Millions of people across England were placed under Tier 3 and Tier 4 restrictions on Boxing Day, after a new strain of Covid was blamed for a worrying surge in cases. But what will this mean for New Year’s Eve?
As of Dec 26, all of the South-East and East of England was under Tier 4 restrictions, including London.
With cases rising in all areas of the country due to the new strain of the virus, nowhere is expected to drop down the tier system following the review on Dec 30, meaning that New Year’s Eve plans are likely to look very different this year.
Any Christmas bubbles that were previously allowed in lower tiers do no apply when welcoming the new year.
Those in Tier 4 areas cannot mix with any other households over New Year’s Eve, but support bubbles can continue for those at particular risk of isolation or loneliness.
On Dec 29, the UK hit a new daily record of Covid-19 infections, as government statistics announced 53,135 new lab-confirmed cases. A further 414 people have also died within 28 days of testing positive with the virus.
The latest development came after Mr Johnson refused to rule out a third national lockdown for England – a move he had previously been deeply reluctant to contemplate.
All the latest updates for the UK rules over the festive period are below.
New Year’s Eve rules in England
You must follow the rules according to your tier on where you can go and who you can meet on New Year’s Eve.
As Christmas bubbles no longer apply, you cannot mix with other households indoors unless you are in Tier 1. Only the Isles of Scilly – with 2,224 inhabitants – remain in the lowest tier of restrictions.
However, tiers may change following the government review on Dec 30, with Matt Hancock set to confirm any changes in a statement to the House of Commons.
According to government guidelines, if you formed a Christmas bubble, you should reduce your contact with people you do not live with as much as possible after meeting on Christmas Day. This includes not meeting up with friends or family outside your household, including for New Years Eve, even if you feel well.
What did these restrictions mean?
- Three households could meet indoors, unless they were in a Tier 4 location
- Couples could join different bubbles – so if a husband and wife want to see their own families, each can do so, although they cannot switch between these. Children of divorced parents will be allowed to split their time between two bubbles
- University students travelling back home at the end of the term count as part of their parents’ household
- While you could form a bubble with up to three households, these bubbles are not permitted inside pubs or any other hospitality venues
- Access to pubs and restaurants still depend on the rules of your local tier system
- Grottos were allowed to open across all tiers, except Tier 4, but sitting on Santa’s lap is banned
- Door-to-door carol singing is permitted as long as groups are outdoors and keep apart from each other
- Those in Tier 3 were not able to attend school nativity plays and had to live stream or watch a recording instead. Performances needed to be within existing school bubbles, with no mixing across groups
- In Tiers 1 and 2, audiences can attend “subject to appropriate safeguards being in place”
- Over-65s in care homes were not able to go home for Christmas
- People flying home from red-listed countries still have to quarantine
- Venues must put in place appropriate Covid-secure measures, and families are required to maintain social distancing from Father Christmas
Government guidelines also state that people in a bubble should:
- Limit unessential contact beyond your immediate household at least five days before you mix with other homes in your bubble
- Keep your bubble as small as possible
- Only be part of one Christmas bubble
- Not change your Christmas bubble
- Meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces
- Only mix with people outside your Christmas bubble outside your home following the rules in the tier you are meeting in
- Not meet socially with family or friends that you do not live within your home or garden unless they are part of your Christmas bubble
New Year’s Eve rules in Scotland
According to government guidance, Christmas Day bubbles will not apply at Hogmanay and New Year.
All of mainland Scotland will be in Level 4 over Hogmanay and New Year with Orkney, Shetland, Na h-Eileanan Siar and the more remote islands in Highland and Argyll and Bute in Level 3.
Depending on the level of your local restrictions, rules on meeting up and travelling must be followed.
The Government had said the safest way to celebrate Christmas in Scotland this year was to celebrate with your own household in your own home “and as far as possible, to keep any interaction with other households to a minimum”.
