Sadiq Khan has urged Boris Johnson to rethink the plan for Christmas ‘bubbles’ as he warned families not to hug elderly relatives.
The London mayor said he would “encourage” the government to “look again” at the five-day truce after a spike in cases in the capital.
He told the BBC: “The concern is this – the rules have been relaxed for five days, allowing household mixing for up to three different households and inevitably when people are in their own households, they tend to be less vigilant.
“And my concern is that many people may have the virus and not realise it. They could pass the virus on to older relations.”
It comes after a government minister repeatedly refused to rule out tightening up next week’s Christmas bubble rules.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said “all things are all kept under review” and hardened guidance, saying: “It’s important people do the minimum that is possible.”
Under rules agreed between the four UK governments, people in any tiers can travel and gather anywhere in the UK in a three-household ‘Christmas bubble’ from December 23-27.
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 Khan said the Christmas rules are not “mandatory” – and offered his own advice to families thinking of getting together.
“You don’t have to give your grandmum or grandad a hug and a kiss,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
“Keep your windows open” to ventilate shared spaces, he added.
When out shopping, he urged people to “err on the side of caution and wear a face mask all the time”, even outdoors, like in parts of south east Asia.
The capital’s mayor said any changes to the Christmas rules would need to be agreed UK-wide – but both Wales and Scotland’s leaders have urged caution.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said staying away from loved ones could be “the best Christmas gift” this year and chief medical officer for Wales Dr Frank Atherton issued a stark warning “to save lives now, don’t mix with other people”.
Mr Khan said he was “afraid” Boris Johnson won’t change the rules, to avoid headlines about ‘cancelling Christmas’ – and that was a “mistake”.
He pointed to other annual celebrations such as Eid and Chinese New Year which had been adapted or cancelled due to the pandemic.
“This Christmas will be very, very different. Follow the science,” he said.
“Many of us could have the virus without realising it,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“What would be really heart-breaking is if you inadvertently passed on the virus to an older relation that could well lose their lives.
“How would you feel if you did that?”