More areas of England could face the toughest Covid restrictions under Tier 4 rules from Boxing Day amid fears over the spread of a new, more infectious strain of Covid-19.
But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has insisted no rule changes will come into force before Christmas Day.
“We are not going to change people’s plans 24, 48 hours ahead of Christmas,” he said.
Ministers will meet on Wednesday to decide whether more parts of the country could be put under Tier 4 measures – equivalent to full lockdown.
London and south-east England were placed into the Tier on Sunday – devastating festive plans for many – with no household mixing allowed unless within support bubbles.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the prime minister to say his party would back any government moves to tighten restrictions if that is what scientists recommended.