
“We will be fully in Level 4 by the end of the day on 28 December.”
What is Alert Level 4?
- Confirmed case rate more than 300 cases per 100,000 people rolling seven-day average (Wales is already way above this infection rate)
- Confirmed case rates for over 60s suggesting rapid growth
- Projection of future case incidence rates over next two weeks anticipating significant rises to more than 500 cases per 100,000 people
- Test positivity above 10% over seven days
- A reliable estimate of the R rate at one or above
- Hospital capacity and likely pressure from increased cases in three weeks exceeding capacity
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What can you do and not do at Alert Level 4?
Guidance has already been issued for what people must do in “alert level four” (this is the very high risk level and the highest in the new alert system).
It is expected that all of Wales will stay in the same level, but this could change and local lockdowns brought in if the situation requires. The situation will be reviewed after three weeks. You can read more details about the new levels here.
The things you must do in Alert Level 4
- Follow social distancing rules with people you don’t live with or who aren’t in your support bubble.
- Wear a face covering(if you are able to) in all indoor public places.
- Stay at home.
- Do not create an extended household (single adults or single parents may join with one other household to form an exclusive support bubble).
- Meet only the people you live with or your support bubble indoors.
- Meet only your household or support bubble in private gardens.
- Meet only your household or support bubble outdoors.
- Work from home if you can.
- Not travel without reasonable excuse.
- Not travel internationally without reasonable excuse.
What is open and closed in Alert Level Four?
- Schools, colleges and childcare providers (informal childcare should only be essential only)
- Higher Education Institutions (mix of in-person and remote learning)
- Places of worship
- Community centres – limited opening (e.g. for essential public services)
- Playgrounds and public parks
- Weddings and funerals (ceremony limit set by venue)
- Venues for events and conferences
- Theatres and concert halls
- Indoor and outdoor visitor attractions
- Entertainment venues
- Wedding reception / Funeral wakes
- Sport courts, golf courses
- Leisure and fitness facilities
- Outdoor visitor attractions
- Holiday accommodation (Open only if essential only e.g. for work or other reasons)
- Hospitality (except for takeaway and delivery)
- Close contact services
- Non-essential retail (click and collect allowed)
- Licenced premises – Takeaway and delivery only between 6am and 10pm.
- Libraries and archive services (click and collect only)
- Organised activities limited to public and voluntary services
- Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.
Can I be fined if I don’t follow this guidance?
Some of this guidance is not the law and so will not be enforced by the police. There are also still some laws to make sure people do not choose to take unnecessary risks. The main requirements are that:
- It is illegal now to have more than two households over Christmas
- Other than in very limited circumstances, people must not enter each other’s homes or gardens
- When you meet people you don’t live with away from your home, in most circumstances, the absolute maximum number of people meeting should be four (not including any children aged under 11)
- Face coverings must be worn in indoor public places, and
- You must self-isolate when you are told to do so by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect
What will the first few months of 2021 look like?
The new Coronavirus Control Plan outlines exactly how Wales’ new traffic light alert system is going to work and paints a potentially bleak picture for the next six months for those living in Wales.
In a detailed document, the Welsh Government suggests that local lockdowns could return and it could be the summer before large-scale or “risky” events return.
The plan introduces four levels of risk: low risk (level one), medium risk (level two), high risk (level three) and very high risk (level four). The Welsh Government will decide what level Wales is in based on a series of different indicators. You can read our full guide to this plan here.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk