Coronavirus restrictions could be eased to make 'family Christmas' possible, top government adviser says

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·Freelance news writer, Yahoo UK
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Watch: Science chiefs hope for near-‘normal’ Christmas after lockdown

  • Family Christmas ‘possible’ if people are ‘careful’ over next few weeks, top government COVID adviser says

  • But Dr Susan Hopkins hints restrictions will need to be reimposed afterwards

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A top government coronavirus adviser has said a family Christmas is possible if people are “careful” in the next few weeks.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing on Wednesday, Dr Susan Hopkins, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), was asked if “some sort of Christmas” was possible.

She responded: "I think it is. Some of the Sage advice previously said that for every day we release, we will need five days of tighter restrictions.”

Dr Hopkins initially said two days of tighter restrictions would be needed, but misspoke, prompting Public Health England to issue a correction later on Wednesday that five days would be needed.

It remains unclear, however, whether the extra restrictions would be imposed before or after Christmas.

She went on: “Coming into Christmas, we will need to be careful about the number of contacts we have, and to reduce transmission before Christmas and get cases as low as possible.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 11: Boris Johnson attends a service to commemorate the centenary of the burial of the unknown warrior on Armistice Day at Westminster Abbey on November 11, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by UK Press Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
One of Boris Johnson's top COVID advisers has said a family Christmas is possible if people are careful over the next few weeks. (pool via Getty Images)

“Hopefully the government will make the decision to allow us to have some mixing, but we will wait and see what that is."

Suggesting tight restrictions will need to be reimposed after Christmas, Dr Hopkins said: “Then, I think, once we have got past the Christmas period if there has been a release and some socialisation, we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.”

Dr Susan Hopkins agreed that 'some sort of Christmas is possible' if people are careful in the next few weeks. (BBC)
Dr Susan Hopkins agreed that 'some sort of Christmas is possible' if people are careful in the next few weeks. (BBC)

Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean also indicated Sage had been examining a potential relaxation of measures over Christmas.

She said at the briefing: “We did send some advice in over the weekend. But we genuinely don’t know what decisions have been made.”

Asked whether households mixing could be allowed if there were other trade-offs, Dame Angela said: “What’s really important is we go into a festive week when we want to mix with our friends and our family with the number of infections in the community as low as possible.”

The briefing followed reports that the government is planning to temporarily relax the COVID restrictions.

According to The Times, ministers are mulling over proposals to extend family support bubbles to two or three households for a few days over the festive period.

England’s national lockdown is set to end on 2 December, after which the government is expected to reimpose its tiered system of local restrictions.

Watch: 8 exceptions to England's second national lockdown

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