Coronavirus England: Rules may be loosened for 5 DAYS over Christmas

Millions of Britons have today been given a major boost that their number one Christmas wish – to be with their family members – could be granted this year. 

Families could be given a small window of opportunity to enjoy some of the festive season with their loved ones this Christmas, according to reports.

Britons could get up to five days of loosened restrictions over the festive holidays under new plans being considered by ministers, reports the Sun.

Government chiefs are also considering proposals which would allow family ‘bubbles’ of up to two or three households who will able to meet for Christmas, according to the Times

According to the i, ministers could ease restrictions even further and allow four households to meet. 

The welcome news came as Downing Street last night said Boris Johnson wanted to ‘ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas’. However no decision has yet been made.

Ministers and experts reportedly want to review the direction of Covid death figures and infection numbers before green lighting any proposals.

However hopes of a big family Christmas were last night further boosted, after case numbers in the UK continued to flatline.

The Covid Christmas news came as: 

  • Britain recorded 1.7% fewer coronavirus cases than last Tuesday with 20,051 new infections – as death toll rises 12.4% in a week to 598;
  • Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to make it illegal to travel outside Level 3 and 4 areas as she plunges 2.3million people in Scotland into toughest restrictions;
  • A devastating report exposed chronic bungling and ‘jobs for pals’ in rush to source safety gear during pandemic; 
  • Study finds even survivors who had mild COVID-19 are protected for at least 8 months and their immune ‘memory’ may last MUCH longer; 
  • A new study found even survivors who had mild COVID-19 are protected for at least 8 months and their immune ‘memory’ may last MUCH longer;
  • Another report claimed cases of Covid-19 in the summer were 16 TIMES higher in the UK than official figures suggest – with more than 5 MILLION Britons infected by the end of August
Millions of Britons have today been given a major boost that their number one Christmas wish - to be with their family members - could be granted this year. Pictured: Pedestrians wearing face masks walk past Christmas lights on Oxford Street yesterday

Millions of Britons have today been given a major boost that their number one Christmas wish - to be with their family members - could be granted this year. Pictured: Pedestrians wearing face masks walk past Christmas lights on Oxford Street yesterday

Millions of Britons have today been given a major boost that their number one Christmas wish – to be with their family members – could be granted this year. Pictured: Pedestrians wearing face masks walk past Christmas lights on Oxford Street yesterday

The five day period has reportedly been chosen because Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year. It will mean many, but not all, workers will then have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, followed by Sunday, December 27, and a planned Bank Holiday on Monday, December 28

The five day period has reportedly been chosen because Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year. It will mean many, but not all, workers will then have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, followed by Sunday, December 27, and a planned Bank Holiday on Monday, December 28

The five day period has reportedly been chosen because Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year. It will mean many, but not all, workers will then have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, followed by Sunday, December 27, and a planned Bank Holiday on Monday, December 28

In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am yesterday

In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am yesterday

In another sign lockdown measures are working, new Covid case numbers were recorded at 21,363 in the UK. The figure is new lab-confirmed cases recorded as of 9am yesterday

The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday - up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday's figure of 194

The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday - up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday's figure of 194

The Government also announced a further 213 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday – up 9.8 per cent from from last Monday’s figure of 194 

Nicola Sturgeon makes it ILLEGAL to travel outside of Level 3 and 4 lockdown areas as she plunges 2.3MILLION people in 11 areas into toughest restrictions from Friday 

Nicola Sturgeon last night announced parts of Scotland that are home to millions of people will be moved into its toughest coronavirus level at the end of the week as she warned infection rates remain ‘stubbornly high’.

The First Minister said 11 council areas, which include the city of Glasgow, will be subject to Level Four restrictions from 6pm on Friday. The areas have a combined population of approximately 2.3million people.

People living in Level Four areas are banned from meeting with other households indoors while all non-essential shops must close.

In an announcement to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon told people in those areas is that they ‘should not be going out and about’ while the measures are place for the three weeks – until December 11.

The SNP leader also announced she is making it illegal for people to travel into or out of Level Three and Level Four areas ‘except for certain essential purposes’.

There is already guidance in place urging people not to make such journeys, but Ms Sturgeon said the advice will become law from Friday. It means rule-breakers face the prospect of enforcement action from the police.

The council areas in Scotland moving to Level Four from Friday are the City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

Ms Sturgeon said there was ‘grounds for continued and significant concern’ in all of the areas being moved into Level Four.

As well as the 11 areas being elevated to the top tier, two areas are being moved from Level Three to Level Two while 19 will experience no change.

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Under the proposals, reported in the Sun, households would be allowed to mix for up to five days, starting on Christmas Eve.

The five day period has reportedly been chosen because Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year.

