Hopes raised families can meet over Christmas as UK nations back plan
Written by on 22 November 2020
Progress has been made on a UK-wide plan to relax COVID-19 restrictions over Christmas, as national leaders have agreed to allow household mixing “for a small number of days”.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove held talks with the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Saturday, with the government hopeful of agreeing a “four nations” approach to the holiday season.
Despite not agreeing a final set of regulations, the government says ministers have “endorsed a shared objective of facilitating some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days”.
In a statement released on Sunday evening, No 10 added: “The public will be advised to remain cautious, and that wherever possible people should avoid travelling and minimise social contact.”
It said talks were underway with the Irish government over travel across the Northern Ireland border and that it was hoped all arrangements would be concluded this week.
‘There will be a price to pay for Xmas’
The news confirmed a story published by Sky News yesterday that coronavirus restrictions across the UK would be relaxed for Christmas.
The Daily Mail and The Sun reported that up to four households would be allowed to mix for up to five days, but Downing Street has denied that the PM will reveal how many households could mix and for how long when he unveils his “COVID Winter Plan” on Monday.
A spokesman for the Scottish government gave little detail away about the UK-wide talks, saying only: “No agreement has been reached and discussions are continuing.”
Boris Johnson, who is still isolating in Downing Street, chaired a rare Sunday afternoon cabinet meeting, and on Monday will make a Commons statement and publish his “COVID Winter Plan”.
He will confirm that England’s national lockdown will end on 2 December, but the country will move back into a three-tier system of regional restrictions, which was in force from 14 October until 5 November.
Downing Street has also confirmed that while some local measures will be similar to those in place previously, the tiers will be strengthened in some areas to safeguard gains made during the national lockdown.
No 10 ‘psychodramas’ set back COVID-19 fight
Ministers will announce on Thursday which areas in England will be in each tier, but the government has signalled that more areas will be in higher tiers to keep the virus under control and avoid another national shutdown.
Professor Calum Semple – a member of government advisory body SAGE – told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday that “hopefully” some rules could be relaxed over Christmas “for a few days”, but added: “There will be a price for that.”
He said he broadly agreed with the idea floated by Public Health England earlier this week that for every day of looser restrictions five days of extra lockdown might be needed.
However, he said assumptions should not be made about how tough the rules might be if extra days are added, saying it did not necessarily mean “draconian restrictions”.