Lockdown restrictions in the United Kingdom could be eased to allow families to meet during the Christmas period, as numbers of new coronavirus cases are beginning to decline, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday.
Hancock told Sky News that while the encroaching December holidays will not be typical, the current lockdown measure could be released.
“It of course won’t be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place”, Hancock admitted to the outlet.
The Health Secretary said he hoped current regulations could be moderated to “allow for a bit more of that normal Christmas that people really look forward to”.
While England is in a full lockdown, Hancock confirmed that he has been working alongside devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland - which have overseen their own national responses to the pandemic - to introduce a UK-wide approach to coronavirus restrictions once the lockdown ends.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) November 20, 2020
Speaking to BBC TV, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said there would the details would be worked out at a meeting next week. Drakeford said that he anticipated that people in Wales could travel to see relatives and friends in England “in the most simple and straightforward way that we can devise together”.
The head of London’s Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, said that while law enforcement would be cracking down on large gatherings and parties, police time could be better spent than trying to prevent families from convening for holiday celebrations.
“Let’s see what the rules are, but I have no interest in interrupting family Christmas dinners”, she told LBC radio.
According to University of Cambridge statistician David Spigelhalter, rules regarding masks, ventilation, social-distancing, noise, and natural caution among the public, could aid in keeping cases low during the festive period.
“I wonder if they’ll ban singing and maybe they’ll try to make a rule against family rows at Christmas”, he said to BBC radio.
The UK has the worst COVID-19 death toll in Europe and some of the most restrictive measures outside of wartime have been implemented such as the closure of all pubs and hospitality venues as the nation tried to tackle the worsening pandemic.
Due to the restrictions, new cases are now falling after seeing weeks of rapid infections. As the country enters the holiday season, however, there is pressure on the government to ease restrictions in time for the Christmas holidays, which could risk a new spike of cases and deaths.
The UK government had been re-opening the country from the initial lockdown in March. However, due to the resurgent outbreak of coronavirus Prime Minister Boris Johnson reintroduced a 4-week lockdown in order to prevent the health service from being swamped during the winter period.
Scotland is currently in a tiered system where restrictions are introduced depending on regional outbreak severity.
As of Friday,53,775 have died from coronavirus in the UK, while 1,453,256 have tested positive.