The UK Government and devolved administrations have agreed on a temporary easing of coronavirus rules over Christmas, allowing three households to mix in a bubble for five days over the festive period. Households are allowed to mix between December 23 to 27. But legislation published this afternoon shows travel disruption can enable families to form bubbles after Christmas.
LBC’s Westminster Correspondent Ben Kentish said: “Since it was announced we’ve talked about that strict time period, December 23 to 27.
“But it appears it’s not quite as strict as we thought because looking through the legislation that has been published this afternoon there is an exemption.
“There is an exemption for people whose travel is disrupted by what the Government has called ‘unforeseen disruption’ and they can effectively extend that bubble until after the 27th.
“They can have a gathering immediately after that period.
READ MORE: Covid test: Can you get a Covid test without symptoms?
“That is going be quite contentious because while some people say ‘fair enough if someone’s train is delayed they shouldn’t have to miss out on Christmas with their family’.
“The risk is it will undermine the clarity of the rules.”
He added: “We didn’t know that was coming, it’s been sneaked into the legislation but I feel that it could be a bit of a controversy because of the concerns on the impact that might have.”
It comes as a leading epidemiologist has warned that family gatherings over Christmas could lead to further Covid-related deaths in the spring.
He added: “Within the next month or two, we’ll start to see large numbers of people being vaccinated, and why would anyone really want to risk going to social gatherings or large family gatherings at this time? This is not the time.”
Dr Scally’s concerns echo those voiced by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) in a letter sent to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly prior to Friday’s announcement on the lifting of restrictions.
Nphet warned that “if restrictions are eased now to a similar extent but more rapidly than in the summer… in winter and over the Christmas period, a third wave of disease will ensue much more quickly and with greater mortality than the second”.
Dr Scally said he would prefer the Government to adopt a more cautious approach.