Brits have been warned Christmas is “at risk” as Boris Johnson was told to urgently agree UK-wide lockdown rules for the holiday.
The Prime Minister faces mounting pressure to come up with a plan amid fears there will be a mass breach of the law.
Cabinet minister George Eustice today warned it was “too early to say” what the rules will be on December 25.
But the Environment Secretary warned large gatherings may be banned as they are now – and hinted there’ll be new laws “if necessary”.
It came after reports of SAGE fears that all of England could face a Tier 3-style lockdown by Christmas, with one government source telling The Sun: “The latest Sage numbers are utterly bleak.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary warned Christmas is “at risk”. Jon Ashworth told Times Radio: “They’ve missed this window of opportunity over the half term [for a circuit-break lockdown].
“I’m worried what we’ll see is deeper, more drastic lockdown action throughout November and December, which sadly probably does put Christmas at risk.”
And Environment Secretary Mr Eustice told LBC Radio: “We want people to be able to live and have Christmas as close as possible to normal.
“It’s a really important family time, we understand that. The Prime Minister said he wants us to be able to enjoy Christmas and families to be able to come together.
“It’s too early to say though exactly what restrictions will be in place by Christmas.
“And 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.
“If necessary, we will have to put regulations in place.
“We want to make sure people can enjoy Christmas and come together as families still. But it may not be in quite the sort of large gatherings that some people would normally experience.”
Some 29million people in England’s Tier 2 and 3 areas are banned from meeting people indoors who aren’t from their household or bubble.
Those in Tier 1 areas are limited to gatherings of just six people.
But many people in England have family in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and vice versa – and each nation has different rules.
The Lib Dems and Northern Ireland’s Alliance Party have written to the four leaders, Boris Johnson, Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster.
They warned guidance cannot be made in isolation given the “interlinked” nature of life in the UK, and called for a “four nations summit” to agree a plan.
The letter states: “It falls on you and your counterparts to work across governments to explore workable solutions that can enable travel to happen safely.
“To manage the implications for public health, we are urging you to hold a four nations summit to co-operate on students’ return, to agree uniform guidance on the number of people who can gather, and to explore how best to expand travel options to allow social distancing.”
It is signed by Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey, as well as his Scottish counterpart Willie Rennie, Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry.
Sir Ed told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “2020 has been such a tough year for families across the UK, people losing loved ones, losing their jobs.
“People had been looking forward to Christmas and I think they’re increasingly worried they won’t be able to be with many of their families and friends at Christmas as normal.
“So we want the governments of the four nations to come together, to look ahead, to get ahead of the game and plan measures so that we can maximise the chances of Christmas being as near normal as possible.
“And it means they’ve got to take steps now together and if they do then maybe Christmas won’t be cancelled.”
In Scotland, First Minister Ms Sturgeon has said her Government is looking at phased term dates and possible testing of students, and issues of people returning home where there are vulnerable people.
Welsh First Minister Mr Drakeford has said the current “firebreak” restrictions should give a pathway to Christmas “without needing a period of this severity of restraint between now and then”.
It comes after Victoria Derbyshire apologised for saying she would “break the Rule of Six” to have her family of seven together this Christmas.
The presenter, whose Bafta-winning current affairs show on the BBC was axed in March amid cuts, tweeted to say “it was hypothetical” but added: “However I was totally wrong to say it & I’m sorry.”
She added: “We’ll of course continue to follow whatever rules are in place on Dec 25th”.