The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has seemed to rule out the possibility of a ‘normal Christmas’ with individuals embracing family members and companions.
Although there was a glimmer of hope as he showed there were; “promising signs” the current lockdown in England is working.
He said rules would still need to be in place over the merry period to restrict the spread of coronavirus; with people observing social distancing as families meet up.
In any case, it was the government’s plan to allow people to get together; after what had been a “horrendous year”.
Speaking on Times Radio, Mr Matt Hancock said talks with the devolved nations are ongoing with the aim of reaching agreement on how people can celebrate the festive period.
He said there was a need to “respect the fact that we mustn’t spread the virus further but also respect the fact that; Christmas is a special time where people get together, especially with their families”.
Mr Hancock added: “It’s about getting the balance right and allowing people to have a Christmas that undoubtedly will be different this year; but still try to have that cherished Christmas with your family as much as possible.
“What we want to have is a set of rules that is, if at all possible, consistent across the four nations of the UK; not least because so many people travel to see their family at Christmas time, but also respects the fact that we must follow social distancing to keep the virus under control.”
He said he had “no doubt” that people would continue to follow the rules in order
to keep coronavirus case numbers down.
“I’ve got no doubt that people will continue to respect social distancing throughout; because we know that that is so important for full control of the virus,” he said.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Matt Hancock said this Christmas “won’t be fully normal”, adding “there will have to be rules; unfortunately, to keep the virus under control”.
But he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while 2020 had been “such a difficult year”; there were signs the current lockdown in England is working.
“There are promising signs that we have seen a flattening of the number of cases since lockdown was brought in and that is good news; though clearly there is further to go,” he said.
“I’m calling it a flattening rather than a fall because one swallow doesn’t make a summer; but there are promising signs that lockdown is working to get the number of cases under control.”
Dismissing the idea that it should be up to families to decide their own rules for Christmas; Mr Hancock said people could pass the virus on without knowing it.
But he added: “Christmas is a special time of year and we’ve had such a difficult year in 2020 – it has been such a terrible year and having some hope, some joy at Christmas; I know that would be welcomed by so many people.”
Earlier, Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had held discussions with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove; and other first ministers of the devolved administrations on Wednesday about a UK-wide approach to Christmas restrictions; with another meeting planned for next week.
“We agreed some broad parameters on Wednesday and remitted officials of all four administrations to work now on the detail; so I remain hopeful that it will be possible to reach a four-nation approach to Christmas;” he told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.
Mr Drakeford said an agreement on permitting travel across the UK during the Christmas season was “top of the list of things to agree”; even if a wider agreement was not possible.
It comes as Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers; said it was “still too early to tell” if the current lockdown will have the “consistent effect” that is needed.
In a blog post calling for the NHS to be protected, he added: “There is a real risk that in our desire to celebrate Christmas; we swap a few days of celebration for the misery of a full third wave a few weeks later.”
Meanwhile, Professor Calum Semple, a professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University; and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said there was reason for optimism that; the national lockdown in England will have pushed Covid case numbers to a low level before Christmas.
He told the BBC there was “encouraging evidence coming from the North West of England” with “a plateauing of cases in the community; and a slight downturn in cases coming into hospital”.
“Furthermore, this gives us incredible confidence that, with lockdown on top, we will be seeing generally speaking numbers in the nation driven down; so there is a ton to be hopeful about, alongside the happening to an antibody,” he said.
Notwithstanding, he focused on that “a few pieces of the nation truly are in a
troublesome circumstance right now and their cases are as yet rising”.
Teacher Sir David Spiegelhalter, analyst at the University of Cambridge, disclosed to Today that he figured blending at Christmas could prompt “many thousands” more Covid cases, requiring an additional clampdown.
“It is very conceivable that a couple of long stretches of unwinding would prompt huge number of more cases; and that implies additional passings; and measures expected to manage those,” he said.
Somewhere else, Professor Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, cautioned that social limitations may need to stay in enormous pieces of England after December 2; to stop contamination levels bouncing back right away.
The disease transmission specialist, whose displaying prompted the first lockdown in March; revealed to The Guardian contamination rates have all the earmarks of being “leveling”; and might be beginning to go down gradually.
He added: “A splitting of contamination pervasiveness over the a month would be
a positive outcome.“