However, following Christmas Day, Mainland Scotland awoke to new lockdown on December 26, after Nicola Sturgeon announced Tier 4 restrictions would last for three weeks.
However, in an emergency press conference, Ms Sturgeon said case numbers in Scotland were broadly stable, with Covid rates around half the level of England and half that in Wales.
Under Scottish regulations, you are banned from travelling between Scotland and the rest of the UK unless you have a reasonable excuse, such as for work or education.
New Year’s Eve rules in Wales
Wales went into full lockdown with Tier 4 restrictions from December 20.
Tier 4 restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of 3 weeks, which means that all people in Wales should stay home, unless they have a reasonable excuse to leave. This includes New Years Eve.
Extended households will not be permitted and you will only be able to meet the people you live with or people you are in a support bubble with.
Health bosses have urged members of the public to closely follow coronavirus regulations on New Year’s Eve.
The Welsh Labour leader, Mark Drakeford, said a “sustained rise in coronavirus” meant that the country would have to move into its highest level of restrictions. His announcement came after a meeting with the first ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as Michael Gove, on the new strain of coronavirus.
All non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres and hospitality remain closed during the lockdown period.
New Year’s Eve rules in Northern Ireland
Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that New Year’s Eve parties in Northern Ireland could be “super-spreader” events for coronavirus.
He said he was asking people to “play their part” by not visiting friends during what was a “crucial period”.
A set of stricter measures were put in place from 12.01 am on 26 December 2020 and will last until 12.01 am on 2 January 2021, meaning that the rules would be in place for New Year’s Eve.
From 8.00 pm to 6.00 am there can be no indoor or outdoor gatherings of any kind. This includes no household mixing in private gardens.
Non-essential retail will close throughout the six weeks, as will close contact services. Hospitality outlets will be limited to takeaway services.
Organised sport will also be banned, with elite sport included in the prohibition for the first week.
The latest rules in Northern Ireland are here.
Can I travel between tiers over Christmas and New Year?
A cross-border travel ban between Scotland and England has been in place in recent weeks and Nicola Sturgeon has now extended that ban over Christmas, saying she was “very, very sorry” but it was needed to prevent any more of the new strain entering the country.
Wales, too, has re-entered a national lockdown that bans incoming and outgoing travel.
As for individual countries, each nation has different regulations once travellers arrive at their destination. In England, you should follow the rules of the tier in the area you are visiting.
Residents are encouraged to keep their travel local, reduce their number of journeys and avoid leaving their village, town or city area.
Walking and cycling is also recommended, with people advised to avoid public transport at busy times.
You should not leave a Tier 4 area unless for permitted reasons, such as work, education, caring responsibilities, to visit a support bubble or for medical reasons, and someone from a Tier 1, 2 or 3 area should not enter a Tier 4 zone except for the same reasons.
In Scotland, you should also follow the travel advice for the level you are in during the relaxation period. For example, visitors staying in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is negotiating an agreement with Ireland.
Can I travel abroad over the New Year?
Britain was hit with a travel ban on December 20 by a host of European countries to halt the spread of the new, more infectious coronavirus strain.
The ban on passenger flights from the UK threatened to disrupt the festive travel plans of an estimated 250,000 Britons.
If you live in a Tier 4 area, you can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.
Travel to the UK from abroad will continue to be governed by the travel corridor approach. Individuals will need to self-isolate for 10 days if arriving from or have travelled through a non-travel corridor country or territory.
Previously, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland were among 15 European countries to close their borders to flights and most trains and ferries from the UK, but the ban could be extended to the entire bloc.
The EU held an emergency meeting on Dec 21, to discuss a blanket ban that could cost UK consumers £400 million in cancelled bookings.
Travelling against official government advice is not illegal, but most tour operators will not offer trips to destinations which the Foreign Office (FCO) deems unsafe. In a pandemic, that’s just about everywhere – and it does make travel insurance complicated.
If you choose to visit a country to which the FCO advises against travel without invalidating your insurance – here’s what you need to know.