Banning Christmas will lead to people breaching coronavirus restrictions, Government scientific adviser warns

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Trying to put a stop to Christmas gatherings would lead to people breaching coronavirus restrictions, a Government scientific adviser has warned.

Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, Calum Semple, who is a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said: “In reality we can’t ban Christmas and to do so would simply lead to breaches, and what are you going to do about that?”

When asked whether every day of relaxation would require five days of tighter restrictions, the professor of child health and outbreak medicine at Liverpool University, said: “Yeah, I think in the round it’s right, but it shouldn’t be seen that it is going to be draconian restrictions, it’s just going to prolong restrictions and higher-level restriction for some areas.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will detail his “winter Covid plan” on Monday, setting out the restrictions to replace the national lockdown on December 2, and how people can spend the festive period, including a strengthened three-tier system.

Prof Semple said that regulations could be relaxed over Christmas if the new tier system proves successful.

He added: “There’s every reason to believe that when lockdown is lifted many areas will be able to go into lower tiers, but some areas will remain in higher tiers.

“Then you have this period in the run-up to Christmas and, hopefully, if the system works, we will be able to relax some regulations for a few days, but there’s always a price for that.”

But he refused to say what measures should form part of the new tier system and said it was a decision for ministers.

It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned that “Christmas is not going to be normal” despite England preparing to move out of lockdown and into a strengthened three-tier system of local coronavirus restrictions next month.

Boris Johnson will detail his “winter Covid plan” for England on Monday, setting out the restrictions to replace the national lockdown on December 2 and how people can spend the festive period.

Downing Street said more areas are expected to enter higher tiers next month and those tiers will be strengthened to safeguard the gains made during the four-week lockdown, but it is understood that the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants will be altered.

Mr Sunak said the localised tiered system is a “far better way” to tackle Covid-19 as he confirmed the Prime Minister’s plans, which were expected to be approved by the Cabinet on Sunday.

“I think, frustrating as it is for all of us, Christmas is not going to be normal this year,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday.

“But that said, the Prime Minister and everyone else, we’re looking at ways to see how families can spend some time with each other over (the) Christmas period.

“Obviously that’s something that we would like to do and it’s been a difficult year for all of us, but as I said it’s not going to be a normal Christmas this year.”

He confirmed to The Andrew Marr Show on the BBC that plans to change the curfew period for pubs and restaurants is “definitely something we’re looking at”.

The Prime Minister is understood to be preparing to unveil a plan so that while last orders must be called at 10pm, people will get an extra hour to finish their food and drinks, with opening hours to be extended until 11pm.



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