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UK faces 10 days of lockdown to pay for five days of Christmas, health boss warns

BRITS will face ten days of lockdown to pay for five days of Christmas festivities, health bosses have warned today.

Government experts said Christmas is possible, but said for every day we release measures after December 2, "we will need two days of tighter restrictions".

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Experts warned that Brits could face New Year inside as harsh measures could be introduced to make up for five days of freedom.

Dr Susan Hopkins said: "We are keen to have Christmas as close to normal as possible, but that will require every effort now and in early December to get cases as low as possible to reduce transmission."

The government will next week have to decide how to lift the current national lockdown.

It is thought that tiers will be reintroduced, but it is not yet known which areas will fall into which tiers.

Public Health England boss Dr Hopkins stated that for every one day we are able to celebrate with our families, it could mean two extra days in tougher restrictions.

Dr Hopkins said she was "hopeful" that the government would make a decision that allowed families to mix over the festive period.

She said: "So, coming into Christmas we need to be very careful about the number of contacts that 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.

"Then, I think, once we have got past the Christmas period if there has been a release and some socialisation we will all have to be very responsible and reduce those contacts again."

The press conference today comes as:

  • Christmas could be saved with new rules which would allow households to mix indoors for five days
  • Dr Hilary blasts plans for a 5-day lockdown break over Christmas
  • Top docs plead with Government to ban travel across tiers and enforce 'rule of two' at Christmas
  • We reveal all you need to know about Covid vaccines
  • Local leaders reveal Covid hotspots that face toughest new measures under new tiered system

 

National medical director of the NHS Stephen Powis was also at the conference but had to attend virtually after he said a member of his household had tested positive for the virus.

He said he was self -isolating in accordance with the Test & Trace app.

Deputy chief scientific adviser Dame Angela McLean, who was also at the briefing this morning indicated the Sage advisory panel had been examining potential relaxation of measures over Christmas.

She told a Downing Street briefing: "We did send some advice in over the weekend."But we genuinely don't know what decisions have been made."

Asked whether households mixing could be allowed if there were other trade-offs, Dame Angela said: "What's really important is we go into a festive week when we want to mix with our friends and our family with the number of infections in the community as low as possible."

Presenting data on the R rate, Dame Angela said that while the R rate has fallen, it is not yet below the crucial 1 number.

She said it currently sits between 1 and 1.2 for the UK.

"Graph shows the R number was quite high in late September and earlyOctober and it was between 1.2 -1.5.

"It has been falling but not yet below 1. It's important for progress that it should fall below 1, only then will infections be falling."

While the R rate has fallen, Dr Hopkins said that there has been an increase in excess mortality in recent weeks.

She 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."

Save Christmas

The update today comes as it was revealed that Christmas could be saved as the government is said to be planning a five day break where people will be able to mix indoors.

Health chiefs are looking at the idea in a last-ditch bid to save the Covid-hit festivities.

The aim is to unite the UK under a common rule that enables households to mix indoors for a limited period.

Ministers fear a mutiny of mums if they do not hatch a workable plan and are worried relatives will throw big celebrations regardless.

Health bosses are eyeing a five-day run when households could mix starting on Christmas Eve.

The plan will come as a huge boost to families who feared they might miss out on seeing their loved ones over Christmas.

Tougher tiers

Dr Hopkins this morning said that ministers are working on what the "new tiers" will be after the anticipated easing date for lockdown and on a plan for Christmas.

Asked about how Christmas may look like, she told the Government data briefing: "This is a decision that will be made by Government and I know that they're working hard to develop an outline of what that will look like and what the new tiers will look like post-December 2 and what Christmas will look like."

Earlier this week Dr Hopkins warned a tougher tier system would likely replace national shutdown after December 2.

In a blow for indoor gatherings, she said that Tier 1 wasn't working – so stricter rules would have to be enforced.

It means households across face the prospect of being banned from mixing with others indoors in the weeks to come – which may put Christmas celebrations at risk.

Tier 1 rules – the lowest level of restrictions which are in place across the country – include the 10pm pub curfew and the rule of six.

It was also suggested this may be scrapped or made even tougher if England emerges from the four-week shut down on December 2.

The next stage up is Tier 2, where people are banned from mixing indoors with people from other households.

Dr Hopkins said: "We see very little effect from Tier 1.

"When we look at what the Tiers may be in the future, we will have to think about strengthening them in order to get us through the winter months until the vaccine is available for everyone."

Data revealed at the press conference today did however state that people have been adhering to the new rules after a second lockdown was introduced.

Slides shown by the experts revealed that people had been travelling less and that less people had also been out shopping.

Contact tracing

Tier 2 was only working in some areas – but Tier 3 was driving down cases in the North West, she said.

She suggested that "if the lockdown is working, we will start to see cases decline over the next week".

If it doesn't, then lifting the rules in full would be at risk, she added.

The tiers had been introduced alongside contact tracing measures.

This week is was revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as Test and Trace boss Dido Harding had to self-isolate after being pinged by the app.

Dr Powis also had to attend the briefing virtually today due to contact tracing rules.

Dr Hopkins said that every lower tier local authority will have local contact tracing in place by the end of November.

"NHS Test and Trace has increased its testing capacity, that has been a very important intervention and that has allowed us to try and work on decreasing turnaround times for those people who get tested," she told the Downing Street data briefing on Covid-19.

"We're also working very hard with local authorities to enhance the contact tracing system and by the end of this month, almost every lower tier local authority will have local contact tracing in place so that's really allowed us to step up.

"That's an amazing achievement – in the summer where we were having 1,000 cases a day we were contacting on average 2,000 to 3,000 people per day.

"Right now, with almost 30,000 cases a day across the UK, we are managing to contact over 100,000 people per day."

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