BRITS were last night urged by boffins to cut back on Christmas plans — and celebrate outside if granny is joining.
The crackers advice could see families eating turkey dinners out in the cold of their gardens.
Covid rules will still be lifted for five days so three households can bubble up.
Boris Johnson said he would not be scrapping the rules he announced last month allowing families to meet up.
But he suggested they now keep celebrations small and short.
The PM issued a warning as it emerged a snap of his Jack Russell Dilyn — draped in tinsel outside No10 — features on his Christmas card this year.
He said it is “a time of year that is of immense emotional and spiritual importance, but also a moment for us to exercise extreme caution”.
Mr Johnson insisted it would be “inhumane” to cancel Christmas — but urged people to use “personal responsibility” to protect elderly and vulnerable loved ones.
He added: “A smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
“So, have yourselves a merry little Christmas and I’m afraid this year, I do mean little.”
Mr Johnson later privately told Tory MPs the public should “make their own minds up” about how far to follow the tougher new guidance or original legal rules.
Dr Gavin Morgan, of the Sage advisory group for emergencies, told Times Radio that the Government “has made it harder really, by their confused, muddled messaging”.
He added: “We also know that if messaging is confused and unclear, then it lacks credibility. And people then just don’t obey and just don’t follow and end up doing what they want.”
Under five days of relaxed rules, between December 23 and December 27, people will only be able to meet with a “bubble” inside a private home or in an open public space.
The tier rules will still apply to pubs and restaurants — but even if they are still open in your area you cannot mix with your bubble there.
When the Christmas period is over, all areas will return to whatever tier they were in previously — with 99 per cent of England outlawed from mixing indoors with other households.
The PM issued new guidance amid mounting pressure from the devolved administrations.
‘FOUR NATIONS’ CHAOS
Last month Mr Johnson set out a “four nations” approach to the Christmas rules that meant people could travel across the country and meet up with two other households indoors.
But yesterday, on another extraordinary day of chaos, each of the four nations published different guidance on how people should behave over Christmas.
The Welsh Government performed a baffling U-turn by announcing it was even changing the law to make it illegal for more than two households to meet up over the five-day period. Earlier in the day it had agreed to keep the law the same as the rest of the UK.
First Minister Mark Drakeford also stunned the Welsh by announcing yet another lockdown that will start on December 28 and last at least three weeks.
Different rules apply north of the border, with Scots told they should meet up in their three-household bubble for just one day over the five-day window.
But by law they are allowed to meet up for up to five days as long as the total number of people in the Christmas bubble is no higher than eight.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon added further uncertainty by warning she may change the rules yet again.
People in Northern Ireland are still waiting to hear what guidance they should follow, with medics and political leaders holding further talks today.
Currently, people are allowed an extra day either side of the five-day window if they are travelling to or from the province.
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey told HOAR: “This is a shambles by the Government — the four nations approach has completely broken down making the rules across the UK more complicated.
“Boris Johnson is advising families not to get together at Christmas because it isn’t safe, but refuses to give clear guidelines in England.”
He added: “Within minutes of the Prime Minister reassuring the public that there would be no change in the laws surrounding Christmas gatherings across the UK, the Welsh First Minister confirms the law will now change in Wales.”
The UK, Scottish and Welsh governments issued a joint statement insisting this “cannot be a normal Christmas” due to the coronavirus crisis.
They called on people to think carefully about forming bubbles.
Top medic Professor Chris Whitty earlier begged people not to travel too widely next week — especially from virus hotspots.
‘NOT A NORMAL CHRISTMAS’
The PM told a hastily organised Downing Street press conference: “The overall situation is, alas, worse and more challenging than we’d hoped when we first set the rules.
“So while it would not be right, we think, to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones, we are asking you to think hard, and in detail about the days ahead, and whether you can do more to protect yourself and others while keeping the laws the same.
“When we say three households can meet in five days, I want to stress that these are maximums not targets to aim for.
“If possible don’t travel from a high prevalence to a low prevalence area and avoid staying away from home overnight.
“And if you have an elderly relative, you might want to delay seeing them until they’ve been vaccinated.
“And whatever your plans for Christmas, please think carefully about avoiding crowds in the Boxing Day sales, and no one should be gathering in large groups to see in the New Year.”
Ministers had earlier suggested people should view Easter as Christmas this time around — with weeks or months more of restrictions likely.
More than 65,000 people have now died with Covid in the UK.
Latest figures show that nearly two million have suffered with the virus. A further 612 deaths were recorded yesterday.
Another 25,161 were diagnosed with the virus — compared to 18,450 the previous day.
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