It will mean many, but not all, workers will then have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off, followed by Sunday, December 27, and a planned Bank Holiday on Monday, December 28.

Ministers reportedly want to make the rules standard across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – which have recently had varying levels of Covid restrictions.

But, according to the Times, the easing of restrictions could be for a slightly shorter period, of between two or three days.

The paper also reports that the number of households able to mix in ‘bubbles’ could be limited to two or three households.

Scientific advisers have reportedly urged the Government against easing rules too much, with some warning case numbers could double or quadruple over the Christmas period. 

No decisions have yet been taken and talks between the four nations are set to take place at a later date.    

A Downing Street spokesperson last night told the Sun: ‘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.’ 

The reports come amid a split between cabinet members over plans for a ‘strengthened’ Covid tier system that could see indoor socialising banned across much of the country for months.

Ministers are preparing for a bitter fight over the details of a beefed-up system of ‘regional’ restrictions which are due to be published next week.

A Whitehall source said Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were attempting to ‘rein in everything’ and allow only a modest loosening of restrictions when the current lockdown rules expire on December 2.

However, other senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Trade Secretary Liz Truss, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and Home Secretary Priti Patel, are said to be gearing up to push for a wider reopening to allow businesses to salvage part of their Christmas trade. 

The new restrictions are expected to last for months, with only the short break over Christmas to allow more contact with family and friends.

Downing Street yesterday insisted that Boris Johnson remains determined to end the current restrictions on December 2.

But no decisions have been taken about exactly what structure of tiered restrictions will replace it.

Under the proposals, reported in the Sun, households would be allowed to mix for up to five days, starting on Christmas Eve

Under the proposals, reported in the Sun, households would be allowed to mix for up to five days, starting on Christmas Eve

Under the proposals, reported in the Sun, households would be allowed to mix for up to five days, starting on Christmas Eve

It comes as Downing Street said yesterday that Boris Johnson wanted to 'ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas'

It comes as Downing Street said yesterday that Boris Johnson wanted to 'ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas'

It comes as Downing Street said yesterday that Boris Johnson wanted to ‘ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas’

A Whitehall source said Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were attempting to 'rein in everything' and allow only a modest loosening of restrictions when the current lockdown rules expire on December 2

A Whitehall source said Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were attempting to 'rein in everything' and allow only a modest loosening of restrictions when the current lockdown rules expire on December 2

However, other senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured), are said to be gearing up to push for a wider reopening to allow businesses to salvage part of their Christmas trade.

However, other senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured), are said to be gearing up to push for a wider reopening to allow businesses to salvage part of their Christmas trade.

A Whitehall source said Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured left) and Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove were attempting to ‘rein in everything’ and allow only a modest loosening of restrictions when the current lockdown rules expire on December 2. However, other senior ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak (pictured right), are said to be gearing up to push for a wider reopening to allow businesses to salvage part of their Christmas trade.

Britain records 1.7% fewer coronavirus cases than last Tuesday with 20,051 new infections 

Britain last night recorded 1.7 per cent fewer coronavirus cases compared to last week in yet another indication the UK’s second wave is slowing, new figures show.

The Government announced 20,051 new lab-confirmed Covid cases in the UK today, down from the 20,412 infections confirmed last Tuesday.

The figure is also a fall from the 21,363 cases confirmed on Monday, with the total number of infections in the UK now at 1,410,732 since the start of the pandemic.

The Department of Health announced a further 598 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday – up 12.4 per cent from the same point last week, when 532 deaths were recorded.

Today’s death toll is the highest recorded in Britain since May 12, when 614 deaths were confirmed. The latest death figure brings the UK total to 52,745.

However, separate data from the UK’s statistic agencies suggest there have been more than 68,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

These include deaths where the virus has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Office for National Statistics today showed the number of people dying with Covid-19 rose by 40 per cent in the first week of November – when the virus was to blame for one in every six deaths in England and Wales.

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On Monday, Public Health England director Susan Hopkins, warned that the tier system would have to be ‘strengthened’ to avoid a resurgence in the virus when the lockdown ends.

She said Tier One – the only level that allowed for indoor socialising – had had ‘very little effect’.

Documents released last week from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling, which reports to the Scientific Advisory Committee for Emergencies (Sage) said that although there was a ‘clear effect’ on infection rates from strict Tier Three interventions, there was ‘much less from Tiers One and Two’.

The SPI-M group believes infections will rise at the same rate as before if the same three-tier system is brought back in on December 2.

But many ministers fear the economy would face another heavy blow if huge numbers of businesses are forced to remain closed in the run up to Christmas.

Tory MPs are also gearing up for a fight over the issue, with one warning that up to 100 could rebel next week if the new restrictions are drawn too tightly.

