The UK could face a month-long lockdown to ‘pay’ for five days of eased restrictions over Christmas, experts have said.
According to scientists, 25 days of lockdown – which would most likely come in January – would be needed in exchange for a long weekend with friends and family over the festive period.
Initially, Dr Susan Hopkins, the medical director of Test and Trace, explained to a Downing Street briefing that we would need ‘two days of tighter measures’ for every day restrictions were eased.
However, Public Health England (PHE) has now said it would actually need to be five days rather than two, meaning a substantial lockdown would be needed to balance it out.
A spokesman for SAGE, the government’s advisory body, said: “Susan Hopkins referred to ‘Sage advice previously’ as showing that for every one day of ‘release’ two days of tighter restrictions would be needed.
“She misspoke here, the Sage advice actually referred to modelling indicating that for every one day of relaxation five days of tighter restrictions would potentially be needed.”
This follows reports this week that the government is considering relaxing the current lockdown rules, allowing people to meet indoors over Christmas.
Christmas Eve is on a Thursday this year, and Monday December 28th is a Bank Holiday, so the proposals would allow friends and family to meet for five days between these dates.
While it’s unknown how many people would be allowed to meet up over this period, reports suggest there might be a limit of ten.
Dr Hopkins also warned that everyone still need to be ‘very careful’ about the number of people we come into contact with to avoid spreading the virus as much as possible.
She said: “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.
“And then I think once we’ve got past the Christmas period, if there’s been a release and some socialisation, we’ll all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again.”
She added: “We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible.
“That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period and even in early December to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.
“A final decision of course will rest with the government and we look forward to hearing what those plans are.”
Morrisons gives 10% Christmas discount to frontline workers in 16 jobs
As a ‘thank you’ to thousands of frontline workers, Morrisons will be providing a 10% discount to people from now until Christmas.
Those employed in the emergency services, care workers and Armed Forces personnel who hold a Blue Light Card will qualify for the benefit at Morrisons stores.
Cardholders will be able to claim the 10% discount on their groceries by presenting their Blue Light ID Card at tills at any of Morrisons 498 stores.
Morrisons have launched the discount to show appreciation to the key workers who have gone above and beyond their usual roles throughout the pandemic this year.
People in these roles qualify:
- Ambulance Service
- Border Force
- British Army
- Fire Service
- HM Coastguard
- Prison Service
- Red Cross
- Reserve Armed Force
- Royal Air Force
- Royal Marines
- Royal Navy
- Social care workers
- HM Armed Forces Veterans
- Community First Responders
- Second Line Responders
David Potts, Morrisons’ chief executive said: “Our emergency services, social care sector and armed forces have worked tirelessly this year to provide support to the many people who need it across the UK, often in exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Matt Hancock says life could return to normal ‘after Easter’
Speaking on the latest vaccine news, Matt Hancock said things should return to some sense of normality after Easter.
He told BBC Breakfast that the majority of people will be vaccinated in spring, meaning things should return to normal after Easter.
It comes after the Oxford vaccine candidate has been demonstrated to be 90% effective, with health secretary Matt Hancock stressing that the majority of the population would need to be immunised before restrictions can be significantly eased.
The government has pre-ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine which is reportedly cheaper and easier to store than the Pfizer and Moderna alternative.
The Oxford vaccine has proved to be between 70 and 90% effective based on a trial of 20,000 people.
Hancock explained that the ‘bulk’ of the vaccines will be given in the new year with some getting the vaccine before Christmas.
He said: “It is subject to that regulatory approval and I really stress that because the medicines regulator, it’s called the MHRA, is independent, they’re rigorous, they’re one of the best regulators in the world.
“They will be very, very careful to ensure that they look at all the data to make sure that this is safe. Subject to that approval, we hope to be able to start vaccinating next month.
“The bulk of the vaccine rollout programme will be in January, February, March, and we hope that sometime after Easter things will be able to start to get back to normal.”
The news comes following the expected announcement later today with the government’s plans for winter.
