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Christmas bubbling arrangements

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It is important that everyone stays safe at Christmas. From 23 to the 27 December, limited changes are being made to household restrictions to allow some social contact. With any increase in social contact, comes increased risk, so it is important that you take personal responsibility to limit the spread of the virus and protect your loved ones, particularly if they are vulnerable.

What you need to know

For many it won’t be possible to celebrate Christmas in the “normal” way.

Between 23 and 27 December:

  • you can form one ‘Christmas bubble’ – this can be composed of up to three households and one of the three households can include an existing bubble arrangement
  • the households in your bubble cannot be part of other Christmas bubbles during the 5 day period
  • you cannot change your bubble mid-way through – once you are in a Christmas bubble you can’t start another with a different household
  • there is no upper limit on the number of people within the Christmas bubble who can meet indoors at any one time – it is important that you keep your Christmas bubble as small as possible
  • you must stop contact with any pre-existing bubble that is not part of your Christmas bubble and you must wait 14 days from the last visit of the original linked household before starting your new Christmas bubble
  • if anyone in the Christmas bubble tests positive for Covid-19, all members of the bubble will be required to isolate for 14 days
  • within Northern Ireland, you should travel to meet your Christmas bubble and return home within the designated window (23 – 27 December)
  • if you are travelling outside of Northern Ireland to meet your Christmas bubble you can do so between 22 and 28 December, if necessary
  • you can only meet your Christmas bubble in private dwellings, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place
  • regulations on meeting people in other settings will remain in place

How to stay safe

The more people you see, the more likely it is that you will catch or spread coronavirus (COVID-19). You can spread coronavirus to others, even if you and the people you meet have no symptoms.

You and the other people in your Christmas bubble need to consider these risks carefully before agreeing to form a bubble. Forming a bubble when you are vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable carries additional risks.  Give careful consideration to using alternative approaches, such as the use of technology or meeting outside.

You should keep taking steps to reduce the spread of the virus, and this will help ensure that the festive period is as safe as possible. This includes:

  • limiting your contact with others before forming your bubble
  • ensuring indoor spaces get as much fresh air as possible
  • following rules on self-isolation
  • washing your hands regularly and for 20 seconds

Forming a Christmas bubble

If you decide to form a Christmas bubble there are three main rules:

  • you can only be in one Christmas bubble
  • you cannot change your Christmas bubble
  • your Christmas bubble should not include people from more than three households, and one of the three households can include an existing bubble arrangement

It is important that you keep your Christmas bubble as small as possible.

You must not form a Christmas bubble if you are self-isolating.

Separated parents of children under 18

Children (under-18) whose parents do not live together may be part of both parents’ Christmas bubbles, if their parents choose to form separate bubbles. Nobody else should be in two bubbles.

Forming a different Christmas bubble to the people you live with normally

You are allowed to form a different Christmas bubble from the people you live with normally. If you, and the people you are living with, want to be in different Christmas bubbles, you can choose to stay somewhere else with different people for this period.

You can also form a Christmas bubble with that household and one other household (this will count as three households).

Meeting with your Christmas bubble, and other friends and family

Everybody in a Christmas bubble is responsible for taking clear steps to prevent catching and spreading the virus. If you do not follow these rules, you increase the risk of catching the virus, and spreading it to your friends and family.

You should take particular care to follow this advice if you are in a Christmas bubble with anybody who is vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable.

Before forming and meeting your Christmas bubble

You should reduce unnecessary contact with people you do not live with as much as possible in the two weeks before you form your Christmas bubble.

Children can continue to go to school.

You can go to work if you cannot work from home, but you should avoid unnecessary social interaction. Any increase in contact with other people increases the risk you will catch or spread coronavirus.

Meeting people indoors

If someone is in your Christmas bubble, you can visit each other’s homes and stay overnight. However, you should consider making short visits where possible, as this will reduce the risk of transmission.

