England faces a second national lockdown this week with strict rules prohibiting people from meeting and shutting down all non-essential shops and hospitality – such as pubs and restaurants.
With around 50 days to go until Christmas, people are now concerned about what the festive season will bring – with questions about whether we can meet and celebrate with our families.
Under the rules that come into effect in England on Thursday, the simple answer is no. You are not allowed to mix households unless there is a support or childcare bubble, or a person from one house is meeting with another person from another house outside of exercise.
Church services are not permitted and shops, pubs and restaurants will remain closed.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson insists that these rules will end on December 2nd.
The national lockdown in Wales will end on Monday 9 November, while Scotland is now considering a second national lockdown. The Northern Ireland lockdown will also end within weeks.
However, this does not mean that Christmas will be normal for everyone.
When lockdown elevators are discouraged in Wales, not only essential households should be mixed with support bubbles, and indoor activities are limited to 15 people.
Whether or not England’s lockdown ends on December 2nd will depend on whether the coronavirus rate can be lowered enough.
Some scientists have suggested that suppressing the virus could take at least six weeks if schools stay open.
Others have suggested that the prediction of 4,000 deaths per day is too high based on ancient data and incorrect assumptions.
Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance provide clues on Tuesday about the science behind the lockdown.
But even if the ban is lifted on December 2nd, England will not go back to normal.
The Prime Minister has announced that we will return to the current three-tier system.
The restrictions therefore depend on which level you are in – without any up-to-date information on what that might look like.
Those in Tier 3 – where Covid levels are very high – would prohibit household mixing and many pubs and restaurants would remain closed.
Second tier people would also be prohibited from mixing households indoors, but up to six people could gather in the garden.
In the lowest level, level 1, a family reunion of six people can take place.
However, the rules could be changed before they are reintroduced in December – with possible total bans on shuffling households (external support bladders) and advice against non-essential travel.
The four UK administrations are now planning a common approach for the Christmas season.
They met Monday morning for a COBRA meeting where they “agreed on the importance of coordinating public communications, particularly when traveling within the UK and abroad”.
A Cabinet Office spokesman added, “Officials from across the UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Irish Executive will work together on a common approach to the holiday season.”