Up to three households will be able to mix for five days over the Christmas period, under a relaxation of COVID-19 social distancing rules across the UK.
But a new, tougher version of the three-tier local restrictions system is now in place in England, after its month-long lockdown ended on 2 December.
And in Wales, as first was going to press, ministers were finalising new restrictions on hospitality and indoor entertainment venues expected to come into force in early December.
The UK Government’s recently published COVID-19 Winter Plan says a ‘tougher’ regional tiered approach is needed now and into 2021 in England to help prevent further waves of COVID-19 cases. Almost all of the country is now in tier 2, with more areas in tier 3. In tier 2, alcohol may only be served in hospitality settings as part of a substantial meal. In tier 3, indoor entertainment and all forms of hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaways.
Testing is also being expanded, to allow care home residents to have two visitors a week by the end of the year and to ensure home care workers are tested twice weekly.
Meanwhile, more than half a million rapid-turnaround tests are being sent to local directors of public health, as part of a plan to expand asymptomatic testing for COVID-19.
All upper-tier local authorities will be offered weekly allocations of these tests, equivalent to 10 per cent of their population.
Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “The social and economic costs of restrictions have been significant and it is good that these restrictions will be regularly reviewed.
“Councils need clarity on how they can move between tier alert levels and reassurance that successful work to tackle infection rates will result in an easing of restrictions as quickly as possible.
“Proper plans are also needed for how government will work with local areas to help scale up successful local contact tracing efforts with better data sharing to allow positive tests to be followed up, facilitate targeted testing and coordinate vaccine roll-out.”