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COVID-19: Christmas hoped to be ‘as close to normal as possible’, but will mean tougher restrictions – adviser

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All parts of England would still be banned from socialising with other households indoors ahead of Christmas Eve, reports claim.

Ministers want a “Christmas as close to normal as possible”, a government adviser has said amid reports families could be allowed just a few days to mix over the festive period.

At a Downing Street briefing, government medical adviser Dr Susan Hopkins said she hopes the government will “allow some mixing” of households over Christmas.

But she suggested this would come at the cost of tougher rules before and after 25 December, claiming that every day of relaxed measures would need to be counterbalanced with two days of restrictions.

Boris Johnson’s spokesman said he has a “clear intent to allow families to spend Christmas together”, but stressed it will “not be a normal” one.

Speaking earlier, Dr Hopkins said: “We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible.

“That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period and even in early December to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.”

Her comments come after The Sun reported that ministers are considering letting families choose a small number of households they can socialise indoors with for five days, starting on Christmas Eve.

But it would mean no household mixing when national lockdown ends in England on 2 December, with all parts of the country under at least Tier 2 restrictions, according to The Daily Telegraph.

When asked about the plans by Kay Burley on Wednesday, business secretary Alok Sharma said it was too early to plan.

“Christmas is of course going to happen come what may. I would love to have members of my family round, but we just have to wait and see where we’re at,” he said.

The PM has repeatedly stated his intention to return England to a tier system on 2 December, but Dr Hopkins said ministers are now working on “new tiers” after low level of restrictions proved ineffective.

While Number 10 will decide on its end-of-lockdown package for England with an announcement expected next week, what happens over the festive period in all four UK nations is still under consideration.

People in Wales have been strongly advised not to mix with people they don’t live with indoors after its “circuit break” lockdown came to an end, with the same expected in Northern Ireland once theirs finishes this week.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that 11 local authority areas will be put under the country’s toughest Level 4 measures from Friday until 11 December.

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The “short and sharp” restrictions are “specifically intended to have an impact in advance of Christmas and the most challenging winter period”, she said.

Today, her deputy John Swinney told Kay Burley the current rules will “enable us all to be able to proceed to enjoy and appreciate the connections we all want to have with family around Christmas time”.

Reports that the first round of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines could be rolled out by mid-December has sparked hopes of a more “normal” Christmas, but a Downing Street spokesman told Sky News: “No decision has been made.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick confirmed on Tuesday that parliament will vote on what system is imposed in England beyond 2 December.