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Christmas Doomed As It Is Likely Festivities Will Not Hold Due To New National Lockdown

Cabinet ministers have warned 'all bets are off' on families being able to celebrate Christmas together if Boris Johnson's national lockdown fails to curb coronavirus infection rates. 

The Prime Minister's England-wide shutdown is due to start on Thursday and the Government's aim is to lift the blanket restrictions on December 2. 

However, the Government has failed to guarantee that will be a firm exit date amid fears the shutdown could be extended over the festive period and even into the new year.  

Ministers believe the 'lag' between the point of infection and the point at which people can become seriously ill could mean that the death figures are still surging even by the end of the lockdown. 

That could fuel calls for the draconian measures to be kept in place until the start of 2021 or beyond. 

The PM's lockdown across England will see pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops closed for four weeks but schools, colleges and nurseries will stay open. 

People will also be allowed to exercise and socialise in outdoor public spaces but only with people from their household or one other person. Mixing indoors will be banned.

Michael Gove, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, admitted yesterday that the shutdown could be extended beyond December 2 if infection rates are still high.     

Ministers will only go so far as to say that the Government will 'seek' to end the lockdown on that date but the decision will be based on the latest scientific data at the time. 

One Cabinet minister told The Times: 'There's a lag to these things. The fear will be that in four weeks' time deaths will be higher than they are now, which will give credibility to people who want to keep national measures in place.' 

A second Cabinet minister told the newspaper they believed the lockdown could be extended by at least another month. 

They said: 'I think it'll be after the new year. The rate of transmission is not going to go down enough to justify it. Just look at the graphs. It's going to be a jobs disaster.' 

The Government is planning to replace the national lockdown when it is eventually lifted with its current system of tiered restrictions. 

Number 10 is said to be weighing up plans to relax the rules on household mixing over Christmas because of a belief it is inevitable a large number of people will disregard the restrictions to see their loved ones. 

However, Cabinet ministers believe 'all bets are off' on the rules being loosened if infections are still climbing over the festive period.  

Mr Johnson will this afternoon try to make the case for his lockdown to MPs in the House of Commons ahead of a crunch vote later this week. 

The PM is facing a Tory rebellion over the proposals but Sir Keir Starmer has said Labour will vote with the Government which means the national shutdown is likely to sail through.

However, a growing Tory revolt does represent a major headache for Mr Johnson as relations between Downing Street and some prominent Conservative backbenchers become increasingly strained. 

Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the influential 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, is leading the backlash. 

He told the BBC's Westminster Hour last night: 'I think the aspect of the lockdown restrictions that actually bother me most would be the extent of intrusion in what ordinarily we see as fundamental human rights; the freedom of association, the right to family life, we even now have the Government telling us who we can sleep with or not depending on if they're deemed to be in an established relationship. 

'If these kinds of measures were being taken in any totalitarian country around the world we would be denouncing it as a form of evil. 

'And here the removal of people's fundamental liberties is going almost without comment.' 

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