TALKS over households being allowed to mix over Christmas have been described as "bizarre" by Bolton's Labour leader.

Under the second national lockdown, which is due to finish on Wednesday, December 2, different households cannot meet indoors.

But with covid-19 infection rates reducing in Bolton and across Greater Manchester, there is hope families will be allowed to visit loved ones over the festive period.

With less than two weeks to go until the end of the current phase of restrictions, the Government has not revealed plans about what will happen next.

It is thought that the Tier system will be utilised again, with talks of a an extra layer – Tier 4 – being introduced for areas that have the most concerning infection rates.

There have been reports that suggest households might be allowed to mix indoors for a five-day period from Christmas Eve, and that ministers are considering plans to allow three or four households to form bubbles.

A five-day easing could mean a potential 25-day period of tighter measures into January if the Government follows medical advice

But there have been words of warning from doctors, who worry that the virus may be passed on to vulnerable relatives.

Bolton's Labour leader, Cllr Nick Peel, has cast doubts on the easing of restrictions at Christmas.

Cllr Peel said: “We will await further details of the plans but it does seem bizarre.

“The infection rate came down after the first lockdown and I think we came out of that too early. All the other bits of restrictions had very little effect.

“We have seen the second lockdown seems to be having an effect too which shows that the full lockdowns work.

“It doesn’t seem right to lift the household restrictions and think that somehow the virus will respect the holy spirit of Christmas.

“I understand the economic impact on businesses and I think it would be positive if shops reopen at the beginning of December with social distancing.

“I also understand people want to see their relatives but it does not make medical sense to allow it.

Household transmission is a major way that the virus has been spread."

“It seems like a political rather than a health-related idea.”

Bolton Council's executive cabinet member for wellbeing, Cllr Sue Baines, hopes residents are allowed to celebrate Christmas together in families but thinks that decisions should be made based on medical advice.

Cllr Baines: “People could do with a little bit of festive cheer after the horrendous year we have had.

“The infection rate is going down in Bolton, it was in the 600s (per 100,000 people in Bolton with positive tests) at one point and it is in the 400s now.

“But there are still a lot of patients in hospital and in critical care.

“I know people are getting fed up by the restrictions and it is affecting people’s businesses.

“If people lose their livelihoods it has an impact on their mental health and will affect their physical health.

“It is about getting the balance right.

“There are some positive things that have happened though.

“Track and trace has got faster and it looks like we have got at least two vaccines as well as a new drug treatment for people with covid-19.

It feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Bolton Council was approached but said its public health team do not want to give an opinion about its thoughts on Christmas at this stage.