There will be a temporary easing of coronavirus rules over Christmas, allowing three households to mix in a bubble for five days.
Given that a highly infectious and often fatal disease continues to circulate within the population, at a time when the NHS is historically stretched to breaking point anyway, many have been left questioning the wisdom of this decision.
The prospect of potentially infecting vulnerable relatives has seen some people opt not to reunite with family at all, preferring to stay as safe as possible until the coronavirus vaccine rollout begins.
With the controversy around relaxing lockdown at such a key time, the prime minister himself has been surprisingly reluctant to lead by example – staying tight-lipped about whether he will form a Christmas bubble with his own family.
The same question was put to his cabinet, and the responses were not exactly a ringing endorsement.
Johnson has told families they must make a “personal judgement” about the risks of coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones when forming a Christmas bubble.
The prime minister urged the public to “think carefully” over the festive period. So what will he be doing?
Asked whether Johnson planned to see any elderly relatives over the festive period, and whether he agreed with Whitty’s assessment that people should not hug or kiss their relatives, his official spokesperson claimed: “I’m not aware of the PM’s plans for Christmas but you’ve seen what the prime minister said on this earlier this week.
“We’ve always said that we wanted to allow families to meet up over Christmas but it remains important for people to be careful.”
The spokesperson added: “The PM has said on multiple occasions that Christmas is going to be different this year and we all have to be careful, particularly around elderly relatives.”
As pressure mounted on the government to scrap the Christmas rules, chief secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay tried to find a compromise.
Acknowledging that it had been a “very difficult” year for families, he told BBC Radio 4′s Today Programme on December 15: “I won’t see my parents over Christmas, but I will see my parents-in-law, and those are the decisions many families will take.”
He didn’t elaborate on why he had chosen not to see his parents.
“We’ve got to trust the British people to act responsibly and do the minimum that is possible for them in their family situation,” he added.
No comment. Health secretary Matt Hancock wouldn’t tell us whether he will take advantage of the “Christmas bubble” rule to see his family, though he has agreed to join Piers Morgan in being vaccinated against Covid-19 live on Good Morning Britain.
Alok Sharma was left somewhat red-faced after boasting that the UK had “led humanity’s charge against this disease” on the day it was announced that the vaccine had been approved by the MHRA.
Yes, that’s the vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, working with German biotech company BioNTech.
Sharma did not respond to queries about how he intended to spend Christmas.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak remained tight-lipped over his Christmas plans, though he was photographed on the day the national lockdown was lifted in London toy store Hamleys propping up the economy buying presents for his children so it’s fair to say he’ll at least be seeing them.
Asked by Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday how he would be spending Christmas, foreign secretary Dominic Raab replied: “With my folks and I hope my sister. We are going to follow the rules and quite rightly so.”
Over on Times Radio, presenter Tom Newton Dunn asked: “Does following the rules means you’re advising your boys not to hug their grandparents?”
Raab said: “Yeah, I’m gonna say to them not to do it because we don’t want to spread the virus and they they’ve been pretty good about it. I mean, they say that – they’re six and eight. I wouldn’t say we have total control of them in the house, but, but they do understand them.
“And we’re certainly going to be saying that to them. We want them to respect the rules. And of course, I don’t want to put my mother or my stepfather at any risk.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is setting out a plan to ensure sports fans travel safely to reopened stadiums.
Up to 2,000 fans are permitted to attend fixtures in tier 2 in England following the end of the national lockdown on Wednesday.
But he did not respond to queries about how many people he would permit to attend his Christmas festivities.
A spokesperson for Scottish secretary Alister Jack did not comment directly on his specific Christmas “bubble” plans, but said: “Mr Jack will be spending Christmas at home in Scotland with his wife and a small number of family members, in line with Scottish government rules.
“This will include their granddaughter, Tiggy, who will be celebrating her first Christmas.”
Unless Jack lives with his “small number of family members”, including his young granddaughter, this seems like a rare vote for the bubble.
A spokesperson for the work and pensions secretary said Thérèse Coffey would be spending time with her “immediate family”.
As well as working, she is planning on enjoying some country and coastal walks, he added.
Asked whether Coffey’s “immediate family” would include members of other households, her office did not reply. We’re putting her down as a “maybe”.
The following ministers did not reply when we asked about their plans:
Home secretary Priti Patel
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove
Justice secretary Robert Buckland
Defence secretary Ben Wallace
International trade secretary Liz Truss
Education secretary Gavin Williamson
Environment, food and rural affairs secretary George Eustice
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick
Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis
Welsh secretary Simon Hart
House of Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden
Tory party co-chair Amanda Milling
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has point blank stated that she will not have an “indoor Christmas dinner” with her parents this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The stoic Scot told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Normally, Christmas, my husband and I would have both our families here in our own home. We will not be doing that this year.
“I’ve not seen my parents since July and I would dearly love to see them today and at Christmas, but I don’t want to put them at risk when a vaccine is so close.
“We might go and have a family walk somewhere, but the idea [...] of an indoors Christmas dinner is something we will not do this year.”
Wales first minister Mark Drakeford did not share his Christmas plans with HuffPost UK.
But on Friday he announced that Wales would loosen the plans even further, allowing a single person, single parent or someone with caring responsibilities to tack onto the existing three-household limit.
Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster has described the news of the incoming coronavirus vaccine as an “early Christmas present”, but did not share her bubbling plans with HuffPost UK.
So there you have it. One definite yes, two maybes, and a whole bunch of people evading the question.