COUPLES who live apart will be allowed to hook up during lockdown restrictions under government plans to redefine social bubbles, HOAR has learnt.
Downing Street is expected to announce the changes to coincide with London moving into the highest Tier 3 level of restrictions, which is expected within a fortnight.
Separately, there was a major boost for families hoping to celebrate Christmas together as it emerged Boris Johnson is plotting a “common approach to Christmas” across the UK.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed the PM had sent him a letter earlier this week inviting him to discuss a united UK approach to ensure everyone in the country is under the same rules for the festive period.
It comes after days of bickering over warnings from police chiefs that they would break up Christmas dinners if they breached Covid laws.
Currently couples who don’t live together in large parts of the country can only visit each other’s homes if one of them is a single household under the strict definition of a social bubble.
But Downing Street has ordered officials to work on a new policy to widen the scope of who can form social bubbles, according to sources.
This will allow couples to continue seeing each other under the Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions, which are expected to cover all of England within weeks.
Couples who live apart and are not in a formal social bubble aren’t even allowed to kiss each other in the park under the strict social distancing rules in place for Tier 2 and Tier 3, which now covers around 60 per cent of the country.
The changes, plotted by No10 aides, would allow people in those areas to choose a person in another household to form a ‘social bubble’ with – allowing them to bonk through the winter.
But the updated rules are expected to restrict people to one sexual partner during the winter – placing a major obstacle for single people hoping to date over the coming months.
And last night critics questioned why the Government was only now bringing in changes to the rules governing non-cohabiting couples – and blamed it on a London-centric mindset among aides and officials.
One Westminster source blasted: “They’re only now looking at this after London ended up in lockdown”.
London is “likely to be in Tier 3 in two or three weeks,” a City Hall source told HOAR last night.
That would ban households from mixing in pub gardens as well as indoors – and could be the final death knell for many of the capital’s hospitality businesses.
The gloomy warning comes after a study earlier this week found the reproduction ‘R’ rate of the virus – the average number of people each infectious person passes it on to – has reached almost 3 in London.
That is the highest in the country, almost double the England-wide rate of around 1.6 and significantly this is higher than the North West, where the highest Tier 3 restrictions are already in place.
Yesterday Dominic Raab warned that a second national lockdown may be needed if the current regional tiered approach to tackling outbreaks fails to stop cases spiralling.
In a clear warning to those not following current restrictions, he pointed out that France had been forced to impose a month-long lockdown after its own regional approach failed to stem the second wave.
He told the BBC: “France of course tried a localised approach and then fell back on a national approach.
“What I think that shows, Germany is the same, how important it is that we all rally together at local level through to national level… Communities, local leaders, national leaders, and really lean in to the localised focus approach.
“[It’s] the most effective way to tackle the virus and avoid the blanket approach, which I don’t think would be in the best interest of this country, and which we are striving to avoid.”
His firm caution came after dozens of students in Nottingham – the latest city to be hit with Tier 3 restrictions – broke Covid rules by partying in Halloween fancy dress.
The Foreign Secretary also confirmed Sun revelations that a higher ‘Tier 4’ level of restrictions could be introduced in which only schools and essential shops remain open and travel is limited to getting to work and classes.
He said: “We’re always ready for further measures that we can take.”
Labour MP Andrew Gwynne MP told HOAR: “Ministers’ rush to change lockdown rules now they affect Londoners will be one in the eye for people in the north who have faced tough restrictions for months on end.”
No10 refused to comment on the plans to change the rules on social bubbles.
Instead a spokesman said: “We’ve put measures in place to control the spread of the virus between households and everyone should follow social distancing and the hands, faces, space guidance.”