Christmas Covid rules 2021 UK: will restrictions be tightened for Xmas and New Year as Omicron cases rise?

Travel and self isolation rules could be tightened as Boris Johnson prepares to make announcement

Further Covid restrictions came into effect in England last week due to concern over the Omicron variant, with face masks now required in shops and on public transport, and extra testing required for travellers returning to the UK.

But will there be further restrictions in the UK over Christmas and New Year?

Here’s what you need to know.

Will there be restrictions over Christmas and New Year?

Currently, there are no plans for any further restrictions over the Christmas and New Year period, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting that parties and work events should go ahead as planned.

Downing Street also confirmed that "in-person events" such as parties will be held in the lead up to the festive period, as the Prime Minister said he believes "Christmas should go ahead as normally as possible".

A Number 10 spokesperson told Sky News celebrations will be held across Whitehall in the run up to Christmas.

The spokesperson said: "As the prime minister has previously made clear, these events are within the latest guidance and we do not want people to cancel them.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday (5 December): "The government wants people to enjoy Christmas this year", adding that employers should take a "common sense" approach to office parties.

However, new travel rules for the UK were recently implemented and are set to remain in place over the next couple of weeks.

Those returning to the UK now have to take a PCR test on day 2 and isolate until they have the results, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid then announcing the return of pre-departure coronavirus tests for all people arriving in the UK.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that the blanket measures on testing, which will come into place at 4am on 7 December, are in response to scientists saying Omicron may have a "reduced incubation period", which means there could be a smaller window between someone catching the virus and becoming infectious than with previous variants.

The current rules requiring mandatory face masks in shops and public transport in England expire on Monday 20 December.

The Prime Minister is understood to have set 17 December as the most likely day for a review of the rules, so any updates or announcements regarding Covid restrictions before Christmas is likely to take place then.

Could there be restrictions after Christmas?

Again, it’s not yet known if any further restrictions will come into effect or if these will be in place over the Christmas period.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who helps advise the Government, said the new Covid strain posed a “high risk”, but believes ministers are determined “not to disrupt Christmas”.

However, he told Sky News: “What happens after Christmas is another matter. The travel restrictions are only going to slow things down a little, they’re not going to stop it. In the New Year we’re likely to see a lot of challenges and that could mean more stringent measures.”

He added that the emergence of Omicron is “appalling timing” as the festive season is “one of the highest risk periods… with a lot of indoor socialising”.