Government ‘could STOP large families from meeting at Christmas – and even those fewer than six may be banned from seeing each other if they are in different tiers’, minister reveals – as police chief says officers will ENTER HOMES to break up gatherings
- George Eustice: festive gatherings that adhere to Rule of Six could be banned
- Environment Secretary said it would affect families living across lockdown tiers
- West Midlands police chief says officers will investigate Christmas gatherings
- He said police can only enforce the rules handed down by the Government
- Mr Jamieson also warned riots could be sparked by ‘heavy-handed’ police
- He fears the end of furlough and Christmas restrictions could cause unrest
Ministers are prepared to act to stop illegal large family gatherings this Christmas, a Cabinet minister warned today.
Environment Secretary George Eustice also said that even festive gatherings that adhere to the Rule of Six could be outlawed if they include people living in different lockdown tiers.
His comments came as Boris Johnson was presented with a Christmas nightmare by Sage scientific advisers who warned that the second wave of coronavirus will be even deadlier than the first.
Speaking to LBC this morning Mr Eustice said it is ‘too early to say’ how lockdowns could affect festivities, but added ‘Obviously if we do need to have restrictions in place, and prevent families from coming together in large gatherings, if that’s necessary to control the virus that’s what we’ll have to do.’
Asked on Times Radio if families from different tiers would be able to spend Christmas together, he added this is ‘not provided for currently’.
Mr Eustice was speaking after a police chief warned that Christmas family celebrations could be broken up by police officers entering homes if they flout lockdown rules.
David Jamieson, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said officers will investigate reports of rule-breaking over the festive period.
The West Midlands is currently under Tier 2 restrictions, meaning people cannot mix with any other households or bubbles inside.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said that even festive gatherings that adhere to the Rule of Six could be outlawed if they include people living in different lockdown tiers
David Jamieson, the West Midlands police and crime commissioner, said officers will investigate reports of rule-breaking over the festive period
The West Midlands are currently under Tier 2 restrictions, meaning people cannot mix with any other households or bubbles inside
Mr Jamieson told The Telegraph: ‘If we think there’s large groups of people gathering where they shouldn’t be, then police will have to intervene. If, again, there’s flagrant breaking of the rules, then the police would have to enforce.
‘It’s not the police’s job to stop people enjoying their Christmas. However, we are there to enforce the rules that the Government makes, and if the Government makes those rules then the Government has to explain that to the public.’
The police chief also warned about the upcoming Hanukkah and Diwali celebrations which will also see families eager to gather inside, contrary to the rules in certain areas.
The three-tier system was introduced earlier this month in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus in regional hotspots.
Jane Kennedy, the PCC in Merseyside, which is currently a Tier 3 region, said she would also investigate reports of illegal gatherings over Christmas.
Mr Jamieson said he fears civil unrest could boil over in the West Midlands in the near future, with the end of the furlough scheme ‘very likely’ to push people over the edge.
He said: ‘We’re sitting on a time bomb here. We’re getting very near the stage where you could see a considerable explosion of frustration and energy. Things are very on the edge in a lot of communities and it wouldn’t take very much to spark off unrest, riots, damage.’
The police chief even compared the febrile situation to the 2011 riots sparked by the death of Mark Duggan, which saw violence spread across UK cities.
He fears the trigger this time could be heavy-handed police forces shutting down celebrations and enforcing harsh restrictions.
He said people who have never been involved in crime could suddenly become emboldened to take part in the disobedience.
Forces in Manchester, London and Merseyside are concerned about potential violence, he added.
But Ms Kennedy disagreed, saying she doesn’t believe we are on the brink of serious disorder.
Their comments come after BBC presenter Victoria Derbyshire admitted that if the rule of six were still in place by Christmas, she would ignore it.
Mr Jamieson said he fears civil unrest could boil over in the West Midlands in the near future, with the end of the furlough scheme ‘very likely’ to push people over the edge
She later backtracked from this stance, but her initial statement reflected an increasingly widespread disenchantment with the current rules.
The idea that ‘we can carry on as we are’ and have a normal Christmas ‘is wishful thinking in the extreme’, a Government scientific adviser has said.
Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said ‘radical action’ would be needed to stem the rise in coronavirus cases, particularly in regions with high incidence of the virus.
Prof Edmunds, who told MPs that tens of thousands of deaths could occur during this wave of the pandemic, said further measures are needed to bring cases down.
The idea that ‘we can carry on as we are’ and have a normal Christmas ‘is wishful thinking in the extreme’, a Government scientific adviser has said
He said that a circuit-breaker is needed across the whole country or at least in areas where incidence is high.
‘The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence – at the very least in high incidence areas – and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts,’ he said.
‘The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme.’
A No10 spokesman previously said: ‘The PM has been clear previously that he is hopeful that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas.
The Government has not made any decisions about Christmas yet but many are preparing for restrictions to still be in place
‘As I say, we’ve been clear about the ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year.’
The comments contrasted with the stance taken by Treasury Chief Secretary Steve Barclay in a round of interviews on Friday morning.
He said: ‘I think few people expect it to be exactly as it would normally because we will be living with this virus for some time.
‘And the chief medical officer and the chief scientific adviser have been very clear on that.
‘But, your point really was about the ability of families to spend Christmas together – that is something we all hope to be in a position to do.’
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