CHRISTMAS dinners in lockdown areas will be broken up even if they have fewer than six people present – because they aren’t allowed to mix, the Government said today.
George Eustice said that even if people were in a group of six – which is the national rule – then they may not be able to meet with other households if they are under extra restrictions in Tier 2 and Tier 3.
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At the moment people in the higher tiers – including Greater Manchester, London, parts of Birmingham, South Yorkshire and Liverpool – aren’t allowed to mix between households indoors – meaning a family Christmas dinner is off for millions of people unless they already live with them.
Only people living in Tier 1 will be allowed to have a Christmas with up to five others from other homes, as it currently stands.
And the Government will act to stop people from breaking the rules if they have to, the Environment Minister said today.
The PM has yet to say whether the rules will be lifted for the holiday period as he hopes.
The minister said it is “too early to say” how lockdowns could affect festivities, but told LBC this morning: “Obviously if we do need to have restrictions in place, and prevent families from coming together in large gatherings, if that’s necessary to control the virus that’s what we’ll have to do.”
Asked on Times Radio if families from different tiers would be able to spend Christmas together, he added this is “not provided for currently”.
And he refused to rule out more action later on too – saying “we think we have got the right approach for now.”
Only people living in Tier 1 are allowed to visit others inside their homes, but people in Tier 2 and 3 face £200 fines if they do so.
The PM previously said he hoped to lift the rules so families could spend the holidays with loved ones, but this is looking less likely as the coronavirus figures look worse and worse.
It means that at least eight million people in England alone – and more in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – won’t be able to go and stay with family and friends this Christmas.
A gathering of six people in the park might be all that’s allowed for people living in the toughest lockdown areas on Christmas day.
Ex-Scottish Tory boss Ruth Davidson has demanded Nicola Sturgeon suspends the ban on household mixing for 48 hours in the highest tiers – so people won’t be alone at Christmas.
The news comes as:
The Sun has learned that the latest government modelling overseen by chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance shows more than 25,000 will be in hospital with the virus by the end of November — higher than the spring peak.
That is also more than double the 9,199 who were battling the bug in hospital yesterday.
It comes as officials predict the second Covid wave could be even deadlier than the first, with a “lower but longer peak”.
No10 assumes the death toll this winter is going to be worse than that experienced by the UK in the spring.
Boris is under pressure to come up with a plan to save Christmas – but Mr Eustice rejected demands from the Liberal Democrats to plan coronavirus restrictions for the festive period now.
Mr Eustice added: “We should set our guidelines, not as the Lib Dems say, based on Christmas is coming, we should set our guidelines based on the epidemiology of this virus and follow the science and respond to emerging situations in a proportionate way.”
Professor Neil Ferguson, the scientist whose modelling prompted the UK-wide lockdown in March, told the PA news agency that measures in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas are “unlikely to cause daily cases and deaths to fall rapidly”.
He said modelling suggests this could leave the country with high caseloads for several months.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the Government’s failure to introduce a circuit-break lockdown over the school half-term has “put Christmas at risk” and urged ministers to “do something quickly to save Christmas”.
Speaking on Times Radio, he said Government sources are planning for a Tier 3 lockdown in most areas of the country “at some point in November”, which he expects will continue through the festive period.
Asked if he thought families would be able to meet in groups of more than six, the Labour MP said: “That’s in the hands of all of us, and in the hands of the decisions it (the Government) makes in the next week or so about what they’re going to do to get on top of this virus.
“I think because they’ve missed this window of opportunity over the half-term, I’m worried now that what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action over November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.
“The Government have got to do something quickly to save Christmas for everybody, because we want people to have a family Christmas, and I think it would be awful if people didn’t have that.”
And yesterday, the UK recorded its highest daily coronavirus death toll since May, with a further 367 fatalities and another 22,885 cases confirmed.
The number of deaths is the highest daily figure since May 27, when 422 were reported.
On average, 200 coronavirus deaths have been reported every day in the UK over the past week.
Sir Patrick had warned the Covid second wave would not hit that grim milestone until mid-November.
It is understood that new modelling prepared by the scientific advisory committee shows a far starker picture than originally feared, with the whole country needing the toughest restrictions in December.
A government source said: “The latest Sage numbers are utterly bleak.”