An exception to the UK’s Christmas coronavirus laws means some families can enjoy their festive gatherings outside the allotted five-day period.
Last week, all four UK governments confirmed they had agreed a coronavirus strategy that will allow families to reunite between 23 and 27 December.
Under this temporary relaxation of household mixing rules, three households will be able to join in a “bubble” during this period.
However, an exception to these dates exists in the Health Protection Regulations 2020, which were published on Monday.
Watch: What do we know about the Christmas bubble rules?
The law says that if any one person is unable to return to the household due to travel disruption, they can choose to have the five-day gathering outside the permitted period between 23 and 27 December.
Exception is that (a) the gathering takes place during the Christmas period or, where sub-paragraph applies, immediately after the Christmas period.
This sub-paragraph applies where one or more persons at the gathering have not been able to return to their home because of unforeseen disruption to travel.
The Christmas rules are part of the new legislation setting out exactly what the law will be in Tiers 1, 2 and 3 after the national lockdown ends on Tuesday.
The regulations also state, for example, where a Christmas bubble of three households can visit, aside from the host home.
This is any public outdoor place where “no payment is required” to access it, or:
an outdoor sports ground or sports facilities
gardens or grounds of a castle, stately home, historic house or other heritage site
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises the government on coronavirus matters, has previously raised concern that “increased transmission is likely to result from more social mixing during celebrations”, and that the Christmas bubbles could prompt rule-breaking for other special occasions, such as people’s birthdays.
Watch: How England's new three-tier COVID system will work