THE new Covid lockdown tiers are set to be suspended for up to five days over Christmas so that families can meet indoors during the holidays.
A tougher tier system will come into place after December 2 – but the rules are set to be briefly lifted so that families can enjoy festive get-togethers.
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With Christmas Eve falling on a Thursday and a planned Bank Holiday for Monday December 28, ministers are zeroing in on that five-day weekend for a short lifting of a ban on gathering in homes.
Earlier this week, Public Health England boss Dr Susan Hopkins said Christmas "is possible", she warned it could come at a price.
She said harder measures could be needed before and after Christmas to make up for the five days of festive freedom.
Dr 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."
A senior government source said: "Most people will be in tier 2 or tier 3.
"The tiers get switched off over Christmas and then switched back on again.”
The new Covid tiers will be established as England moves out of the national lockdown in 10 days' time.
England will be told to expect a strengthened set of regional restrictions when the country leaves lockdown on December 2 as No 10 fears the virus “could quickly run out of control again”.
The PM will convene his Cabinet later today before he formally announces his strategy in Parliament tomorrow.
A source said: “The going is going to get tough — get ready for tiers on steroids.”
It could mean some areas facing fresh measures such as extra travel bans and curbs on overnight stays.
However, a five-day lifting of the Covid restrictions over the holidays could mean England will have to be plunged back into a 25-day lockdown in the new year.
Once the Christmas relief is over, families face months without being able to see each other.
Scientists last week warned up to five days of tough lockdown could be needed to compensate for each day with fewer restrictions – meaning there could be up to 25 days of tighter rules.
This is so the UK can return to "normal life" by Easter.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has reiterated that Christmas this year "is not going to be normal" as people continue to speculate about what will happen after the festive period.
He said: "I think it's difficult to be so precise and granular about the impact of any individual measure that we might take.
"That's why I said it's not going to be a normal Christmas this year.
"I think the good news is we're going to be exiting national restrictions, which is something that I think people at the beginning of this were doubtful of.
"The Prime Minister will be setting out more details tomorrow about going back to a more localised approach, seeing what we can do to allow families to see each other at Christmas time.
"But it is not going to be normal."
It is hoped by the new year, vaccines will be available to everyone so the government will be able to get a grip on the virus.
But Boris and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have emphasised the need to return to a "functioning economy".
Brits could also be given special 'freedom passes' to allow them to live a relatively normal life – if they have two negative Covid tests a week.
After tomorrow’s announcement, people face a nervous wait until Thursday when they will be told which areas will be placed into the various tiers.
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