UK-wide ‘easing of coronavirus rules for a week at Christmas’

Modesto Morganelli
Novembre 21, 2020

Mr Hancock said "it's still too early to tell" what will happen after December 2 when England's lockdown is due to end.

Downing Street declined to say whether door-to-door carol singing would be allowed but the PM's spokesman said there would be no ban on the sale of mistletoe.

Ministers want to see the latest data on the state of the virus before deciding how far they can go and Mr Wallace said a decision would be taken close to December 2, when the current lockdown expires.

"We want people to enjoy a safe Christmas but we will be asking them not go to lots of different households", a senior Government source said.

Prof Hayward - a member of the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "My personal view is we're putting far too much emphasis on having a near-normal Christmas".

Meanwhile Mr Hancock said he is increasingly hopeful of some kind of normality by spring, as he confirmed the UK's health regulator is assessing a coronavirus vaccine which could potentially be rolled out next month.

It comes as NHS documents seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) suggest all adults in England - of any age - could start to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the end of January if supplies allow.

But on Friday night Professor Jonathan Van Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, said the health service meant to "move with as much pace as we can possibly muster" with only a matter of weeks difference between priority groups.

Mr Hancock told the briefing he did not want to "pre-judge" or "impinge" on the independence of the MHRA when asked how long its process could take and that the speed of a vaccine roll-out would depend on the manufacturing speed.

"There are encouraging signs that the number of cases is starting to flatten, and that the lockdown that we brought in, earlier this month, is working", Hancock told Sky News. "It's too risky a time and an opportunity for the virus to spread".

He appealed to people to "keep up the pressure on this virus and push down on it as much as we can right to the end of the period (of lockdown)".

"It of course won't be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place", he said.

Earlier, Wales's First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had held discussions with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the first ministers of the other devolved administrations on Wednesday about a UK-wide approach to Christmas restrictions, with another meeting planned next week.

The announcement of the plans - which will allow families to spend up to seven days together - is expected to come next week.

Northern Ireland will enter a two-week circuit-breaker next Friday and Scotland has placed two million people in its toughest level of restrictions for three weeks.

However, Government sources have cautioned it would not "be a free for all".

Prof Hayward, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at University College London, said mixing at Christmas does pose "substantial risks" particularly where generations "with high incidence of infection" socialise with older people "who now have much lower levels of infection and are at most risk of dying" if they catch Covid-19.

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