Bay of Plenty Times

UK eases re­stric­tions for Xmas gath­er­ings

- Travel · United Kingdom · Scotland · Northern Ireland · Island of Ireland · Michael Gove · University of East Anglia · England · Grant Shapps

Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties gave the green light yes­ter­day to hol­i­day re­unions, re­lax­ing re­stric­tions on so­cial mix­ing over Christ­mas and of­fer­ing ar­riv­ing in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers a way to cut short quar­an­tine if they test neg­a­tive for Covid-19.

The UK gov­ern­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tions in Scot­land, Wales and North­ern Ire­land struck a deal that will ease lim­its on travel and so­cial­is­ing over the fes­tive pe­riod so that friends and fam­i­lies can get to­gether. Over the five days be­tween De­cem­ber 23 and 27, up to three house­holds can form a “Christ­mas bub­ble” and mem­bers can move freely be­tween them. Those trav­el­ling to and from North­ern Ire­land­will be per­mit­ted to travel for an ad­di­tional day ei­ther side.

Peo­ple are cur­rently barred from vis­it­ing mem­bers of other house­holds in much of the UK, and there are lim­its on travel to high­in­fec­tion ar­eas,

Cabi­net min­is­ter Michael Gove said the agree­ment “will of­fer hope for fam­i­lies and friends who have made many sac­ri­fices over this dif­fi­cult year”.

Gov­ern­ment sci­en­tific ad­vis­ers have signed off on the hol­i­day plan, though sci­en­tists have warned it will likely lead to an in­crease in coro­n­avirus in­fec­tions.

Paul Hunter, a pro­fes­sor in medicine at the Univer­sity of East Anglia, noted that the eas­ing will be tak­ing place when schools will be closed, which should dampen down on trans­mis­sions.

“Christ­mas, whether or not we cel­e­brate the day as a re­li­gious fes­ti­val, may be what we need to make it through the rest of win­ter,” he said.

In a boost to hol­i­day travel, the 14-day quar­an­tine re­quire­ment for trav­ellers ar­riv­ing in Eng­land from most des­ti­na­tions will be re­duced to as lit­tle as five days if they test neg­a­tive for Covid-19.

Un­der the new rules, pas­sen­gers from places not on the gov­ern­ment’s travel cor­ri­dor list can re­duce the 14-day quar­an­tine pe­riod by pay­ing for a test from a pri­vate firm on or af­ter Day 5 of their ar­rival at a po­ten­tial cost of around £100 ($191.50). Re­sults nor­mally take a day or two.

“Our new test­ing strat­egy will al­low us to travel more freely, see loved ones and drive in­ter­na­tional busi­ness,” Trans­port Sec­re­tary Grant Shapps said.

The change, which takes ef­fect on De­cem­ber 15, has been long-awaited by the travel in­dus­try, one of the worst-hit sec­tors dur­ing the pan­demic.

The change only ap­plies in Eng­land. — -AP

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