As The Government Announces Mass Testing For Students Before Christmas, Here’s What You Need To Know About ‘Christmas Bubbles’

Are you allowed to do it and how do you make it as safe as possible?

Home Alone

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

‘You know what would be the safest this Christmas, if dad came and spent it with us at mums,’ my sister told me last night during a long conversation about the logistics of our family-planning for the festive season this year. If households are allowed to mix by then, she said, we could form a so-called Christmas Bubble as she, myself and my dad (all of whom live in separate households alone) could gather at my mums. There's just one thing, my parents are divorced. So that would be... interesting.

Christmas bubbles have been all anyone can talk about in recent months. After reports that the government was considering locking down students for two weeks before the Christmas break, everyone else started to take cue and apply that logic to their own plans. Now, the government has officially announced they'll be mass testing students on campus before they're allowed to leave. They then have a six-day window to head home on staggered departure dates if they test negative.

The Independent Sage committee of experts also recommended that students should self-isolate and/or be tested – ideally twice – before returning home, as well as when at home in their Christmas Bubble. So, the people asked, is that what we should all be doing before heading to our family homes for Christmas?

What are the lockdown rules for Christmas Day?

As we remain in a national lockdown in England, Christmas rules are very much up in the air. The second lockdown is currently expected to last until at least 2nd December, with Boris Johnson telling reporters last week that the government hopes to move back to local, tiered lockdowns afterwards if cases come down nationally.

Previously, tabloids reported that Boris Johnson was hoping to lift even the tiered restrictions on Christmas Day in particular – allowing families to meet so as to avoid him being likened to ‘scrooge’. ‘He’s fully aware that millions of people are making big sacrifices to defeat this virus and is wondering ways to allow them to experience the joy of Christmas for at least part of the holiday season,’ a source apparently told The Sun.

In the light of the second lockdown thought, it’s clear that there are still big hurdles to get over before the Prime Minister can even make a decision about Christmas Day.

Despite that, we do know that the government are striving towards a ‘normal Christmas’ if possible. Appearing on ITV’s This Morning, health secretary Matt Hancock was asked by host Holly Willoughby whether we’ll be able to hug our grandparents this festive season.

The more we stop the spread now the easier it’ll be to have a normal Christmas.

‘I want Christmas to be as normal as possible,’ he said. ‘The more we can control the virus now and stop the spread now the easier it’s going to be to have a Christmas that’s as close to normal as possible. I know that’s what so many people are looking forward to, it’s what I hope for for my family and I just hope we can get there, it means taking decisions now.’

While his answer didn’t exactly answer the question, it goes to show how little we all – including the government – know about the future impact of this virus, particularly as it’s so dependent on following lockdown rules now.

So, is Christmas cancelled this year?

A very depressing question everyone seems to be asking, is whether Christmas is, in true 2020 style, cancelled. Of course, celebrating the festive holiday is only as cancelled as you want it to be. With the lockdown rules likely depending on your area in December, some may be forced to spend Christmas in the household they live - with those living with flatmates they're not close to or alone being the most impacted by a potentially cancelled Christmas. But, if you live alone and made your support bubble one of your family households, perhaps it needn't be so bleak.

The government website defines a support bubble as 'a close support network between a household with only one adult in the home (known as a single-adult household) and one other household of any size. Once you’re in a support bubble, you can think of yourself as being in a single household with people from the other household. It means you can have close contact with that household as if they were members of your own household. '

Can you swap your support bubble?

For those that chose a friend or romantic partners as their support bubble, unfortunately you cannot switch them. 'Once you make a support bubble, you should not change who is in your bubble,' the government website reads.

What about forming a Christmas Bubble?

After reports broke that the Queen asked her Royal household staff to form a bubble at Sandringham over Christmas - which they apparently very much revolted against - it got many people asking, can we form a support bubble specific to the festive period?

Essentially, it would mean asking family members who want to be together at Christmas to self-isolate for at least 14 days before all moving into one household to spend the festive season together. Perhaps a dreamy Airbnb even. It appears to be exactly what the government is allowing students to do, so are we allowed if we also isolate and get tested before the big day?

Right now, that would obviously be against lockdown rules. But even in a tiered system where households can't meet indoors in groups of more than six, that would still be against lockdown rules in a number of ways. Firstly, because most extended families are likely to make up more than six people, and in the parts of the UK where households can't mix (aka tier three), you would face a hefty fine if you chose to disobey the rules.

Also, you are technically only allowed to form a support bubble if you live alone - and if you already have one you can't switch it to a new one with all new or extra people.

With the government is yet to clarify anything on Christmas Bubbles (and questions to be answered about the demand on mass testing if everyone attempted to get tested right before Christmas), it's still up in the air just how possible forming a Christmas Bubble could even be.

Any good news, then?

Well, there's that vaccine news isn't there. With the Pfizer vaccine more than 90% effective and expected to be available before the end of the month, there seems to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Of course, even with the vaccine life isn't expected to get back to normal until spring at the earliest as the UK will only receive 10 million doses of said vaccine (with a 66million population) meaning only the most vulnerable will likely receive it first.

Sir Patrick Vallance predicted this last month in a coronavirus briefing, noting a vaccine may be available for small groups – the most vulnerable – before the end of the year. Hopefully, with scientists and medical experts working hard to combat this virus, some respite from coronavirus will be all of our Christmas presents this year.

Read More:

As Lockdown Tightens In The North East, We Asked The Experts How Nervous We Should Be About A Second Wave

'Should I Still Send My Kid To School If They Have A Cold?': From Symptoms To Testing, We Answer Parents' Coronavirus Questions

After Today's Distressing Coronavirus Briefing, This Viral Twitter Thread Offers Hope In The Face Of Despair

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us