People living in shared households can split and join separate Christmas bubbles then return to their home after the five-day period.

The five-day Christmas Covid bubble: how will it work?

The government has announced that up to three households will be able to mix indoors and stay with each other overnight from 23 to 27 December under loosened coronavirus restrictions across the UK. But how exactly will these new “Christmas bubbles” work?

No. In a blow to pubs and restaurants, and families who like to avoid the piles of washing-up, separate households in a Christmas bubble will not be able to meet up in hospitality venues. Restrictions on these venues – which will vary depending on which tier they are placed in from 2 December – will remain in place over the festive period. However, members of a Christmas bubble can meet at home, in places of worship and in outdoor public places including gardens.

You can continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier you are staying in.

There is no maximum size for a Christmas bubble, so you don’t need to worry if you and those you join with live in large households. This means three households of two people each – a total of six people – are allowed to meet, just as three households of, say, six people each – a total of 18 people – are also allowed to meet.

Under the rules, a support bubble will count as one household when Christmas bubbles are being formed.

In England, support bubbles have been permitted for a number of months throughout Covid restrictions, allowing a household with one adult to join with another household. Those in a support bubble can still visit each other, stay overnight and visit public places together.

This means that, technically, if three support bubbles – each comprising two separate households – were to join together in a Christmas bubble, six households would be able to meet.

No, the bubbles have to be exclusive, and they cannot change over the five-day period – so pick your households carefully. This means that you can’t mix with two households on Christmas Day, and then a different two households on Boxing Day. However, children whose parents are separated will be able to move between two Christmas bubbles so they’re able to celebrate with both parents.

Bubble members will not be required to social distance while they are together, so they can hug or kiss under the mistletoe. However, people are advised to exercise caution if there are vulnerable people involved in their bubble. “This virus is not going to grant a Christmas truce,” Boris Johnson said on Monday.

In England, some care home residents may be allowed to form a bubble with one other household, in agreement with the home and subject to individual risk assessments. In this case, social distancing should be maintained, with regular hand washing and ventilation to reduce risk. Care home residents should not form a three-household Christmas bubble at any point.

Individuals will be able to travel between coronavirus tiers and across the UK during the designated festive period (23 to 27 December). People will be able to travel to and from Northern Ireland for an extra day either side of that period, to allow for the extra time needed.

In England, people living in shared households can split and join separate Christmas bubbles without breaking the three-household rule. So a group of, say, four young people living together would all be allowed to return home to their four separate families for Christmas and then come back to their shared home after the festive period.

University students who return to their families at the end of term will be counted as part of that household, not a separate household.