UK-wide ‘easing of Covid rules for a week at Christmas’

Families could get together for up to a week over the Christmas season as part of a UK relaxation of coronavirus rules, reports said.

Several families could join a bubble and mingle between December 22 and 28, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Health Minister Matt Hancock said it is too early to say what contact people will be able to have during Christmas, or what restrictions will apply.

But it has been reported that Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a plan to relax the rules next week.

The paper said Mr Johnson will also warn that the level of restrictions for the remainder of next month will depend on how well the public is obeying the current lockdown in England, which will end on December 2.

Downing Street declined to comment, but did not deny the report.

During the coronavirus briefing on Friday, Mr Hancock said it would be a “boost” for the UK if a “safe, careful and sensible” set of plans could be agreed between the delegated countries.

He said, “At Christmas, I know how important it is for us to have a system, a set of rules that both keep people safe and allow people to see their loved ones.”

Earlier this week, Public Health England said guidance from the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) had suggested that each day of greater freedom would require five days of more stringent action.

But England’s deputy chief of medical services, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, who also appeared at the briefing, said there is “no magic number” as to how many days a relaxation of the rules could take.

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock said he has growing hopes for some sort of normalcy in the spring as he confirmed that the UK health regulator is reviewing a coronavirus vaccine that could potentially be rolled out next month.

He described the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) consideration of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine as “another important step forward in tackling this pandemic.”

Referring to the “beam of light” a vaccine can deliver, he confirmed that he had formally asked the regulator to review the vaccine and that, if approved, a shot could be rolled out from December.

He said: “If the regulator approves a vaccine, we will be ready to start vaccination next month and most of the rollout in the new year.

“We are going in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.”

In an optimistic tone, Mr Hancock said that with the news of vaccine breakthroughs in recent weeks, coupled with an expansion in mass testing, he is “increasingly confident” that life will be closer to normal in the spring.

It’s because NHS documents seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) suggest that all adults in England – of any age – can be vaccinated against Covid-19 before the end of January if supplies allow.

According to the plan, any adult who wants a shot could be vaccinated in early April.

Prof Van-Tam, who appeared remotely for isolating himself due to a ‘household contact’, said people should ‘not worry too much’ about where they are on the priority list because the difference between the levels is an issue. can be from one to three weeks.

Mr. Hancock told the briefing that he did not want to ‘prejudice’ or ‘compromise’ the independence of the MHRA on how long the process could take and that the speed of a vaccine introduction depends on the speed of production.

Mr. Hancock said the second peak of the virus is ‘flattening out’, but he urged the public to ‘hold on’ for the rest of the blockage to contain cases.

Prof Van-Tam also urged caution, suggesting that any benefits from the second national lockdown would soon be lost, as it takes “only seconds” for the virus to spread.

He called on people to “keep the pressure on this virus up and push it down as much as possible until the end of the period (of lockdown)”.

He warned that infection rates will rise again if the public ignores guidelines set around Christmas. He said there is a “dual responsibility” for people to follow the rules of the government.

Welsh Prime Minister Mark Drakeford said earlier that he is “generally hopeful” that an agreement can be reached between the four UK countries on Christmas plans.

He said talks include inter-nation travel, how long a relaxation of restrictions can take and how far households are allowed to mix, and that further talks will take place next week.

Northern Ireland is set to go into a two-week circuit breaker this Friday, and Scotland has put two million people in the strictest restrictions in three weeks.

The government said an additional 511 people had died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19 as of Friday, bringing the UK total to 54,286, while a further 20,252 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases were reported.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were “substantial differences” in Covid-19 contamination rates across England, with rates continuing to rise in London, the East of England and the Southeast but declining in the North. West and the East Midlands.

Sage said the reproduction number – or R-value – had dropped to between 1 and 1.1 for the entire UK.