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Covid in Scotland: Eight-person limit for Christmas bubbles

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Christmas "bubbles" of three households in Scotland should contain no more than eight people over the age of 11, the Scottish government has said.

The rule is part of the government's guidance for Christmas which temporarily relaxes some Covid-19 restrictions for five days.

Children under the age of 12 will not count towards the total number of people in the bubble.

The easing of Covid rules will apply across the UK from 23 to 27 December.

Opposition parties have accused the Scottish government of sending out "mixed messages" by allowing people to meet at Christmas while simultaneously urging them not to do so.

And many health experts have warned that the move is likely to lead to a spike in cases of the virus - and potentially deaths - in January

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".

No separate guidance has been published for Wales or Northern Ireland at this stage, although people can travel to or from Northern Ireland on 22 and 28 December. The NI executive is meeting on Thursday to discuss the rules.

A UK-wide deal was agreed on Tuesday to permit people to meet up in "bubbles" over the festive period.

Travel restrictions will be lifted across all four nations from 23 to 27 December so people can visit close friends and relatives.

But Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has that said the "default advice" and "safest position" was still that people should avoid contact.

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image captionSingle households should not travel in or out of level three or level four areas to stay in tourist accommodation

The Scottish guidance states that the "safest way to spend Christmas and the festive period is to stay within your own household, in your own home and your own local area".

It adds: "Wherever possible you should keep in touch with friends and family members from other households through technology - or, if you decide to meet in person, you should minimise the numbers and duration, and if possible meet out of doors.

"Consider a Christmas walk with family, rather than a meal indoors."

media captionHow you and your family can celebrate Christmas and minimise the spread of coronavirus

Although three households will be allowed to meet indoors and stay overnight in the same home, the Scottish government says a two-metre distance should be kept between people from different households.

However, children under 12 will be exempt from the physical distancing rules.

Other guidance for different households staying in the same home includes:

  • Avoiding sharing cutlery or crockery
  • Washing your hands frequently
  • Cleaning "touch points" regularly, such as door handles and surface

Doors and windows should also be opened to let in as much fresh air as possible during and after visits.

Christmas bubbles in Scotland can only gather in a private home, outdoors or at a place of worship.

They will not be allowed to visit pubs, restaurants or go to shops together and staying in tourist accommodation as a group is banned as well.

Single households should also not travel in or out of level three or level four areas in Scotland to use tourist accommodation, the guidance says.

'Confusing message'

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie highlighted warnings from public health experts that the easing of restrictions over Christmas was likely to lead to a third wave of infections, hospitals being overrun, more "unnecessary" deaths and potentially a nationwide lockdown in January.

Speaking in the Holyrood chamber, Mr Harvie also questioned why the Scottish government had apparently not carried out any risk assessments on the potential impact of easing the restrictions.

He added: "I recognise that there were difficult judgements to make about relaxing the Covid rules over the holidays, especially after public expectations had been built up.

"But within a day of announcing the looser rules, the first minister is appealing to the public not to use them. It's a confusing message."

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