A Whitehall source acknowledged that the Government would face ‘political difficulties’ if the hospitality sector is unable to reopen in the run-up to Christmas.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said yesterday that he hoped to see most hospitality firms allowed to reopen.

But he acknowledged that restrictions were likely to be only ‘somewhat easier’ after the current lockdown ends.

In a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Jenrick said any extension of the lockdown would require a vote of Parliament.

‘It is our hope and expectation that that won’t be the case and that people in England will be able to move back into the tiered system,’ he said.

Sir John Bell, a member of the Government’s vaccines taskforce, said the Government would not be able to ‘take our foot off the brake completely’ when the lockdown ends.

But he said developments in mass testing could help ease restrictions. ‘I am optimistic that we won’t have to go into the Christmas period in a lockdown,’ he said.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels.

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, said reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels

How could the new Tiers look? 

Ministers insist no final decisions have been made on the Tier system after December 2, but there have been hints at the kind of measures it could feature.

It also seems clear that in future the rules will be applied on a wider regional basis, rather than to specific towns and cities.

TIER 1

The Rule of Six looks set to continue, and the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants would still apply.

However, there is speculation that households could be restricted from meeting in homes after health chiefs said the base level was proving ineffective.

TIER 2

Tier 2 previously involved all the curbs in the first level, plus a ban on mixing with other households in any indoor setting – including pubs and restaurants.

TIER 3

Tier 3 is the highest set of restrictions currently available in the system

There is a ban on socialising indoors and in private gardens. Pubs and bars must shut unless they are able to operate as eateries.

There are restrictions on staying overnight in other parts of the country unless it is for essential work.

TIER 4?

Ministers have been hinting at another bracket of restrictions above the existing highest level – as is already the case in Scotland.

There are suggestions it could ’embed’ some of the bolt-ons to the Tier 3 restrictions already being deployed in some areas.

For example, Nottinghamshire has imposed a ban on alcohol sales after 9pm, while other areas have shut gyms and leisure centres.

 

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He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: ‘The big question is can we reopen… pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas and still avoid infection levels increasing?

‘I suspect we can’t, but the decision may be made to do so anyhow on the basis that any increase will be slow and may be able to be counteracted later.’

The British Medical Association last night called for the ‘rule of six’, which allowed mixing of up to six households, to be replaced with a ‘two households’ rule. 

It comes as Britain last night recorded 1.7 per cent fewer coronavirus cases compared to last week in yet another indication the UK’s second wave is slowing, new figures show.

The Government announced 20,051 new lab-confirmed Covid cases in the UK today, down from the 20,412 infections confirmed last Tuesday.

The figure is also a fall from the 21,363 cases confirmed on Monday, with the total number of infections in the UK now at 1,410,732 since the start of the pandemic.

The Department of Health announced a further 598 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday – up 12.4 per cent from the same point last week, when 532 deaths were recorded.

Yesterday’s death toll is the highest recorded in Britain since May 12, when 614 deaths were confirmed. The latest death figure brings the UK total to 52,745.

However, separate data from the UK’s statistic agencies suggest there have been more than 68,000 deaths involving Covid-19 in the UK.

These include deaths where the virus has been mentioned on the death certificate, together with additional data on deaths that have occurred in recent days.

Meanwhile, figures released by the Office for National Statistics yesterday showed the number of people dying with Covid-19 rose by 40 per cent in the first week of November – when the virus was to blame for one in every six deaths in England and Wales. 

It was not explained last night why deaths have risen sharply, though it could be a delayed spike following a rise in Covid cases last week.  

The figures comes as Nicola Sturgeon last night announced that parts of Scotland that are home to millions of people will be moved into its toughest coronavirus level at the end of the week as she warned infection rates remain ‘stubbornly high’.

The First Minister said 11 council areas, which include the city of Glasgow, will be subject to Level Four restrictions from 6pm on Friday. The areas have a combined population of approximately 2.3million people.

People living in Level Four areas are banned from meeting with other households indoors while all non-essential shops must close.

In an announcement to the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon told people in those areas is that they ‘should not be going out and about’ while the measures are place for the three weeks – until December 11.

The SNP leader also announced she is making it illegal for people to travel into or out of Level Three and Level Four areas ‘except for certain essential purposes’.

There is already guidance in place urging people not to make such journeys, but Ms Sturgeon said the advice will become law from Friday. It means rule-breakers face the prospect of enforcement action from the police.

The council areas in Scotland moving to Level Four from Friday are the City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling and West Lothian.

Ms Sturgeon said there was ‘grounds for continued and significant concern’ in all of the areas being moved into Level Four.

As well as the 11 areas being elevated to the top tier, two areas are being moved from Level Three to Level Two while 19 will experience no change.

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