Lockdown rules could be relaxed for a week over Christmas but Brits would face continued restrictions until late December, according to reports.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will next week announce a nationwide relaxation of Covid rules from 22 to 28 December, allowing several families to join in one “bubble”, the Telegraph reported.
But the festive freedom will come at a price, with the possibility of continued lockdown measures throughout most of next month.
The prime minister will reportedly say that the severity of restrictions will depend on how well the population complies with the current lockdown, which is due to end on 2 December.
Ministers are expected to reinstate the regional three-tier system in the run-up to Christmas.
But each tier could be bolstered with tighter restrictions on different activities, such as household mixing, in an effort to keep the virus under control.
The plans would mean families will be able to celebrate Christmas together — a highly contentious point in the government’s lockdown plans.
But health officials have already warned that it is too early to lift restrictions completely.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, this morning told the BBC that lockdown restrictions were expected to be in place until the New Year to get the country through the “hump” of winter.
Public Health England has also warned that every day of relaxed restrictions would need to be offset by five days of tighter rules, meaning the country could be plunged back into lockdown for the whole of January.
But there was some optimism last night as ministers last night outlined plans to start vaccinating Brits next month.
Under draft NHS plans, the bulk of England’s adult population could be vaccinated in the New Year, with the entire country reached by early April.
However, this is dependent on a vaccine being approved and deployed in time.
Pfizer this week announced that its experimental coronavirus vaccine proved 95 per cent in its final clinical trials, boosting hopes for a clear path out of the pandemic.
The drugs firm has filed for emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin vaccine rollout in America from mid-December.