Downing Street to set out plans to relax Covid rules for Christmas

Weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases in the UK

But one scientific adviser warned that meeting friends over Christmas poses "substantial risks".

Government sources said it would be "inconceivable" that families would not be allowed to attend Christmas church services, with talks between the nations on the details of the plans.

Earlier this week Public Health England said that Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) guidance had suggested that for every day of greater freedom five days of tighter measures could be needed.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Mixing at Christmas does pose substantial risks, particularly in terms of bringing together generations with high incidence of infection with the older generations who now have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying if they catch COVID".

He said there had been "far too much emphasis" on having a normal festive period.

Downing Street has suggested families should be able to meet up after a "difficult year" and defence secretary Ben Wallace said today a final decision will be made as close to the end of England's national lockdown as possible. The five MPs and two aides met with MP Lee Anderson who has subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

'We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire over Christmas can only contribute to this'.

On Wednesday, a senior health official said any socialising would likely have to be followed by "very responsible" behaviour and a reduction in contacts again.

He said there is a need to "respect the fact that we mustn't spread the virus further but also respect the fact that Christmas is a special time where people get together, especially with their families". We will try and get that balance right, but ultimately we will try to make sure we protect our NHS and safeguard lives. "I can't tell you now".

"Our aims are all the same".

Residents and care workers at Churchview Nursing Home in Liverpool watch a video of this year’s Christmas lights switch-on in Liverpool city centre
If we mix with family for Christmas 'we will be burying them in January' | London Business News

"We don't know what the rules are, let's see what they are, but I have no interest in interrupting family Christmas dinners. There are lots of people, I'm afraid, still dying of COVID".

However, central to the plans is a major easing of restrictions in the last week of December.

But sales of mistletoe will not be banned, Downing Street insisted.

Hopes were also raised that the United Kingdom could produce a successful coronavirus vaccine after data from the University of Oxford showed its jab provokes a strong immune response in older people.

With Christmas Eve falling on a Thursday and a bank holiday Monday on 28 December, it is thought that ministers are looking at that five-day period to allow some sort of indoor gatherings.

He added: "I just think it would be such a boost to the whole of the United Kingdom if the four nations can come together and agree a set of arrangements which are safe, careful and sensible but also allow families to see each other at Christmas".

This advice issued closer to Christmas week will ask people to exercise caution and follow social distancing rules during the festive period. I still think we'll have to have restrictions in place, except probably this little window over Christmas, when I'm sure we'll relax to some extent'.

The government also reduced their estimate of the reproduction "R" number, and said the daily growth rate had fallen to between 0 per cent and 2 per cent.

The Government said a further 511 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the United Kingdom total to 54,286, while another 20,252 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported.

Government figures showed there were 22,915 lab-confirmed cases in the United Kingdom yesterday, compared to 33,470 the previous Thursday.



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