Covid: Seven things that may be different this Christmas

The government is working on a plan to enable families to celebrate Christmas together.

So how is the festive period likely to be different this year?

1. Will families meet on Christmas Day?

The governments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are trying to work out a common approach so that families across the UK can meet up on 25 December.

No final decisions are likely to be made until mid-December, until health chiefs in England learn whether coronavirus cases have fallen during the latest lockdown, which runs until 2 December.

Prof Neil Ferguson, whose advice led to the March UK-wide lockdown, has suggested extending support bubbles to up to four households for a week to allow get-togethers.

If that happens, other advice could suggest people:

  • Travel by car, not public transport, where possible
  • Only hold small gatherings
  • Do not see anyone outside support bubbles either side of and over the Christmas period

For people who do have to use public transport, pre-booking may be an issue. For example, LNER have not yet released any tickets beyond 11 December.

2. Smaller turkeys on the table

Fears that a lack of skilled overseas workers on poultry farms could hit the supply of turkeys have been overcome after travel rules were relaxed so they could travel to the UK.

But many people are buying smaller turkeys than usual because they are likely to have fewer guests.

An Aberdeenshire farmer has warned many birds could go to waste, while a farm in Wales cut its turkey numbers by 20% in September.

Any turkey shortage may make some people consider a vegetarian or vegan meal instead.

3. Work parties set for Zoom

This year’s work celebrations seem certain to take place on Zoom and other online platforms.

Rules on big groups meeting up in pubs or anywhere outdoors are very unlikely to be eased in December, so seeing friends for a pre-Christmas drink or meal will probably not be allowed.

Current rules for socialising outside your household/support bubble/extended household are:

  • Until 2 December in England, people can only meet one other person outdoors,
  • In most of Scotland, people cannot meet indoors, but outdoors, depending on the area, up to six people (from two households) or eight (from the same area) can meet
  • Two families can form a bubble in Wales but cannot meet anyone else at home, and up to four from different households can meet in pubs and restaurants
  • In Northern Ireland, two households can form a bubble but cannot meet anyone else indoors

4. Midnight Mass chances unknown

At the moment, it is not known what will happen about traditional Christmas religious services like midnight Mass.

In England, places of worship are currently closed for group prayer, apart from at funerals.

Up to 50 people can attend indoor services in Scotland in levels zero to three areas, but only up to 20 in level four places.

Places of worship have reopened in Wales, but with social distancing in place and communal singing banned.

They are also open in Northern Ireland with no limit on numbers if safety measures are in place. Weddings, civil ceremonies and funerals can happen, but only 25 people. can attend

5. Online shopping surge expected

While in-person shopping in non-food shops can currently happen in all of the UK except England, online retailers are expecting a big surge in demand this year.

In September, shoppers were warned by an industry boss to buy as early as possible.

Andy Mulcahy, from the online businesses’ industry body, told the BBC: “At this point, I think we can expect an increase of at least 30% for the peak festive trading season, but if stores have to close this might push to 50%.”

In England,non-essential shops are currently closed apart from for the collection of pre-ordered goods, but they are open in all of Scotland except level four areas, across Wales, and in Northern Ireland.

Last posting dates inside the UK range from 18 to 23 December, while we have already passed some international dates.

6. Watch a panto from your car

Theatres in England are currently closed, but plans have been made for some Christmas pantomimes in December once the lockdown is over.

While many venues and production companies have cancelled their shows, others are going ahead thanks to National Lottery backing.

One is at the London Palladium, where the Lottery will buy seats that cannot be used because of social distancing. It will also donate 20,000 free tickets to Lottery players.

Meanwhile a drive-in show – the Car Park Panto – will tour Great Britain with audience members watching from inside their cars.

Theatres in Scotland are closed in level two, three and four areas, throughout Wales, and to audiences in Northern Ireland, where they can open for rehearsals or a live recording.

7. A quiet New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is likely to be a quiet affair this year, with house parties probably banned. Fireworks have been cancelled in London and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party is off.


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