The Government has been warned ‘not to let everything loose’ after it emerged families could be allowed to meet for up to a week as part of a UK-wide relaxation of coronavirus rules.
Several households could be allowed to join a bubble and to mix between December 22 and 28, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
Downing Street insiders have suggested that discussions on what Christmas will look like are still ongoing, with an announcement expected next week.
But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham – who has frequently clashed with the Government over their handling of the pandemic – said it was not the time to be letting ‘everything loose’.
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He said infection rates were dropping in Greater Manchester and the wider North West area and called for a ‘steady approach’ to prevent another spike that could overhwhelm the NHS.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I would also say to the Government, don’t just go towards Christmas and let everything loose.
‘What you need to do is keep a steady approach that will keep the numbers going in the way they are currently going in the North West and in Greater Manchester, and that will relieve the pressures on the NHS come January.’
Mr Burnham is the latest figure to call for caution as the Government faces increasing pressure to reveal what rules will be in place over Christmas.
Earlier this week, Public Health England warned that for every day rules are relaxed five more under lockdown may be needed. Meanwhile scientists have warned that even five days of allowing households to mix indoors could result in a surge in deaths in January and February.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing on Friday it was still too early to say what contact people will be able to have over the festive period.
However he hinted that some restrictions may be relaxed, saying it would be a ‘boost’ for the UK if a ‘safe, careful and sensible’ set of plans could be agreed between the devolved nations.
The Telegraph reports that the much anticipated ‘winter plan’ could be announced as soon as Monday, when Boris Johnson could also reveal the plan for coming out of lockdown.
It is thought that England will revert to the tiered approach after December 2, but that the rules in each tier will be tightened.
Scientists have called for everywhere to be placed under tier three – the strictest level – at minimum following evidence suggesting this was working.
On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were ‘substantial differences’ in Covid-19 infection rates across England, with rates having continued to increase in London, the east of England and the South East, but decreasing in the North West and the East Midlands.
Towns and cities in the North West were the first to be plunged into tier three lockdown restrictions before the Government changed course and opted for a national lockdown.
Professor Calum Semple, from Liverpool University and a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisroy Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said if he had a crystal ball, he would say the North West was going to have a ‘cracking Christmas’.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘What I have seen in Liverpool is that the Tier 3 system was like taking the power off the supertanker so instead it’s just gliding, but the lockdown is putting the brakes on – that’s the big difference.
‘So that’s why we can be really confident that the North West is coming out of this earlier, and if I had a crystal ball, I think the North West is going to have a cracking Christmas.’
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