The government will confirm its lockdown plans for Christmas in the next two weeks, a Tory Cabinet minister has said.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said any special rules will be set out “when we get towards December 2” to coincide with the end of England’s lockdown.
It comes after scientific experts sent advice to the government on how three-tier lockdown rules might be eased briefly around December 25.
And all four nations of the UK have been holding talks to ensure any approach is consistent across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Reports suggest people from multiple households, perhaps three, will be able to gather for three to five days under one roof.
But that could mean a month of stricter lockdown in return – as SAGE believes every day of looser rules could require five days of tighter ones.
Speculation has brimmed over after plans were leaked to the media.
Asked when people would know what they could do for Christmas, Mr Wallace said: “People will be able to know that about December 2. I can’t tell you now.”
He said there is a “time lag” between lockdown and cases falling, so it would be “highly likely we’d get it wrong” if the government announced Christmas plans now.
“Over the next few days the government will set out those details,” Mr Wallace told Sky News.
“As we get closer towards December 2 we’ll know more about the impact of this lockdown.
“Our aims are all the same. We’d like to see our families at Christmas, we’d like to mix with each other as much as possible, but also we have to remember this is incredibly infectious and nasty disease. There are lots of people, I’m afraid, still dying of Covid.”
Asked again how many friends or relatives people would be able to have round the Christmas table, Mr Wallace said: “We will be able to tell you that when we get towards December 2.
“When we know at that stage how many people in the country are affected, what the space is in our hospitals, how the rollout of vaccines is going to develop.
“We will know that with much more certainty around December 2 than if you ask me today.”
England’s national lockdown is currently due to end on December 2 and be replaced with a ‘tier’ system of local lockdowns.
The tiers themselves are likely to be tougher than those which applied in October after medics warned Tiers 1 and 2 did not always work.
Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick has also suggested Tier 3 could have more “baseline” rules that apply to every area that goes into it.
Previously rules like a 9pm cut-off for alcohol sales and a closure of nail bars were optional, only applying to some areas in Tier 3.