It is easier to catch and spread the virus in an indoor space, especially if there is little flow of fresh air. Therefore, when meeting your Christmas bubble you should take these measures to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • wash your hands frequently
  • clean touch points regularly, such as door handles and surfaces
  • try to keep social distance from anybody you do not live with at all times
  • make sure you let as much fresh air in as you can during a visit and after visitors have left, without getting cold, by opening windows and doors
  • wear a face covering if there is little flow of fresh air or it’s hard to keep social distance

Meeting people outdoors

Up to 15 people can meet outdoors, but you should maintain social distancing by being at least two metres apart, as well as good hand and respiratory hygiene practices.


You must also follow rules on self-isolation, which apply if either you, someone you live with, or someone you have been in contact with, has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus. You must follow the rules even if it means not meeting with friends or family over Christmas.

After forming your Christmas bubble, if a member of your Christmas bubble tests positive for coronavirus during this period you should also self-isolate as if you were members of the same household.

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable

You are still able to form a Christmas bubble if you are clinically extremely vulnerable but it does involve greater risks for you. You will minimise your risk of infection if you limit social contact with people that you do not live with.

Forming a Christmas bubble is a personal choice and should be balanced against the increased risk of infection.

If you do decide to form a Christmas bubble, the others in your bubble should be mindful of your increased risks and be extra vigilant in the days before you get together.

Advice is reviewed on a weekly basis taking account of restrictions more generally and, if necessary, detailed advice will be issued to the extremely vulnerable.

Providing care for vulnerable people

You can still go into another household, which is not part of your bubble, to provide care and support for a vulnerable person.

Travel outside of Northern Ireland

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus, do not travel.

If you are travelling to England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland to meet your Christmas bubble you can do so between 22 and 28 December, if necessary.

Wherever you are, you will need to abide by the local rules that are place at your destination. You should not travel to see your bubble before 22 December, or travel back after the 28 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.

International travel

Between 23 and 27 December, the rules on international travel will not change.

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus, do not travel.

You may travel abroad, including to visit friends and family, subject to any restrictions in place at your destination. Before travelling you should check relevant travel advice.

Travel to Northern Ireland from abroad will continue to be governed by the current COVID-19 travel rules. Individuals will need to self-isolate for 14 days if arriving from or have travelled through a non-travel corridor country or territory.

You must not form a Christmas bubble if you have coronavirus symptoms or are self-isolating.


Schools should not change or extend their Christmas holidays or close early this term. Children should continue to attend school until the last day of term unless they have been told to self-isolate. Remote learning should only be used if children have been told to self-isolate.  The change to social restrictions over Christmas does not require children to be taken out of school prematurely.

Students returning home

All universities and higher education providers have been asked to move all teaching online by the 9 December. There are some exemptions for certain courses.

In order to support the return home of students COVID-19 tests are being offered by universities and higher education providers. This will reduce the risk to your friends and family. These tests are only suitable if you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19. If you have COVID-19 symptoms must book a coronavirus test in the normal way.

If you are studying in England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland should follow the guidance from your respective institution there before returning home.

If you remain at university after 9 December you are at risk of having to undertake a period of isolation if you contract COVID-19 or are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case. This would result in you being unable to travel home in time for Christmas.

All students should aim to reduce their social contacts during the 14 day period prior to their intended travel date.

Once you have moved back home, you are part of the household to which you have returned.

Christmas shopping

If you have any symptoms of coronavirus do not go shopping.

Shops are busier than normal in the days leading up to Christmas. You should try to avoid times when shops will be busy.

Where possible you should shop on your own, this will make social distancing easier for everyone. It is mandatory to wear a face covering when shopping or in a shopping centre.

You should bring hand sanitiser and take a contactless card or device with you to pay, if you can. While shopping, please adhere to the measures that have been put in place and show respect to others.

After Christmas

In the two weeks that follow the last meeting with your Christmas bubble, you should reduce your contact with people you do not live with as much as possible. You must wait 14 days from the last meeting of your Christmas bubble before starting a new bubble.

You can go to work if you cannot work from home, but you should avoid unnecessary social interaction. Any increase in contact with other people increases the risk you will catch or spread coronavirus.

Digital Editorial Team
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An article that is attributed to the Causeway Coast Community Team has either involved multiple authors, written by a contributor or the main body of content is from a press release. Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Causeway Coast Community? Email us - [email protected]
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