Will coronavirus restrictions be eased to allow families to meet at Christmas?
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Ministers are coming under pressure to outline what coronavirus restrictions will be in place over Christmas.
The government will decide next week how to end the second national lockdown as ministers come under pressure to explain what the plans will be over the festive period.
There are suggestions that support bubbles could be extended to help allow families to meet, while The Sun reported a five-day temporary relaxation of restrictions was among the options being considered by health bosses.
Ministers have insisted it is too early to tell whether the lockdown has succeeded and virus infection levels will be low enough to allow festivities to go ahead but Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said it was his “very firm expectation” that measures will be eased significantly in December.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) said the previous system was “inconsistent” and did not contain the spread of the virus, echoing a Government adviser who warned the tiers needed “strengthening”.
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The BMA, which represents doctors, has presented its own blueprint for leaving lockdown including “triggers” under which areas would move up and down the tiers.
The blueprint suggests non-essential travel between tiers should be “restricted” and “more robust” quarantine procedures should be put into place.
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Social mixing should be encouraged to take place outdoors and there should be a two-metre distance between tables in pubs and restaurants, according to the proposals.
The blueprint also suggests the rule of six be replaced with a “rule of two households”.
Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to the original lockdown in March, suggested support bubbles could be extended to help enable families to meet at Christmas.
He told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Tuesday the proposal would increase the risk of coronavirus transmission but in a “controllable way”.
“There are ways of going part way which still reduce the risk - basically extending what are called bubbles - social bubbles, support bubbles,” he said.
“You could think of allowing three or four households to bubble together for a week but not contact anybody else, which would give more opportunity to see loved ones but not a free-for-all.
“And that, modelling would suggest, increases risk somewhat but in a controllable way.”
Prof Ferguson also warned that reopening pubs and restaurants in the run-up to Christmas would be likely to lead to rising infection levels.
It comes as the government announced a further 598 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the UK total to 52,745.