How new Covid rules could affect your winter staycation

Christmas plans in England may remain unscathed for now, but elsewhere in the UK the devolved administrations are clamping down in response to the omicron surge with restrictions from Boxing Day.

The festive period has always been a popular time for staycations – with families and friends looking to celebrate together now more than ever before. And while trips can go ahead as planned this year, new rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could impact those looking to dine out, visit events or party their way into 2022.

Below we detail all the new rules and how they could impact your winter staycation.

Scotland

From December 26 Covid-19 rules in Scotland will be tightened.

There will be capacity limits on public events (100 at indoor standing events, 200 at indoor seated events and 500 at outdoor events), and many have been cancelled, including the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh. Private weddings remain unaffected. 

If you were planning a Scottish staycation over the New Year hoping to make the most of the nation’s warm hospitality you can also expect changes. From December 27, bars and restaurants will reintroduce social distancing measures as well as table service – group sizes will be limited to just three households. In a major blow to New Year celebrations, nightclubs will also be closed for three weeks from the same date.

The new rules are an extension of the current advice in place – in Scotland residents are being asked to limit gatherings over Christmas to just three households, but it is not enforced by law. Face masks continue to be mandatory across the country in shops, bars (can be removed when drinking, obviously), restaurants (when not seated) and on public transport. People are also being advised to wear them in crowded outdoor spaces, such as Christmas markets. 

There are no restrictions on travelling to Scotland however, and hotels, museums, attractions and self-catered accommodation are all still open to visitors. The Scottish Government is recommending everyone take regular, free, lateral flow tests.





Official Hogmanay celebrations have been cancelled in Edinburgh


Credit: iStockphoto

Wales

Following Scotland’s lead, Wales is clamping down on Covid rules from December 26.

The biggest impact on holidaymakers is a new limit on group gatherings, of no more than six people, in the likes of pubs, restaurants and even cinemas. The two-metre social distancing rule will also return to public places, as well as one-way systems. Similar to Scotland nightclubs will close from December 27 and licensed premises will only be able to offer table services to patrons. Face masks will also been needed when not seated and contact tracing details will be collected.

Up to 30 people will be permitted to meet at indoor events, this increases to 50 outdoors, but those hoping to watch sporting fixtures on Boxing Day will be left disappointed – fans will be banned from all major sport events. 

The Welsh Government is encouraging residents to space out their socialising, with a day between events, and to continue with regular testing before meeting other people and to meet outdoors if possible.

There are no restrictions on travelling to Wales, where all the amenities you’d need for a staycation are still open, albeit under the new rules, including hotels, cafés and attractions.

Northern Ireland

Covid rules in Northern Ireland will also tighten on December 26.

There’ll be no partying in nightclubs in the likes of Belfast this New Year’s Eve – venues will be forced to close on December 26, when indoor standing-only events and dancing in all hospitality venues will also be prohibited.

From December 27 hospitality venues, such as restaurants and bars will return to offering just table service and groups will be limited to just six people at one table. Similar to Wales and Scotland, residents in Northern Ireland will be urged to limit private gatherings to no more than three households (or 10 people from a single household), but this is not enforced by law.

Businesses will now have a legal duty to ensure people are following face covering rules and that social distancing is in force – so visitors can expect tighter surveillance.

The rules do not apply to weddings or civil partnership celebrations and Stormont ministers have stopped short of banning large events, including sporting fixtures (to be reviewed on December 30), but there are strong recommendations to carry out regular testing.

Hotels, self-catered accommodation and attractions remain open, but will be required to implement the new rules. There are no restrictions on travelling to Northern Ireland.

England

The rules in England remain unchanged. Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on December 23 that no announcements on future Covid regulations would be made this week, meaning Monday (December 27) is the earliest date that any formal indication could be given about New Year festivities in England.

As it stands the only curbs staycationers face is a mandate on masks in the likes of shops and on public transports. Bars, restaurants and pubs remain open without restrictions – many have reported increased cancellations due to surging cases, meaning a last-minute booking might be possible. Nightclubs and large events in England remain open but face the toughest measures in the form of Covid passports, which require proof of vaccination or a negative test to grant entry.

Should I cancel my staycation?

There are no rules or restrictions against travel within the UK and all hospitality businesses are open and eager for business. The devolved nations have brought in new measures to help curb the spread of the omicron variant but are not discouraging against travel.

Can I get a refund for my staycation?

If you feel nervous about the prospect of travelling during the current surge in coronavirus cases this unfortunately isn’t grounds for cancellation and you won’t be entitled to a refund – however many operators are offering flexible terms for both cancellation and rearranging trips, as long as you request it during the given time frame – check your terms and conditions or speak to your provider to understand your options.

If you test positive for Covid-19, or are told to self-isolate by NHS Track and Trace, before your staycation you should consult your travel insurance, many cover claims in such circumstances. Operators are also being extremely flexible given the current pandemic, so you’ll likely be able to rearrange your break or request a refund if you’d prefer.