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

Henrietta Strickland
November 21, 2020

However, the public will be asked to limit their interactions to one main gathering during the holiday period to help stop the spread of the virus.

Following unconfirmed reports that the government are considering relaxing measures so families can have five days together for Christmas, Professor Scally, said we have had "nine months of sacrifices to throw it away at Christmas".

Addressing the coronavirus briefing on Friday, Mr Hancock said it would be a "boost" for the United Kingdom if a "safe, careful and sensible" set of plans could be agreed between the devolved nations. Sometimes they'll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer.

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

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that while 2020 has been "such a hard year", there are signs the current lockdown in England is working.

"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.

Asked about his own Christmas plans, Hancock said that he was now planning a small Christmas within the existing rules, but he said he hoped there would be some relaxation, even if some restrictions had to remain. We know respiratory infections peak in January so throwing fuel on the fire can only contribute to this'.

The idea is to agree unified rules across the United Kingdom for the Christmas period, and talks are taking place between Downing Street officials and the devolved governments.

Instead he told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "He [Prof Scally] is right that if you don't do some tough measures, you end up paying for it in the long run as long as we don't have the vaccine".

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said it was "still too early to tell" if the current lockdown will have the "consistent effect" needed.

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.

He told Today there is "encouraging evidence coming from the north-west of England" with "a plateauing of cases in the community and a slight downturn in cases coming into hospital".

"And that's why I totally agree with your observation that we have to make sure, when we make the decision, we a make it as close to the time as possible so we have all the information to make sure the risk is minimal".

However, he stressed "some parts of the country really are in a very hard situation at the moment and their cases are still rising".

Data from November 8 to 14 suggests the overall national infection rate for England is similar to the week before, but there are stark regional divides, with rising rates in primary school aged children.

Sage said the reproduction number - or R value - for the whole of the United Kingdom had dropped to between 1 and 1.1.

Inter-county travel bans could be lifted for the days around December 25th to allow visits, according to the Irish Examiner.

Public health advice for the Christmas period will ultimately depend upon the numbers surrounding Covid-19 in Ireland at the time.

He added: "A halving of infection prevalence over the four weeks would be a positive result".

Regarding vaccines, Mr Hancock confirmed volunteers are now being trained but the "big numbers" in terms of vaccinating people will be in the new year.

Prof Van-Tam, who appeared remotely as he is self-isolating due to a "household contact", said people "shouldn't worry too much" about where they are in the priority list because the difference between levels could be a matter of one to three weeks.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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