Families in different tiers not allowed to meet on Christmas Day

Families in different tiers not allowed to meet on Christmas Day

A Government Minister has said that families living in different restriction tiers are not allowed to meet on Christmas Day, under the current coronavirus rules.

Environment Secretary George Eustice rejected demands from the Liberal Democrats to plan coronavirus restrictions up to the Christmas period now – but said mixing between families who live in areas with different tier restrictions is “not provided for currently”.

However, the MP for Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall said that “we’re going to do as much as possible ensure that people can celebrate Christmas”.

And he also said a national lockdown is not necessary because “the measures we’re taking are certainly holding it back”.

He told Times Radio: “We want to be in a position where people can meet with family. Will it be able to happen on a large scale? Well, that might be harder, if we’re honest.

“But we nevertheless want Christmas to be celebrated and for families to be able to celebrate and mark Christmas, it’s a very important family time.

“We can’t say, if I’m honest, at this point exactly what the restrictions will be at Christmas, and I think that the Liberal Democrat proposal to have a road map for Christmas is the wrong way of looking at this, when we actually need a road map to address the virus, which is what we’re trying to do.

“But within that, obviously, we’re going to do as much as possible ensure that people can celebrate Christmas.”

Mr Eustice said mixing between families who live in areas with different tier restrictions is “not provided for currently”, suggesting that they would not be able to meet on Christmas Day.

However, Mr Eustice also said it was “far too early” to set out guidelines about Christmas.

“This is a rapidly developing situation and we are making judgments all the time about what restrictions might be needed and what’s appropriate to have as restrictions in a particular area,” said Mr Eustice.

“It’s far too early to say exactly where things will be by Christmas, but the Prime Minister’s made clear he wants people to be able to have a Christmas that’s as close to possible as normal.”

He 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.

“And that’s what we’re doing, and it’s too early I’m afraid to say exactly what the situation will be by Christmas, but we do understand people want to have a Christmas that’s as close as possible to normal and to meet family and to come together.

“It’s an important family occasion and we understand that and the PM’s clear he wants to try to support that.”

Mr Eustice also said a national lockdown to control coronavirus is not necessary because “the measures we’re taking are certainly holding it back” and scientists are unsure how much it could achieve in two weeks.

Speaking on Times Radio, the Environment Secretary said the tiered system has held back the natural R rate of the virus of between 2.7 and 3 to the current level of between 1.4 and 1.5.

Mr Eustice said: “Sage themselves, when they posited that (a circuit-breaker) as one option, highlighted that it was uncertain how much it would achieve in two weeks and whether it would be enough, and also that there would be lots of negative consequences of such an intervention.”

Mr Eustice was unable to give a timeframe for how long tiered restrictions are expected to last, but said he believes that local lockdowns have been working.

He said: “We do know that in some of those areas that have gone for this restriction, that the R rate has started to come down.

“The difficulty with this is we know what happened in the last lockdown, but that was in March and April as we’re going into spring and summer, and this virus, like many viruses, is very seasonal, and wet winter nights and days are quite conducive to the spread of the virus.”

The Environment Secretary said there is “no point having a lockdown in those parts of the country where the incidence of the disease is very low”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We always knew that there would be a second wave and indeed we’ve been experiencing that since September.

“We’ve been monitoring the progress of the virus very, very closely, acting in a timely way to introduce appropriate measures and tougher restrictions where we had a problem, for instance in some of those northern cities, particularly in the North West, establishing this three-level approach.”

The MP for Camborne and Redruth added: “We have learnt and I think our view at the moment is there’s no point having a lockdown in those parts of the country where the incidence of the disease is very low.

“My part of the world, down in Cornwall, very low levels, the incidence of the disease, it would make no sense to lock down the economy in those areas.”

He also said the Government introduced tiered restrictions for local areas in a “timely way”