Coronavirus lockdown rules could be relaxed for up to five days to save Christmas, reports claim.
Ministers are discussing plans to allow households to mix indoors for a short amount of time, according to The Sun, which says the easing of restrictions could come in on Christmas Eve and last until Bank Holiday Monday, December 28. The Express suggests it may only last three days, and would see up to 10 people allowed to gather inside.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) are reportedly modelling how allowing more than six people to mix would affect Covid-19 rates, with ministers fearing that Brits could ignore the rules over the festive period.
Ministers also hope they can thrash out a plan with the leaders of all the nations of the UK.
Visit our live blog for the latest updates Coronavirus news live
It comes amid fears that England’s national lockdown, due to automatically expire on December 2, could be extended.
But even if it is lifted, the tier system still bans indoor household mixing in tiers one and two – meaning the ban would have to be relaxed to allow any festive celebrations involving people from more than one home.
Number 10 told the Express and the Sun last night: ‘We are looking at ways to ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year.’
A number of different options are thought to be under discussion and children under 12 may be exempted from limits on numbers, but no firm decisions are thought to have been decided yet.
The Government will decide next week how to end the second national lockdown as ministers come under pressure to outline any restrictions which could be in place over the festive period.
It comes as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon imposed the harshest coronavirus restrictions on 11 areas, saying it gave the country the best chance of being able to ease some rules for Christmas.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, suggested support bubbles could be extended to help enable families to meet at Christmas.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Tuesday that the proposal would increase the risk of coronavirus transmission but in a ‘controllable way’.
‘There are ways of going part way which still reduce the risk – basically extending what are called bubbles – social bubbles, support bubbles,’ he said.Boris 'considering five days of household mixing' in plan to save Christmas
‘You could think of allowing three or four households to bubble together for a week but not contact anybody else, which would give more opportunity to see loved ones but not a free-for-all.
‘And that, modelling would suggest, increases risk somewhat but in a controllable way.’
But Professor Ferguson also warned that reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels.
Meanwhile, the British Medical Association (BMA) branded England’s tier system ‘inadequate’ and said it must be revised before England leaves lockdown.
It said the system did not contain the spread of the virus, echoing a Government adviser who warned the tiers needed ‘strengthening’.
Ministers have insisted it is too early to tell whether the lockdown has succeeded and virus infection levels will be low enough to allow festivities to go ahead but Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was his ‘very firm expectation’ that measures will be eased significantly in December.
Now the BMA, which represents doctors, has presented its own blueprint for leaving lockdown including ‘triggers’ under which areas would move up and down the tiers.
The blueprint suggests non-essential travel between tiers should be ‘restricted’ and ‘more robust’ quarantine procedures should be put into place.
Social mixing should be encouraged to take place outdoors and there should be a two-metre distance between tables in pubs and restaurants, according to the proposals.
The blueprint also suggests the rule of six be replaced with a ‘rule of two households’.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
For more stories like this, check our news page.