Q&A: Should you cancel your Christmas plans this year?

Two women walk in the Christmas market in Trafalgar Square, central London. New restrictions have co

The government has urged people to be cautious before going to events this Christmas. - Credit: PA

With cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 rising, the current guidance is to "use caution" when choosing which social events to attend this Christmas.

As many wonder whether to cancel or alter their Christmas plans this year, here is the latest guidance from government.

Are Christmas parties allowed?

Under the current rules, Christmas parties are allowed to take place.

In a press conference on Wednesday, December 15, Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said it was sensible to prioritise the social interactions that matter, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

He said: “I think that what most people are doing, and I would think this seems very sensible, is prioritising the social interactions that really matter to them and, to protect those ones, de-prioritising ones that matter much less to them.

“I think that’s going to become increasingly important as we, for example, go into the Christmas period.”

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Mr Whitty advised people to take tests before visiting vulnerable people and to meet in areas with good ventilation or outdoors if possible.

Should you cancel Christmas plans?

Prime minister Boris Johnson told people to think hard about their plans, but did not go as far as to suggest some gatherings should be cancelled.

Mr Johnson said he still believed this Christmas will be better than last, but urged people to be cautious.

He said: "Think carefully before you go, what kind of event is it? Are you likely to meet people who are vulnerable? Get a test, make sure there is ventilation, wear a mask on transport.”

Mr Johnson said that the government did not wish to decide on people's social lives ahead of Christmas.

He added: “What we are saying is people should be cautious and they should think about their activities in the run-up to Christmas – nobody wants to get Omicron and be unwell and be forced to isolate.

“But the fastest route back to normality is for everybody to get boosted now.”

Mr Johnson insisted the government’s Plan B was the right thing to do, adding that boosters also “provide an excellent level of protection”.

What are the current restrictions?

On December 8, the government confirmed that England is moving to Plan B in a bid to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

This means that face coverings must be worn in most indoor settings and office workers who can work from home should do so.

As of Wednesday, December 15, the NHS Covid Pass became a requirement at certain venues and events, such as football matches and nightclubs, with all visitors over 18 needing to show proof they are fully vaccinated, a negative test in the last 48 hours, or having an exemption.

Will shops and hospitality venues have to shut?

Face coverings must be worn in all shops and shopping centres, however, there are currently no restrictions on pubs and restaurants.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Thursday, December 16: “Hospitality remains open, businesses remain open to trade.

“We recognise that the prevalence of this variant and the high transmissibility is leading to further challenges for the hospitality sector in particular, and that’s why we want to hear their concerns." 

What are the rules elsewhere in the UK?

In Scotland, the country's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked people to limit socialising to three households in the run up to and after Christmas Day, when there will be no limits on gatherings.

Businesses are also required to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus and have been asked to reintroduce social distancing and screens. 

People should also work from home wherever possible.

In Wales, the country remains at alert level 0 and there are no legal limits on the number of people who can meet. All businesses remain open.

In Northern Ireland, the country's Covid passport requires people to prove their Covid status in order to gain entry into pubs and restaurants.

Anything else you should know?

Health minister Gillian Keegan told Times Radio that if people want Christmas Day with their families then they should use caution about other social events in the run-up to Christmas.

“Everybody must prioritise because if you’re going to have a family Christmas with your relatives and, you know, you’ve got some maybe elderly relatives, then of course people aren’t going to be going out to nightclubs in the run-up to that event, because the chance of success in testing positive after that is probably much higher.

"The more contacts you have, the more chance you have of testing positive, and that would mean that you’d be isolated on Christmas Day."