Families will be able to meet for Christmas but maybe not in gatherings with large numbers of people, a Cabinet minister signalled today.
Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted millions of households across the country would be able to have a “good” Christmas.
But he said the Government was prepared to impose restrictions, if necessary, to limit the size of festive gatherings.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Christmas is an important time for families, we recognise that.
“I’m sure that we will be able to have a good Christmas and that families will be able to meet but they may not be able to get together in the larger groups that they normally would.”
He stressed that the aim was for people to be able to have a Christmas as “close to normal as possible”, with action being taken now to try to limit the spread of the disease.
He later told LBC Radio: “It’s too early to say exactly what restrictions will be in place by Christmas.
“Obviously if we do need to have restrictions in place, and prevent families from coming together in large gatherings, if that is necessary to control the virus, that is what we will have to do.
“But we want to make sure that people can enjoy Christmas and come together as families still.
“But it may not be in quite the sort of large gatherings that some people would normally experience.”
David Jamieson, Police and Crime Commissioner for the Tier 2-hit West Midlands, said officers would have to intervene to break up Christmas gatherings if they are breaching Covid-19 guidance.
“If we think there’s large groups of people gathering where they shouldn’t be, then police will have to intervene,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“It’s not the police’s job to stop people enjoying their Christmas. However, we are there to enforce the rules that the Government makes.
“And remember you’ve got Eid and Diwali as well. There are similar expectations from families to be mingling together closely, just as it is for Christmas.”
People in Tier 2, which includes London, and Tier 3 areas must not meet indoors with anybody outside their household or support bubble Mr Eustice added: “It’s too early for us frankly to say yet exactly what restrictions will be in place by Christmas. It’s still a couple of months away.
“Obviously this is a dynamic situation, moving very quickly where we are having to make judgements quite quickly to an emerging situation.”
He defended the current measures to combat Covid, arguing that they struck the right balance between protecting public health and limiting damage to the economy.
He added that ministers understood the “frustrations” and impact of restrictions including on mental health.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called for four-nation Covid planning for Christmas, warning people face “confusion and complexity” over potential restrictions.
Suggesting a four-nation summit, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Because 2020 has been such a tough year for families across the UK, people losing loved ones, losing their jobs, people had been looking forward to Christmas.
“They’re increasingly worried they won’t be able to be with many of their families and friends at Christmas as normal.
“So we want the governments of the four nations to come together, to look ahead, to get ahead of the game and plan measures so that we can maximise the chances of Christmas being as near normal as possible and it means they’ve got to take steps now together and if they do then maybe Christmas won’t be cancelled.”