What are the new Covid rules for the UK? How restrictions differ in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

New Covid measures will be introduced from Boxing Day around the UK - but just how do they differ across all four nations?

These are how the Covid measures will differ around the UK from Boxing Day 2021. These are how the Covid measures will differ around the UK from Boxing Day 2021.
These are how the Covid measures will differ around the UK from Boxing Day 2021.

England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all tightened Covid restrictions in the wake of the spread of Omicron across the UK.

With rapidly rising cases, and the UK reporting record-breaking daily case totals day-by-day, the public are facing tougher measures from Boxing Day onwards.

This is everything you need to know about how each of the four home nations is handling the Omicron crisis.


Cases in England have been rising at an exponential rate over the past three weeks, with Omicron now confirmed to be the dominant strain.

Here are the current rules for England:

  • Under Plan B of the winter plan, face coverings were reintroduced in most indoor venues, with this rule currently still in place.
  • People have been encouraged to work from home where possible indefinitely.
  • A Covid Pass, showing someone’s vaccination status, or proof of a negative lateral flow test result are required to enter certain venues such as stadiums and nightclubs.
  • The self isolation period for those vaccinated and unvaccinated in England has also been cut from 10 days to seven days with negative lateral flow test results. The rule was announced in an attempt to reduce staff shortages across the country, which had worsened as cases began to rise.

Despite the escalating situation, Boris Johnson confirmed that no further measures would be introduced ahead of Christmas Day, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid further confirming that there would be no additional announcements regarding restrictions before 26 December.


Scotland has also seen the Omicron strain quickly become the dominant variant within the country, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon taking a stricter approach to curbing cases.

The current guidelines:

Face coverings have remained as a requirement in most public areas and public transport, and a legal work from home mandate is in order. People also need to provide a Covid Pass or negative lateral flow test result from the past 24 hours to enter venues such as stadiums and nightlife venues.

Scots have been asked to limit their social interactions where possible in the run up to Christmas Day celebrations, and have been asked that any gathering that does take place is attended by no more than three households.

People in Scotland will be able to freely enjoy their Christmas Day, however new rules will be in place from Boxing Day.

From 26 December:

  • Public indoor events are limited to 100 people standing and 200 people sitting
  • Outdoor public events will be limited to 500 people, with crowd limits in place for a minimum of three weeks.

This has led to the cancellation of large-scale Hogmanay celebrations, but private events such as weddings and funerals will not be affected by crowd limits.

From 27 December:

Scots are advised to self isolate for 10 days if a household contact tests positive.


Wales has taken a similar approach to Scotland and imposed restrictions for its population from Boxing Day.

From 26 December:

  • Groups of no more than six people will be allowed to meet in public setting such as pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other hospitality venues from 26 December.
  • Sporting events will also take place behind closed doors, with crowds shut out of stadiums.
  • A maximum of 30 people will be permitted at indoor events and a maximum of 50 people at outdoor events.
  • A Covid Pass or a negative lateral flow test taken within the past 48 hours continues to be required to enter venues such as stadiums, cinemas and theatres.

Those over the age of 18 and not fully vaccinated are required to self-isolate from the day they were last in contact with a positive case, with a PCR taken as soon as possible.

If you test positive, you will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days.

Face coverings have continued to be used in most indoor settings and on public transport in Wales.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland joins Wales and Scotland in introducing additional measures from Boxing Day onwards.

From 6am on 26 December:

  • Nightclubs will be required to close, with dancing banned at hospitality venues, excluding weddings.
  • There will also be a limit on the amount of people able to meet in hospitality venues, with no more than six people in each group.

From 27 December:

  • Domestic mixing will be capped to a maximum of three households.

Proof of vaccination, negative lateral flow test from the past 48 hours or a positive PCR result from the past 30 to 180 days (showing immunity) required to enter certain venues such as nightclubs, cinemas theatres and some licensed hospitality venues.

Face coverings have recently been reintroduced to help in the fight back against Omicron.

Close contacts of someone who has tested positive should book a PCR test immediately and self-isolate until a negative result is received.

If the result is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 days.

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