Monday, 18 Jan 2021

Christmas Covid rules finally announced with five days of households mixing

Three households will be able to mix for five days at Christmas time, after the leaders of the UK’s four nations agreed a festive deal.

The relaxation of coronavirus restrictions will come between December 23 and 27, according to Government sources, allowing relatives to celebrate Christmas together at home.

Earlier the UK Government and devolved administrations thrashed out a nationwide approach during a Cobra meeting to agree how to relax strict rules over the festive period.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has acknowledged the risks involved in a Christmas relaxation, saying ’tis the season to be jolly careful’ – but is determined to give families the chance to meet up at the end of a grim year. Experts have warned that a loosening of restrictions and indoor household mixing could lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases and potentially harsher restrictions in the new year. There is particular concern around elderly people mixing with younger relatives and limited social distancing when alcohol is involved.

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Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said: ‘We have to recognise that Christmas is a very important time for people, and that you have to have a set of rules that people will be prepared to operate within.’

He added: ‘While I have hesitation, because of the state of the virus in Wales and across the United Kingdom, it is better that we have a common set of arrangements that give people a framework that they can manage within and act responsibly within as well.’

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack welcomed the agreement but warned people to be ‘careful and responsible’.

He said: ‘I’m very pleased we have secured agreement right across the UK to ensure families can meet, albeit in a far more limited way than usual.

‘This Christmas will not be what we are used to. Because of the virus, it simply cannot be. But a limited easing of restrictions will allow us to see some of our loved ones at this important time.

‘More household mixing does mean more chance for the virus to spread, however, and I urge people to be as careful and responsible as possible over the Christmas period.’

It comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged the public not to use trains over the festive period because they will be ‘too busy’.

In England, the Government has already announced new tiered restrictions which will come into effect on December 2 and could last until the end of March – apart from any Christmas relaxation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped the roll-out of a vaccine would signal that life could go back to ‘normal’ by Easter, on April 4, 2021.

On Thursday, people in England will find out which tier they are being placed in once the lockdown ends.

This is a breaking story – more to follow.

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