Coronavirus lockdown: Allowing family gatherings in England ‘complicated’


Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Jenny Harries and Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, LondonImage copyright
Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/PA Media


Allowing family gatherings is an “important public health issue”, England’s deputy chief medical officer has said – but added it is “complicated” to make the rules fair.

Dr Jenny Harries said such a move could provide a “mental health boost”.

But she said if two large families wanted to meet “you end up effectively with quite a large gathering”.

Some lockdown measures have been eased but restrictions on how many people you are allowed to meet remain in place.

Large gatherings of people are currently banned but two people from different households can meet in outdoor settings, such as parks – as long as they stay more than two metres apart.

At the daily No 10 briefing earlier, Dr Harries was asked whether this could be expanded to allow different households to meet as “bubbles” or “clusters”.

She said such a move would be particularly beneficial to those “who have been on their own or who are isolated from others”.

But she added that any such step had to be “fair” and “consistent with public health advice”.

“So for example if you have families with large numbers already in their families who want to meet up, you end up effectively with quite a large gathering even if it’s just two families meeting.

“I think it’s really important that we think through the implications of that, particularly across families in different circumstances. If your family is a long way away, for example, you may be less able to do that. But recognise what the benefits will be I think for individuals and we are able to put in public health advice to some of those decisions.”

Meanwhile, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick defended the government’s decision to allow potential home buyers to view properties.

Speaking at the same briefing, he said he had been asked why the government would allow people to “look around a stranger’s home but not visits their loved ones or parents”.

Mr Jenrick said he understood “why this can seem confusing at first glance” but said estate agents must follow new guidelines during viewings. These include:

  • Viewings should first happen “virtually”
  • Physical visits by appointments only – no open house
  • Speculative viewings are “highly discouraged”
  • All internal doors should be opened where possible
  • The current occupier should vacant the building during the viewing
  • Hand washing before entering the property
  • And all surfaces, including door handles should be “thoroughly cleaned”


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