FOUR households could be allowed to meet up at Christmas – but England faces a 25-day January lockdown.
Families could form social “bubbles” with up to four households for five days of “freedom” over the festive period.
The move would allow relatives to spend several days together and wouldn’t have to choose between grandparents.
But Public Health England officials warned every day of easing would demand “five days of tighter restrictions”.
This paves the way for 25 days of lockdown in the New Year.
Ministers are due to announce a new system of regional restrictions next week for the period after December 2.
Government scientists are pushing for the three-tier systemto be strengthened in the run-up to Christmas to prevent an upsurge in infections.
But Boris Johnson wants to relax Covid rules over Christmas to allow families to come together “at the end of what has been an incredibly difficult year”.
Earlier this week, The Sun exclusively revealed that families could be allowed to mix between households for five days.
Despite no final decisions being made, Whitehall sources confirmed the PM was looking at temporarily relaxing the Rule of Six to allow for bigger Christmas gatherings.
Groups of up to three or four households could be allowed to meet up – provided they meet with no one else during the festive period.
But it’s not yet clear whether there would be an upper limit on the number allowed to gather in one place during the festivities.
With Christmas Eve falling on a Thursday and a planned Bank Holiday for Monday December 28, ministers are targeting the five-day weekend to ease restrictions.
Young children could also be exempt from any numerical restrictions during the Christmas period.
Dr Thomas House, a member of a Sage sub-group, said: “We saw how quickly the virus exploded when students returned to university, so want to avoid that.
“But everything has risk, and seeing family over Christmas may be seen as an acceptable risk.”
Dr Susan Hopkins, a director at Public Health England, also said: “We are very keen that we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible.
“That requires all of us to make every effort over this national restriction period and even in early December to get the cases as low as possible and to reduce the risk of transmission within households and between families.
“A final decision will rest with the Government.”
Addressing the Government’s plans for Christmas, Dame Angela McLean said: “We did send some advice in over the weekend.
“But we genuinely don’t know what decisions have been made.”