The Scottish government has published its
guidance on forming household bubbles over the festive period. The advice covers how many people will be able to meet in Scotland, and the rules on where that can happen.
What is a bubble?
The current Covid rules will be relaxed between 23 and 27 December to allow people to travel within the UK and spend Christmas together in bubbles of up to three households.
The Scottish government has recommended that these bubbles should contain a maximum of eight people – although children under the age of 12 do not count towards that total, and do not need to physically distance from others.
Everyone else is encouraged to keep 2m (6ft 6in) away from those outside their own household as much as possible to lower the risk of transmitting the virus.
You can only be in one Christmas bubble, and cannot change to a different one.
The government says anyone thinking of creating a bubble should carefully consider the risks. It stresses that people do not have to meet other people or feel pressured to spend Christmas with another household.
The advice is to keep in touch using technology wherever you can, limit the number of times that you meet in person – and to gather outside if possible. For example, go for a walk rather than having a meal together.
Those in extended households can form a bubble, but it can only contain one extended household.
Where parents do not live in the same household, children can still move between their homes if they are in different bubbles.
Where can we meet?
Those in a bubble can only gather in a private home, outdoors or at a place of worship. For those meeting in someone’s home, it is possible to stay overnight.
If you are meeting in someone’s home it is recommended that you:
- open a door or window to let in as much fresh air as you can, both during and after a visit
- keep 2m away from people not in your usual household
- wash your hands frequently
- regularly clean touch points, such as door handles and surfaces
- avoid sharing cutlery or crockery if possible
People should not mix with other households elsewhere. If you are going to a pub, restaurant or a leisure or entertainment venue, you are urged to stay within your own household.
The opening hours for hospitality venues will follow the rules which apply in that area at the time.
The government says people in a bubble should not stay in tourist accommodation together as a group.
In addition, you should not go shopping with those in your bubble, and should shop on your own wherever possible.
What are the rules on travel?
Travel restrictions will be relaxed from 23 to 27 December to allow people to travel between local authority areas and the four UK nations to join a bubble.
If you are using public transport, the advice is to book ahead where possible and follow the rules on wearing face coverings while travelling.
Anyone travelling to or from a Scottish island should make their journey within the five-day period from 23 to 27 December.
Once you have arrived, you should then follow the travel guidance which applies in the area where you are staying. If that is in level three or four, for example, you would have to avoid any non-essential travel outside that council area.
What about students and shared accommodation?
Students who return home at the end of term will be part of the household they have returned to. Plans are already in place to allow students return home over Christmas if they return two negative Covid-19 tests.
People other than students who live in a shared flat or house are considered a household.
The government is urging them not to split up and enter separate bubbles over the festive period.
If people are joining different bubbles, they should isolate from their flatmates for about a week both before and after joining the bubble.
What is the advice for vulnerable people?
The government says anyone who has previously been advised to shied because they are at highest clinical risk from Covid-19 should “take time to think” about forming a bubble because it would bring greater risks.
It says people should not feel pressured to enter an environment which makes them anxious.
People can still go into another household to provide care and support for a vulnerable person.
However, if you visit someone in hospital, hospice or a care home the government says the safest way to spend Christmas would be not to form a bubble with another household.
That is because doing so would increase the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 and passing it on to other people, and those in care homes, hospitals and hospices can be particularly vulnerable.
What happens if someone develops symptoms?
If someone in a bubble develops Covid-19 symptoms, everyone within the bubble must isolate immediately if they met that person any time between two days before and 10 days after their symptoms started.
If that person tests positive, all members of the bubble must self-isolate for 14 days from the start of symptoms or their most recent contact.
What about the other nations?
UK government guidance for people in England does not set a limit on the number of people in a bubble, but says this should be kept “as small as possible”.
It adds that the rules on meeting people outside your home will depend on the regulations which apply in the tier you are staying in.