New Covid rules mean families can meet for Christmas — but pubs must serve meals with booze to stay open

FAMILIES will be told they can meet up in “festive bubbles” for five days over Christmas in an early prezzie from the PM.

Shoppers should also be able to buy gifts and goodies in the high street next month.

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But in a blow to the hospitality sector, punters will only be served drinks at pubs if they eat big meals and must stay in household groups.

Boris Johnson summoned his Cabinet for a rare Sunday meeting last night to sign off new, toughened measures for England.

They will start after the national lockdown ends on December 2 and the country returns to regional coronavirus control tiers.

Ministers yesterday confirmed a major breakthrough with administrations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreeing to a a joint approach to Christmas.

It is understood a limited number of households will be able to come together for a turkey dinner indoors.

There are also hopes that these “festive bubbles” will be able to go out for Christmas meals together — as long as they do not mingle with other households.

As The Sun revealed last week, strict lockdown rules will be paused for five days.

The ban on household mixing in Tiers 2 and 3 will likely be lifted for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day through to the delayed Boxing Day Bank Holiday on December 28.

And in Tier 1, the “Rule of Six” is set to be suspended to allow bigger groups to celebrate.

In a huge boost for retailers, all shops will be allowed to open in the crucial run-up to Christmas — regardless of their local lockdown measures.

The Sun has learnt that gyms will also be able to open across the country.

The tiers each area will be placed in will be announced on Thursday.

Plans for a new stricter 4th tier have been abandoned.

Most of the country is expected to return to the most stringent Tier 3 or high risk Tier 2.

Tier 2 will be “beefed up” and it is understood that pubs will only be allowed to serve booze alongside a “substantial meal” and punters will only be able to dine indoors with people they live with.

Pubs in Tier 3 will only be allowed to operate on a click and collect basis with no seating inside.

In a glimmer of good news for pubs, the hated 10pm curfew is set to be scrapped — with an hour of drinking and eating up time allowed until 11pm.

The PM will today address the Commons with his updated plans before setting out full details of a five-day Christmas relaxation of tiers later in the week.

Mr Johnson is due to tell MPs the increase in new Covid cases in England is “flattening off” after the nationwide lockdown measures.

But he will warn: “We are not out of the woods yet.”

He will unveil a testing push for Tier 3 areas. It will allow them to “draw on the support of NHS Test and Trace and the Armed Forces” for extensive community testing.

Workers in food manufacturing, staff in prisons, and those delivering and administering Covid vaccines are also set to be offered weekly testing from December.

Mr Johnson will vow that “with the expansion in testing and vaccines edging closer to deployment, the regional tiered system will help get the virus back under control and keep it there.”

More than 70 of his own MPs want rules to be relaxed after the national lockdown ends.

But with Labour support, his plans are set to sail through the Commons regardless of any Tory rebellion.

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