The government will set out what coronavirus restrictions might be in place for Christmas over “the next few days”, a cabinet minister has told Sky News.
England’s second national lockdown is due to end on 2 December, with the government having promised another tiered system of rules – depending on local infection rates – to replace it.
The UK government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also in talks over what COVID-19 measures should be in place over Christmas.
Recent reports have suggested there could be a special easing of restrictions over the festive period in order to allow families to get together.
Asked by Sky News’ Kay Burley how many family members would be allowed to gather around a Christmas dinner table, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “I have a family, I would like to know that, and I think that’s why over the next few days the government will set out those details.”
However, the minister also suggested Britons may have to wait until the end of the current lockdown to find out more details about Christmas.
Mr Wallace said that – due to the lag time between lockdown measures being introduced and a slowing of COVID-19 infections – ministers would know more about the impact of England’s new shutdown “as we get closer towards 2 December”.
“As we get towards 2 December, the government will therefore set out all those different issues,” he added.
“We will go into a tiering system.
“I think our aims are all the same, we would like to see our families at Christmas, we would like to mix with each other as much as possible.
“But also we have to remember this an incredibly infectious and nasty disease and there are lots of people, I’m afraid, still dying of COVID.”
Pressed again on what rules on different households mixing might be in place for Christmas, Mr Wallace said: “We will be able to tell you that when we get towards 2 December.
“When we know at that stage how many people in the country are affected, what the space is in our hospitals, how the rollout of vaccines is going to develop.
“We will know that with much more certainty around 2 December than if you ask me today in the middle of November.
“I can’t give you lots of those answers, there’s lots of speculation.”
On Wednesday, scientists suggested that each day’s easing of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas might require five days of tougher measures to make up for it.
And speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley this morning, former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown said: “I found being prime minister, you have to be two steps ahead of events.
“What he’s got to do, Boris Johnson, is say ‘Look, if there’s any doubt about whether we can let people mix at Christmas, we have to act now.
“We have to act with tough measures now. You have to be two steps ahead as PM, you can’t be behind the curve.
“And we tend to do things at the last minute when we should have acted sooner.”
Yesterday, the prime minister’s spokesman said he has a “clear intent to allow families to spend Christmas together” but stressed it will “not be a normal” one.