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CHIEF Grinch Matt Hancock today appeared to ban hugs at Christmas – but raised hopes families can meet up for festive dinners.
It comes after Dame Cressida Dick said cops have “other things to do” than barge in on lunches to enforce Covid rules throughout the holiday.
The Metropolitan Police chief today said officers won’t be bursting into homes or knocking on doors unless there is evidence of a “huge” party.
Police will instead be taking a ‘softly, softly’ approach to festive family dinners – and could turn a blind eye to “six plus grandma” in one house.
The Government has yet to announce how many people will be allowed under one roof from different households over Christmas.
It is expected there will be a relaxation of the rules, but today it was heavily suggested restrictions on touching would still be in place.
Health Secretary Mr Hancock said although families are likely going to be able to meet for Christmas lunch, social distancing is still expected.
This could dash weary Brits’ hopes of being able to hug family members throughout the more relaxed festive period, after a tough year.
He told BBC Breakfast there is a need to “respect the fact that we mustn’t spread the virus further but also respect the fact that Christmas is a special time where people get together, especially with their families”.
Mr Hancock added: “It’s about getting the balance right and allowing people to have a Christmas that undoubtedly will be different this year but still try to have that cherished Christmas with your family as much as possible.
“I’ve got no doubt that people will continue to respect social distancing throughout, because we know that that is so important for full control of the virus.”
Earlier today Dame Cressida stressed police do not have powers of forcing entry into people’s homes, as the nation is asked to follow the rules at Christmas.
The London police chief told LBC’s Nick Ferrari: “I have no intention anyway of encouraging my people to be barging through people’s doors or knocking on people’s doors.
“Unless you’ve got, as we sometimes do, and then they can’t barge, they may knock, a huge party going on.
“Which is clearly very, very dangerous and causing lots of concern in the neighbours, well then we may be knocking on doors, saying you need to stop this.”
Asked by the presenter whether police would look the other way if there was “six plus grandma” under one roof, Dame Cressida said: “Let’s see what the rules are.”
But she added: “I have no interest in interrupting family Christmas dinners. The police have lots of other things to be doing.”
I’ve got no doubt that people will continue to respect social distancing throughout, because we know that that is so important for full control of the virus.
It comes as we revealed four households could be allowed to meet up at Christmas – but England faces a 25-day January lockdown.
Families could form social “bubbles” with up to four households for five days of “freedom” over the festive period.
The move would allow relatives to spend several days together and wouldn’t have to choose between grandparents.
Mr Hancock today said he would like a unified four-nations approach to the official rules over the Christmas period.
And he dismissed the idea that it should be up to families to decide their own rules for Christmas, adding people could pass the virus on without knowing it.
But he acknowledged: “Christmas is a special time of year and we’ve had such a difficult year in 2020 – it has been such a terrible year and having some hope, some joy at Christmas, I know that would be welcomed by so many people.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while 2020 has been “such a difficult year”, there are signs the current lockdown in England is working.
“There are promising signs that we have seen a flattening of the number of cases since lockdown was brought in and that is good news, though clearly there is further to go,” he said.
Public Health England officials warned every day of easing would demand “five days of tighter restrictions”. This paves the way for 25 days of lockdown in the New Year.
Ministers are due to announce a new system of regional restrictions next week for the period after December 2.
Government scientists are pushing for the three-tier systemto be strengthened in the run-up to Christmas to prevent an upsurge in infections.
But Boris Johnson wants to relax Covid rules over Christmas to allow families to come together “at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year”.
With Christmas Eve falling on a Thursday and a planned Bank Holiday for Monday December 28, ministers are targeting the five-day weekend to ease restrictions.
Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, statistician at the University of Cambridge, told Today he fears mixing at Christmas could lead to “tens of thousands” more Covid cases, requiring an extra clampdown.
“It is quite plausible that a few days of relaxing would lead to tens of thousands of more cases and that means extra deaths and measures needed to bring those under control,” he said.
But one health boss has suggested Brits should swap Christmas dinners indoors for picnics in the park to stop Covid spreading.
Dr Hans Kluge, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Europe chief said this year would be a “different Christmas but that does not mean it cannot be a merry one.”
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News – Chief Grinch Matt Hancock bans hugs at Christmas but hope families can meet up