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COVID-19: What are the rules in the UK’s four nations for Christmas and beyond?

As Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the evidence does not yet justify stricter COVID-19 measures in England, both Scotland and Wales have announced new rule changes.

Here are how the coronavirus rules compare across the four nations.


Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed no further restrictions will be brought in before Christmas Day – but has not ruled out any changes ahead of the New Year.

New Year’s Eve celebrations for 6,500 people in Trafalgar Square have been scrapped in London – the area currently worst affected by Omicron.


The self-isolation period for people in England will be cut from 10 days to seven for those who can produce a negative lateral flow test on both day six and their final day of quarantine.

However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid has cautioned that people leaving quarantine after a week should “continue to remain cautious”.

Under the previous rule, anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 had to self-isolate for a full 10 days.

COVID passes

As of 15 December, coronavirus passports will be needed for entry into nightclubs and other venues.

Face masks

Coverings have been made compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport.


Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not be changing the advice for Christmas but has urged people to be cautious when mixing with others.

Strict limits have been announced on crowd numbers at football matches, while Hogmanay events have been cancelled as part of new COVID restrictions from Boxing Day.

Crowds at outdoor public events will be capped at 500 from 26 December for at least three weeks, while numbers at indoor public events are to be limited to 100 standing or 200 seated.

Working from home

Allowing staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty on employers.


Anyone identified as a household contact of a positive coronavirus case is advised to self-isolate for ten days – regardless of vaccination status, PCR test result or age.

Anyone who thinks they have COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate immediately and take a PCR test.


From 27 December for a three week period hospitality businesses will reintroduce table service-only for venues serving alcohol for consumption. Indoor venues will also be asked to ensure a one-metre distance between groups of people.

COVID passes

Certain venues and events now require proof of either a vaccination or a negative test taken within the last 24-hours.

Face masks

Coverings should now be worn in most indoor public places, including public transport, shops and gyms. They must be worn in restaurants when not seated and when in the workplace. They are also compulsory for all school staff and secondary school children.



People have been advised to follow “five steps for a safer Christmas”, ahead of new restrictions being enforced from 26 December. These include taking a lateral flow test before going shopping and spacing out social events.

Large events and sporting events

From Boxing Day, large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors.

The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors.

Meanwhile sporting events must take place behind closed doors.

Up to 50 spectators will be able to gather in addition to those taking part in the match.

Nightclubs and offices

Welsh nightclubs are set to close on 26 December and the two-metre rule for social distancing will be reintroduced in all premises open to the public and workplaces.


The rule of six will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.

All licensed premises will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collecting contact details.

Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.

Face masks

These are legally required in most indoor public places and on public transport. Secondary school pupils are also asked to wear masks in class.


Anyone aged over 18 who is not fully vaccinated must self-isolate if they come into contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus. They should also take a PCR test on days 2 and 8, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Working from home

Regulations have been changed to make travelling to an office a criminal offence punishable by a £60 fine for employees who are able to work from home.

Mixing in homes

The Welsh Government will not be making new rules about mixing in people’s private homes, including gardens, in holiday accommodation or meeting outdoors.

However, they are issuing guidance on ways to mitigate the risk of transmission, including limiting the number of people, making sure visitors take a lateral flow beforehand, meeting outdoors where possible and spacing out any visits.

Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland has said it will not change its COVID-19 rules over the festive period.

COVID passes

It is now a legal requirement to provide proof of your COVID-19 status before entering venues including licensed hospitality premises, cinemas and theatres.

Residents in tourist accommodation will not be required to provide proof of their COVID status unless accessing public areas of the accommodation where alcohol may be consumed, such as bars or restaurants.


Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should book a test and self-isolate for ten days. Close contacts should book a PCR test and self-isolate unless fully vaccinated.


Customers must show proof of their COVID-19 status before entering licensed and “bring your own” type premises where alcohol may be consumed.

Venues are also required to collect customer details to help with the contact tracing programme.

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Face coverings can only be removed if seated at a table in a restaurant, café or bar, or when eating, drinking or dancing.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings

No more than 30 people can meet in a private home and stay overnight. There are no restrictions on the number of people who can meet in a private garden.

The number of people permitted to attend an indoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, is determined by a risk assessment, carried out by the organiser or operator.

Similarly, to determine the maximum number of people permitted to attend an outdoor gathering, in a non-domestic setting, the organiser or operator must carry out a risk assessment.

Face masks

These must be worn on public transport, private buses and in airports. Face masks can only be removed in a restaurant, bar or café when seated at a table or when eating, drinking or dancing.

Post-primary school students must also wear face coverings inside school buildings, as must staff if they are unable to socially distance,



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