Members of the Government’s Scientific Group for Emergencies (Sage) want Britons to scrap plans for family reunions over the festive season, weeks after millions are set to be released from lockdown. The guidance presented to ministers says: “Whenever announcing that a particular form of social interaction needs to be avoided, then actively propose and support less risky forms of mixing.
“These could include carrying out the activity at a later date e.g. planning a summer family get together to replace meeting at Christmas.
“If people find it emotionally or practically impossible to avoid making contact with someone outside their household then they should be encouraged to make meeting that person as safe as possible.
“For example, by self-quarantining before meeting (reducing contact with other people as far as possible for 14 days) and avoiding close and prolonged contact when meeting.”
Boris Johnson has insisted the four-week lockdown, due to expire on December 2, should be enough to get the COVID rate down and protect the NHS.
The Prime Minister said England will return to the three-tier system after the nationwide shutdown comes to an end.
This could mean some communities will be under severe restrictions over the Christmas period, including a ban on the mixing of households.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference on Friday, he recognised many were “anxious, weary and fed up” after a rebellion on the measures from Conservative MPs.
Mr Johnson said he has “every confidence” the measures will work so hospitals will not be overwhelmed and the lockdown can be lifted as scheduled.
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“These are difficult times. While it pains me to have to ask once again for so many to give up so much, I know we can get through this.”
He said “the objective” is to return to regional restrictions next month so “people across this country will be able to have as normal a Christmas as possible”.
Former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith was among the rebels.
Speaking in the Commons last week, he condemned the person who leaked the Government’s lockdown plan to the press.
He told the Commons he would not vote for the Government’s plan.
He said: “I thought the leak is appalling, that … whoever did it should be sacked, strung up to dry, come here to apologise, grovelled out the door on hands and knees and beaten on the way out frankly.
“Because, to be honest with you, this is appalling what they have done.
“It is appalling because what they did was bounce the Government and they bounced the Government because I’d like to think that the Government would have then spent its time investigating the data that was being presented to them that has now subsequently unravelled in the last few days.”
Sir Iain said ministers could have used the three-tier lockdown system effectively to stem the spread of COVID as he argued against the need for nationwide measures.