Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has urged the government not to “let everything loose” after it emerged that families could be allowed to meet for up to a week as part of a UK-wide relaxation of coronavirus rules.
Several families could be allowed to join a bubble and to mix between December 22 and 28, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Downing Street insiders have suggested that discussions on what Christmas will look like are still ongoing.
But Burnham said that while infection rates were dropping in all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester and other parts of the North West, the government should not “let everything loose”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “I would also say to the government, don’t just go towards Christmas and let everything loose.
“What you need to do is keep a steady approach that will keep the numbers going in the way they are currently going in the North West and in Greater Manchester, and that will relieve the pressures on the NHS come January.”
On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there were “substantial differences” in Covid-19 infection rates across England, with rates having continued to increase in London, the east of England and the South East, but decreasing in the North West and the East Midlands.
Former chief government scientific adviser Sir Mark Walport told Times Radio there was “something iconic in people’s minds” about Christmas but that it “doesn’t make sense to have big parties” this year.
He added that UK lockdown measures appeared to be working but that people should continue to follow the rules.
“It’s absolutely clear that if you were to stop everything and take the brakes off completely, then infection would start growing again and so the question is what measures will come in after December 2?” he said.
“I’m sure there will need to be continuing measures of some sort.
“Surely now, when there is the prospect of a vaccine, is not the time to give up.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street briefing on Friday it was still too early to say what contact people will be able to have over the festive period.
Hancock said it would be a “boost” for the UK if a “safe, careful and sensible” set of plans could be agreed between the devolved nations.
He said: “Over Christmas I know how important it is that we have a system in place, a set of rules that both keeps people safe but also allows people to see their loved ones.”
Earlier this week, Public Health England said Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) guidance had suggested each day of greater freedom could require five days of tighter measures.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson acknowledged the frustration of people self-isolating due to coronavirus and thanked them for their “incredibly important” actions.
The PM posted a video update online from Downing Street on Saturday morning, where he himself continues to isolate, and joked that he had finally been “put under house arrest”.
“Bear in mind what you are doing is incredibly important because that is how we are going to break the chain of transmission, stop the disease, get the R down as I believe we are doing at the moment and get it under control,” he said.