After a summer of falling coronavirus cases, low Covid-19 deaths and fewer and fewer people in hospital the virus, infections are on the rise once again.
On Tuesday night, it was revealed that the government would make gatherings of more than six people illegal following almost 9,000 new cases in just three days.
The first question on everyone’s lips – what would this new rule mean for Christmas?
One expert told HuffPost UK: “Christmas will not be the same – of that I am absolutely sure.”
Meanwhile, politics editor Paul Waugh reported that while there will be a review of the new rules in December, the restrictions are likely to last until spring.
Matt Hancock’s merry prediction
But health secretary Matt Hancock seemed pretty optimistic about festive season when chatting about coronavirus rules on Wednesday morning.
Telling BBC Radio 4′s Today programme about the new limit on social gatherings, he said it would be in place “for the foreseeable future”.
“I really hope we can turn this round before Christmas,” he said. “I think that, in a pandemic, Christmas is a long way off.
“Three months is a long time in a pandemic and I very much hope this strong rule, together with the local action we’ve taken in places like Bolton… I very hope much therefore this can work to do that by Christmas.”
Fingers crossed he’s right.
But if he’s not, it wouldn’t be the first time the government has given us false hope about when things might be back to normal…
Boris Johnson’s own Yuletide suggestion
Back in the heady days of July – when pubs were newly opened and coronavirus cases were dropping – Boris Johnson told the UK the government was planning for a “significant return to normality by Christmas”.
“It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November at the earliest – possibly in time for Christmas,” the PM said.
Among the moves back to ‘normality’? Further relaxation of social distancing rules for loved ones.
“Throughout this period, we will look to allow more close contact between friends and family, where we can,” he said.
In Johnson’s defence, he did warn that ministers were “hoping for the best and planning for the worst”.
But with most people staring down the barrel of a very quiet Christmas following the introduction of the newest Covid-19 restrictions, the prime minister might be regretting ever bringing it up.
Grant Shapps also got in on the (panto) act
Hancock and Johnson aren’t the only two Cabinet ministers who have bandied around the idea of a Christmas not ruled by Covid.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps backed up the PM’s announcement, saying a return to normality by Christmas was “possible” – as long as people followed the current restrictions.
Talking about the government’s roadmap for coronavirus, he told BBC Breakfast in July: “We want to give people some sense of direction, because a lot of people are running businesses or rely on the Christmas period and need to know that if everything goes well that this is our intention.
“But you can’t get away from the fact that the virus is still, in many ways, a bit of an unknown, and of course it depends how millions of people respond and how good and alert we are in terms of all the things we know, like washing your hands and, for the time being, keeping that social distance of 1 metre-plus.”