Tier 4 exceptions which allow people to see loved ones over Christmas

Millions of families across the UK were forced to scrap Christmas plans this week after yet another government U-turn.

Having previously said that people were going to be allowed to form ‘Christmas bubbles’ for five days from today, panicked Boris Johnson was forced to scrap the plan on Saturday.

He said a new Covid-19 strain, which spreads faster than previous incarnations, meant it was no longer possible to allow households in many parts of the country to mix.

Around 18 million people in the South East were put into a new Tier 4 and told that Christmas bubbles would no longer be permitted at all.

For the rest of England, the five day festive break was cut back to just one day, Christmas Day itself – but families were warned to think carefully before getting together.

From Boxing Day, a further six million people will go into Tier 4, Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced this afternoon.

Government guidance does, however, state that in a limited number of exceptions, it is permissible to meet with loved ones.

These include:

Support bubbles

These remain in place, even in areas where restrictions have been upgraded.

In a limited number of situations, people are allowed to form a support bubble with members of one other household.

You can form a support bubble with another household of any size if:

  • you live by yourself – even if carers visit you to provide support
  • you are the only adult in your household who does not need continuous care as a result of a disability
  • your household includes a child who is under the age of one or was under that age on 2 December 2020
  • your household includes a child with a disability who requires continuous care and is under the age of 5, or was under that age on 2 December 2020
  • you are aged 16 or 17 living with others of the same age and without any adults
  • you are a single adult living with one or more children who are under the age of 18 or were under that age on 12 June 2020

If you share custody of a child with someone you do not live with, the child can move freely between both parents’ households. You do not need to form a support bubble to do this.

The ‘rule of six’ – which is in place in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 – has been scrapped in Tier 4.

Instead people are allowed to meet one person they do not live outdoors and in a public space.

This means it is legal to meet a loved one for a walk or do some other form of exercise.

But going indoors together, or into a private garden, is not allowed.

University students returning home

Restrictions on travelling between tiers do not apply for students returning home – but those who do are urged to be cautious.

This week Universities Minister Michelle Donelan encouraged anyone who does go back to their families to get tested first.

She wrote: “This Government made a commitment that students could return home for Christmas and we are keeping it.

“To be clear, any student can travel home once during the period December 3 2020 to February 7 2021.

“This remains the case for those who may be preparing to travel from or to a Tier 4 area.”

Meeting outside for exercise

The ‘rule of six’ – which is in place in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 – has been scrapped in Tier 4.

Instead people are allowed to meet one person they do not live outdoors and in a public space.

This means it is legal to meet a loved one for a walk or do some other form of exercise.

But going indoors together, or into a private garden, is not allowed.