What Christmas 2020 will be like as UK faces deadly coronavirus second wave

With many parts of the country facing the very real prospect of fresh local lockdowns, how we will get to spend Christmas has become front and centre of thousands of Brits' minds.

Getting to spend the big day with our loved ones and get into the Christmas spirit is an annual tradition for many of us, but because of the deadly coronavirus pandemic many fear it could be out of reach for 2020.

Social distancing, the rule of six, pub curfews and many other life-impacting measures have become part of the "new normal" but could mean the festive period is very different this year.

On Tuesday, David Jamieson, the West Midlands PCC, even warned families that police could enter homes and break up Christmas dinners if government regulations forbid them from taking place.

Certainly, all the signs point towards a Christmas quite unlike any other, but just what exactly will that mean?

How will you be spending your Christmas day? Let us know in the comments below

For months, the governments in England, Wales and Scotland have pulled apart in their responses to curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke ranks in green lighting an easing of England's draconian lockdown measures in July, which saw pubs and restaurants re-opened.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland First Ministers Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford and Arlene Foster have since opted to forge their own routes out of the unprecedented battle with the virus.

But with just over eight weeks until Christmas Day and the nation in the grips of a brutal second wave, all of the UK is on course for a drastically different festive period.

As Wales was thrust into a circuit breaker lockdown, experts are warning all of England must be placed into Tier 3 – raising further questions about traveling between borders and mixing households.

It all points towards a Christmas of isolation and uncertainty.

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Christmas in Wales

On Wednesday Jeremy Miles, the Welsh Government’s Counsel General and minister for European transition, explained what Christmas might look like.

He responded to questions about whether Wales would be looking to work with counterparts in Westminster for a "four nation approach", saying: "We have always sought wherever possible to work on a four-nations basis throughout this pandemic. That isn't always possible and isn't always appropriate but that is our starting point for discussion

"In terms of what Christmas might look like, the First Minister wants the best available version of Christmas consistent with keeping people safe.

"The measures which will be announced for the period after November 9 will give us a new set of regulations and guidelines to work to.

"But I think whatever scenario we face as we approach Christmas, we all need to look at how we spend our time in the weeks before.

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"We need to see what the landscape looks like in the next few weeks. The first step is to see the new regulations and new guidance which will be in place from November 9."

When the fire-break lockdown in Wales was announced, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the pandemic would not be over in the coming months, but added that there were "things that we can do… to make sure that Christmas of a coronavirus sort can still be celebrated here in Wales".

He added: "How that will mesh in with the difficulties that are being faced elsewhere in the United Kingdom is just impossible to predict."

On the weekend, Wales Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: "We want to be able to get to Christmas with people able to see each other, but we have to look at where we are with the virus, how we're behaving in Wales, whether we're able to effectively suppress it after the fire-break.

"This gives us the best chance of doing that, but if I were to tell you what Christmas looks like today then I'd be making it up, I'd be giving people false hope, and that's absolutely what we should not be doing."

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Christmas in England

Experts said on Wednesday that Christmas might have to be put on ice and a Cabinet minister conceded that it was "too early to say" what restrictions would be in place by December.

Sage, the body of scientists advising the Government, has warned that all of England will need to be under Tier 3 Covid-19 restrictions by mid-December scuppering Boris Johnson's hopes for a normal Christmas.

Downing Street is privately working on the assumption that the second wave of coronavirus will be more deadly than the first, with the death toll remaining high throughout the winter, the Telegraph reports.

Sage member Sir Mark Walport said there was "little to feel reassured about", adding "there are still many people that are vulnerable".

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, the former chief scientific advisor said it's "certainly not unrealistic" to think there could be 25,000 people in hospital with Covid by the end of next month.

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George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said: "We want people to be able to celebrate Christmas as normally as possible.

"But it is too early to say exactly what the situation will be come Christmas, and to say what different parts of the country will or will not be able to do."

He refused to rule out a possible circuit breaker in November – despite the possibility that could mean sacrificing Hindu festival Diwali to save Christmas.

"We can never rule anything out but we think we have got the right approach for now," he said.

The news prompted the Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth to say the Government's failure to use the half-term for a circuit-breaker lockdown meant it now needed to "do something quickly to save Christmas".

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Christmas in Scotland

A Scottish Government spokesperson said that people would "naturally be anxious" about what celebrations were possible this December, and that the rules would be "guided by the latest available scientific and clinical evidence".

A week ago, the First Minister confirmed that the temporary restrictions, which include the closure of central belt pubs, bars and restaurants, had been extended in Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon also revealed that the country would be adopting a five-tier lockdown system from the start of November, with similar alerts to those being introduced in England.

There were a lot of questions about Christmas, and in one exchange the First Minister confirmed that Santa was a "key worker".

She went on to say: "If there are any kids watching… Santa will not be prevented from delivering your presents on Christmas Eve, Santa is a key worker and he's got lots of magic powers that make him safe to do that."

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Christmas in Northern Ireland

The First Minister for Northern Ireland promised festivities "will not be cancelled" in Northern Ireland, adding that she was "very much looking forward" to them.

However, speaking at the start of October, the chief medical officer said Northern Ireland would experience a very different Christmas this year as a consequence of Covid-19 restrictions.

Dr Michael McBride raised the prospect of even tighter measures being in place during the festive period than there were currently.

Dr McBride and chief scientific adviser, Professor Ian Young, predicted that the Executive would factor in the societal benefits of family get-togethers at Christmas when weighing up any future decisions on restrictions that might apply.

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“I think it’s fair to say that Christmas will be very different from previous years, because we will still have many of the restrictions in place that we currently have, if not all, and indeed there may be further restrictions in place at that time,” said Dr McBride.

He added: “The Executive will wish to consider this very, very carefully and be mindful of the societal benefits of us coming together more over the Christmas period, insofar as that can be achieved safely.”

Prof Young said: “I think Christmas is a really good example of a time when the societal benefits of allowing more interaction will be much greater than other times of the year.

“While I think it’s likely that there may still need to be some restrictions in place at Christmas, I’m sure that we would wish to allow as much interaction as is possible safely at Christmas and allow as normal a Christmas that can be achieved in the context of a very serious global epidemic."

A 'four-nations summit'

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader, Jane Dodds, added her signature to a letter calling for a four nations approach to be taken when setting guidance for family gatherings at Christmas.

Other signatories to the letter include the Liberal Democrat leader in England, Sir Ed Davey, his Scottish counterpart Willie Rennie, and Northern Ireland's Alliance Party.

The letter, published on Wednesday, warns political leaders across the UK, including the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, that their governments must "accept the inevitability" that people will travel at Christmas.

Downing Street said the best way to get "back to some sort of normal" was for everyone to follow official guidance.

Responding to the Lib Dems and the Alliance Party, a Downing Street spokesman said: "The PM has been clear of his ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year.

"That's why we have introduced a range of measures in order to control the spread of the virus, reduce the R rate and save lives."

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