Christmas back on as Sage experts model package of measures to relax lockdown
CHRISTMAS looks set to be back on as Sage experts today confirmed they are modelling a package of measures to save the festive season.
The Sun revealed today that officials are looking at a range of measures in a bid to save the nation's Christmas – including a five day free pass to see friends and family.
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The aim is to unite the UK under a common rule that enables households to mix indoors for a limited period.
Health bosses are eyeing a five-day run when households could mix starting on Christmas Eve.
The Sun revealed that Sage scientists have been modelling the impact of groups bigger than six meeting up.
With Christmas Eve falling on a Thursday and a planned Bank Holiday for Monday December 28, ministers are zeroing in on that five-day weekend for a short lifting of a ban on gathering in homes.
This morning health bosses refused to deny the ideas were in the works to save the nation's festivities.
They confirmed they had been modelling a series of scenarios to try and relax lockdown rules in time for Christmas.
Angela McLean, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence said they have already sent "some advice in over the weekend" for ministers to look at – but no decisions have yet been made.
But while the scientists confirmed a family Christmas "is possible", it may come at a price.
Dr Susan Hopkins of Pubic Health England said "I think it is" possible to celebrate this year.
Ministers are looking to thrash out a “Four Nations” festive plan.
The press conference today comes as:
- The Sun revealed how Christmas could be saved with new rules which would allow households to mix indoors for five days
- The rule of six could be extended to include more people over the Christmas break
- Dr Hilary blasted plans for a 5-day lockdown break over Christmas
- Top docs pleaded with Government to ban travel across tiers and enforce 'rule of two' at Christmas
- Local leaders revealed Covid hotspots that face toughest new measures under new tiered system
- Boris Johnson made history by appearing at PMQS via videolink as he is isolating in No10
PAY FOR CHRISTMAS
But she added that 10 days of lockdown would be needed in order to give five days of looser rules.
It means Brits face New Year inside as harder measures could be introduced to make up for several days of freedom.
She said this morning: "Some of the SAGE advice previously suggested that for every day that we release, we’ll need two days of tighter restrictions.
"So coming into Christmas, we’ll need to be very careful about the number of contacts we have to reduce transmission before Christmas and get our cases as low as possible.
"Hopefully the government will make the decision that will allow us to have some mixing but we will wait and see what that is."
No10 confirmed last night: “We are looking at ways to ensure that people can spend time with close family over Christmas at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year.”
But Business Secretary Alok Sharma has said it is "too early" to know whether social distancing restrictions could be eased around Christmas.
Asked about reports that measures could be relaxed for five days, he told BBC Breakfast: "I want to have my mum and dad around, I want to have members of my family around that Christmas table.
"I just think it's too early to be reaching any conclusions on that. What none of us knows right now is what the infection rate is going to be in different parts of the country."
Her words were also a hint that lockdown rules may need to be made tighter after December 2 – despite the nationwide shutdown in England set to come to an end.
And she warned that after mixing at Christmas "we'll all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again" afterwards too.
Ministers have said they will return to the tiers system – but it's not clear yet whether it will be the same as it was before.
It's likely that Tier 1 will be toughened up with extra measures after Dr Hopkins said earlier this week it wasn't working.
That means people across England face a December with no household mixing at all, which is the next stage up from Tier 1.
Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela said it would not be a problem for easing England's lockdown if the R rate remained above one next week, due to the lag in calculating the value.
She told a Downing Street briefing: "The way we estimate R is very dominated by lagging indicators – people who are in hospital or people who have died.
"People who are going in to hospital now are people who got infected weeks ago."
She said that an increase in people's activity on the day before England's lockdown came into effect was a "worry to us".
The scientists said this morning the R rate has fallen – but it's still not below 1.
She said it currently sits between 1 and 1.2 for the UK.
And there has been an increase in deaths in recent weeks.
Dr Hopkins said told the Government data briefing: "This is clearly concerning and this is clearly one of the reasons why the national restrictions had to come into play."
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