Nationwide temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions expected for Christmas

Boris Johnson is working with the devolved governments to consider how coronavirus restrictions might be eased across the UK in time for Christmas.

The Prime Minister said leaders of the four nations are devising plans for a “special time-limited Christmas dispensation” to allow families “to come together, while minimising the risk”.

This comes amid the announcement that as England’s second lockdown restrictions are eased on December 2, a toughened up version of the previous three-tier system will come into force instead.

Mr Johnson told MPs on Monday that families will need to make a “careful judgment” about visiting elderly relatives over the festive period because “this virus is obviously not going to grant a Christmas truce”.

Boris Johnson File Photo
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering how coronavirus restrictions might be eased across the UK to allow families to gather for Christmas (Dominic Lipinski/PA) 

He told the Commons: “I can’t say that Christmas will be normal this year, but in a period of adversity time spent with loved ones is even more precious for people of all faiths and none.

“We all want some kind of Christmas, we need it, we certainly feel we deserve it. But what we don’t want is to throw caution to the winds and allow the virus to flare up again, forcing us all back into lockdown in January.

“So to allow families to come together, while minimising the risk, we’re working with the devolved administrations on a special time-limited Christmas dispensation, embracing the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Johnson added the Government will be publishing guidance for people classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” on how to manage the risks in each tier as well as over Christmas.

Scottish National Investment Bank launch
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said some households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period over Christmas (Andy Buchanan/PA) 

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also said on Monday that planned easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas will be “slight and careful” but household mixing is “likely” to be allowed.

Ms Sturgeon said: “There is an obvious desire to see loved ones at Christmas, I think we all feel that very strongly.

“There’s also a lot of anxiety about the potential risks associated with that, particularly at a time when we’re starting to see, perhaps, the end of this pandemic loom on the horizon.

“So we’re trying as hard as we can to reach a sensible balance, although it is possible – likely, in fact – that some households may be able to form slightly larger bubbles with each other for a short period over Christmas.

“We’re considering this because we recognise that isolation and loneliness can hit people particularly hard over the Christmas period.”

Coronavirus
Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething (Isabel Infantes/PA) 

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said as part of the festive relaxation, leaders are considering “a common arrangement for travel across the UK” and “what household mixing might look like”.

Mr Gething also called for people to consider taking a “complete break” from seeing others before they travelled to stay with family and friends over Christmas.

He said: “I haven’t been in my mother’s house to be indoors and to give her a hug since March.

“I’d love to see my mum and go inside her house this Christmas, but I want to see my mum on her birthday when it comes up again next year and I want to see her on my birthday, on my son’s birthday and I want to see her next Christmas too.

“So some of our challenges are about what we need to do very differently this year to make sure we can still celebrate future life events with our loved ones.”

The Prime Minister, who is still self-isolating, will hold a virtual press conference at 7pm on Monday evening to outline the plans for the end of England’s second lockdown and beyond, looking ahead to the weeks before Christmas.

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