Santa’s grottos will be open in all tiers but only if youngsters keep well back and don’t sit on Father Christmas’s knee, according to new government rules.
The government today published guidance for carol singing, visiting churches, friends and family, as well as for children hoping to meet Santa.
‘Santa’s grottos are able to open in all tiers where they are located in venues otherwise permitted to open,’ the government says.
This means they can be opened in shops, garden centres and department stores, because non-essential retail is permitted even in Tier 3.
However, the grotto must comply with ‘appropriate Covid-secure measures’ meaning that the traditional chat on Santa’s lap will be banned.
Santa Claus speaks to two-year-old Leo via live video stream to launch the Virgin Media virtual grotto experience, which will be available for the three weekends leading up to Christmas due to the pressures placed on the traditional grotto experience
Children tune into a live-streamed Santa’s grotto event
Children and parents can expect that plastic screens will be thrown up and two metre stickers placed on the floor to comply with the rest of the government’s rules.
Although children are broadly safe from the virus, they can still spread it to more vulnerable adults.
The government’s policing of the grotto is just another aspect of life under the Christmas hiatus (December 23 and 27) which will be carefully monitored.
Carol singing is also under scrutiny because Covid-19 ‘spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and through direct contact.’
While carol singing is not prohibited, the document makes an oblique suggestion that choral performances might be better off abandoned.
It says: ‘You should consider the case for proceeding (or not), given the wider health context in your area and the context of your participants, particularly if vulnerable individuals are involved.’
Father Christmas wearing a red and white face mask in London earlier this month
For the most part the new rules reiterate that while the Christmas break allows for a ‘small’ bubble of more than three households to be formed, the measures regarding shops, bars and restaurants remain in force based on which Tier you are in.
‘A Christmas bubble will be able to spend time together in private homes, to attend places of worship, or meet in a public outdoor place,’ the government’s website says.
‘In all other settings, people should follow local restrictions in the tier in which they are staying.
‘If you do not form a Christmas bubble, you should continue to follow the guidance for the tier in your area.’