A top Tory today urged Brits to make “Easter the new Christmas” after it emerged Boris Johnson is refusing to tighten the law.
Robert Jenrick said people should “come to their own judgements” about whether to meet family next week – despite scientists begging the government to cancel a bubble plan.
The Communities Secretary said his own wider family have changed their plans and will now meet on video calls instead of in person.
And he said others may “think on this occasion let’s just keep it small and we can meet up in the Spring – Easter can be the new Christmas for some people.”
It comes as the four nations of the UK hold fresh talks today about the way forward after medical journals warned the five-day relaxation is a “blunder” that will cost “many lives”.
But Mr Jenrick confirmed Boris Johnson is minded not to change laws agreed last month, in which people in any tiers can travel and gather in a one-off, three-household ‘Christmas bubble’ from December 23-27.
Instead it’s thought families will be asked to reconsider seeing elderly relatives. People may also be urged to “stay local” rather than travel across the country.
The decision raises the risk of Scotland breaking from the four-nation approach and imposing stricter rules north of the border.
Asked to confirm if the Prime Minister was minded to change the law, Mr Jenrick told Sky News: “No.”
He added: “Our position is that the legal framework will continue.
“But because the rate of infection is rising in many parts of the country, because we can see the international examples like Thanksgiving, it is incumbent on each and every family across the country this morning and in the days ahead to have that conversation around the breakfast table – is that right for our family.”
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Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham admitted it is “difficult” now to change Christmas laws.
But he said having three households for five days was “too much” and “people should now be thinking a out changing their plans.”
Under the Christmas bubble system, people in the same bubble can stay in the same house and share meals and go to places of worship together.
Christmas bubbles must be one-off and exclusive. Other tier rules such as pub and restaurant closures will remain in place.
But since they were agreed, cases have risen exponentially in London and parts of the south east – forcing a total of 34.2million people into Tier 3 in England.
And a new strain of the virus has been discovered which ministers believe spreads more quickly, although it is not currently thought to be more dangerous or vaccine-resistant.
Mr Jenrick said with progress on a vaccine, many people will now be thinking “why not wait and get the family back together later in 2021.”
But after the government imposed the toughest peacetime restrictions on its own citizens in living memory, he added: “We’re not telling people how to come to this decision.. You can’t legislate for every eventuality.”
He added to Sky: “You want the government to tell everybody what they should be doing at Christmas. My view is the government can set a legal framework, then it’s for people to use their good judgment.”
He said some vulnerable people “might choose” to come together with family if they “don’t know how many more Christmases they’ve got ahead of them”.
But equally people may choose a “smaller group, just your own household, maybe your own household plus one other person who’s part of your bubble.”
And relaxing the rules “will have consequences” in terms of infections and deaths, Mr Jenrick admitted.