The idea that Covid restrictions will be over in England once lockdown 2 ends on December 2 has been thrown into doubt by government scientists.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has released modelling and data which suggests measures will need to be in place throughout December, reports Birmingham Live.
The restrictions would cover the Christmas period despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisting the festive season would be “as normal as possible”.
Without restrictions after December 2, Sage warns the virus could spread widely, with infections reaching the highs of September or October.
And they are warning the tier system may not be enough to bring infections down, with calls for strict measures.
It remains to be seen what these are – but it would likely mean curbs on households mixing.
The report said: “If this is sustained until 2 December, the number of hospital admissions and deaths would be expected to fall until at least the second week of December. The longer-term outlook depends on both the nature of [restrictions] that are implemented in England after 2 December and policies over the festive period.”
It adds: “If England returns to the same application of the tiering system in place before 5 November, then transmission will return to the same rate of increase as today.”
Here are the four lockdown options the government could implement over Christmas…
Rule of Six lifted
A source told The Sun on Sunday the rule of six could be lifted on Christmas Day to allow families to spend time together.
The insider said: “The PM is anxious to avoid being portrayed as Scrooge. He’s fully aware that millions of people are making big sacrifices to defeat this virus and is considering ways to allow them to experience the joy of Christmas for at last part of the holiday season.”
It is not yet clear if ministers will grant a temporary easing of restrictions over Christmas to allow families to be together.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted the lockdown will end on 2 December, as originally planned.
“These measures – the crucial thing to understand is that they expire on 2 December,” he said during a cabinet meeting.
“They come to an end. And we therefore as a Government and indeed as a country have a deadline and a target to develop solutions which previously did not exist.”
This may mean a return to the tier system where, currently, households in tiers 2 and 3 are banned from mixing.
England is in full lockdown from November 5 until at least December 2.
If the R rate is not brought down or Covid is not sufficiently reversed, it could be extended.
And it’s possible ministers simply won’t know if there’s enough progress by December 2, because deaths have a long lag time.
MPs would have to vote on any lockdown extension, but it would likely pass because Labour would probably support it.
The four nations of the UK all have different rules, despite many people having family across borders.
The four administrations are now planning to look at a joint approach to the Christmas period.
They met in a COBRA meeting on Monday morning, in which they “agreed on the importance of coordinating public messaging, in particular on travel both within the UK and abroad.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman added: “Officials from across the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive will work together on a joint approach to the Christmas period.”