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The Executive has tonight taken the difficult decision to limit the arrangements for people to come together over Christmas.

Christmas bubbling will now be reduced to one day only on a date between 23 and 27 December, to ensure flexibility for those working on Christmas Day to choose an alternative day that suits best.

At tonight’s extraordinary Executive meeting, Ministers discussed the progression of the pandemic and were updated by the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Advisor on the emergence and rapid spread of a variant strain of the virus.

The safest place for everyone to spend Christmas is in their own home and people are strongly advised to stay at home for Christmas. Those who feel they need to meet with their bubble should keep it as small as possible, as close to home as possible and keep the visit short.

Follow public health advice rigorously. Keep your contacts to an absolute minimum; keep your distance; wear a face covering; and wash your hands.

The Executive is urging everyone to travel only if it is absolutely necessary. Travel is not permitted in or out of Tier 4 areas in England. Restrictions apply in other tier areas. Everyone should comply with all travel restrictions in place for each region and check the guidance at both the point of departure and destination.

The Executive also discussed the issue of restricting travel and Ministers agreed to consider this further when they next meet.

In relation to schools, Health and Education officials continue to liaise closely to consider how schools can operate as safely as possible.

As this is a rapidly evolving situation, the Executive will continue to keep all matters under review.