It is expected a tiered system, stricter than the previous one will be put in place post-Lockdown 2.0 to allow families to celebrate Christmas.
Mr Hancock said: “The number of cases is now clearly starting to fall across the whole of the UK.
“In England, we come to the end of the lockdown as you know on December 2nd, and so we do think that we can replace the lockdown with a tiered system. But the tiered system, whilst lighter than lockdown, will have to be stronger than the previous tiers that were in place.”
When asked if there will be a fourth tier, Mr Hancock said: “No, three tiers, but the top tier, tier 3, will have to be stronger than the previous tier 3.”
The new local tiered rules are expected to be accompanied by more mass testing programmes similar to that in Liverpool.
Mr Hancock said cases in Liverpool – the worst affected city in the UK – have been brought down ‘really quite remarkably’ following the rollout.
He said: “In Liverpool, cases are down by more than two-thirds in the last few weeks.
“And this is a combination, of course, of those restrictions that have been in place, but also in Liverpool we put in mass testing.
“They’ve tested over 200,000 people of the just over half a million who live in Liverpool. And they’ve found a load more people who were asymptomatic, didn’t know that they had a problem, didn’t know they have the virus.
“And the combination of the mass testing, and the measures in Liverpool, have brought the cases down really quite remarkably, much faster than I would have thought was possible.”
Festive bubbles mean households will be able to meet up at Christmas for five days
It has been reported that households will be allowed to meet in bubble over Christmas for a number of days.
It is understood that ministers from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while not agreed on a final set of regulations, have endorsed a sharing objective of allowed ‘some limited additional household bubbling for a small number of days’ over Christmas.
Families will choose their bubble in advance and then be allowed to spend time indoors with them, including at the pub.
Number 10 is yet to confirm how many days the reprieve will be applied to but reports suggest it could last between December 22nd and 28th.
In a statement published on Sunday, the Cabinet Office and the devolved administrations emphasise that the public will have to remain ‘cautious’ and should avoid travel to minimise social contact wherever possible.
The news comes after the prime minister met with the cabinet virtually on Sunday to sign off a ‘Covid Winter Plan’.
It will reportedly see a return to a tougher version of the regional tiered system when England’s lockdown 2.0 ends on December 2nd.
It is expected more areas will be placed into the higher levels of restrictions, which could mean some regions will face a ban on household mixing until the Christmas period, following criticism from government scientists.
Mr Johnson is set to address parliament today with the proposals.
The Independent reports that Sunak has hinted the government will scrap the 10pm curfew measure on bars and restaurants following the fierce criticism from dozens of Conservative MPs and Sir Keir Starmer. However, the BBC reports the curfew will remain but an additional hour to drink up with be added.
It is expected those hospitality businesses in tier 3 will be able to offer takeaway services and those in tier 2 can serve drinks with substantial meals.
It is also understood that Mr Johnson is set to allow the reopening of non-essential shops in all three tiers in order to boost retail in the festive period.
On the government’s Christmas plans, the Cabinet Office added: “Welcoming the good progress made by all administrations over the past few days to design a single set of arrangements that can apply across the UK, ministers reiterated the importance of allowing families and friends to meet in a careful and limited way, while recognising that this will not be a normal festive period and the risks of transmission remain very real.
“In respect of Northern Ireland, ministers also recognised that people will want to see family and friends across the island of Ireland, and this is the subject of discussions with the Irish government.
“Work is continuing to finalise the arrangements, including relating to travel. The UK government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland executive hope to conclude this work this week, subject to agreement by each administration.”
Last week, Public Health England warned that for every day restrictions are eased, five days of more stringent measures will be required to combat and keep Covid-19 infections under control.
The BBC added that the exception to the new tier rules will be Christmas, something the government deem as a ‘necessity’. Adding it is a recognition of the break the public need from the slog of the pandemic and that significant numbers of people will ignore any attempt to ban gatherings.
On Sunday, the UK reported another 18,662 new coronavirus cases and 398 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. This brought the UK total to 55,024 deaths.