The Home Secretary said she would notify the police if she saw ‘egregious’ breaches of the guidelines, as she urged Britons to scale back their plans.
But she refused to say what would constitute a major problem, insisting the public can use their own judgement.
The intervention came amid ongoing confusion over the UK’s festive season arrangements.
Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that the UK-wide plans for a five-day easing to allow three households to mix were going ahead.
But he pleaded with Britons to have a ‘merry little Christmas’ – while Wales immediately broke ranks by saying only two households will be allowed to form a bubble there. Nicola Sturgeon has ordered Scots only to gather on one day, and said they should not stay anywhere overnight.
Scotland has warned that it cannot rule out imposing stricter curbs after the festive period – something that has already been announced for Wales.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would notify the police if she saw ‘egregious’ breaches of the guidelines, as she urged Britons to scale back their plans
In a round of interviews this morning, Ms Patel said she would not be seeing her relatives in other parts of the country and would spend it with her ‘very, very tight and small family bubble’.
She told Sky News she would be on call over the festive period and added: ‘I will also be spending some time with our frontline police officers on Christmas Day because they are obviously working to keep us all safe.
‘Other than that, I will be in my very, very tight and small family bubble.’
She urged people to change their arrangements if possible.
‘We would urge everyone to be conscientious and to make the appropriate plans and the appropriate changes to their plans as well, hence the point about having a smaller and shorter Christmas,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
She added: ‘I think the British public are smart enough to make their own decisions and judgments and they don’t want to put themselves at risk, they won’t put their friends and families at risk.
‘We’re urging people not to travel. Why would you travel? If you’re in a low tier area, why would you travel into a high tier area? So people will exercise their judgment.’
Asked if she is asking people to cancel their plans if they intend to travel long distances, Ms Patel said: ‘I would urge people to change. I won’t be seeing my parents this Christmas, my parents live in a different part of the country and I will not travel to see them.
‘I want to protect them, I don’t want to be spreading the virus. I feel I will take that responsibility and others will make that judgment too.’
Ms Patel said she would inform the police if she saw people breaching coronavirus laws over Christmas – and made clear that enforcement of the laws will not be scaled back.
‘Any individual that saw any laws being broken would take that upon themselves,’ she told BBC Breakfast.
‘If I saw somebody flouting coronavirus regulations and the laws, of course I would look to inform the police about that.
‘The public are part of this … we do see the public and the police working together.’
However, Ms Patel told Sky News that police should only become involved if there were ‘raves’ going on.
‘Their role is to enforce against the egregious breaches, the raves, the house parties, anything basically that is in breach of the rules that would effectively lead to the spread of the virus,’ she said.
Asked on LBC whether the police should be called if one extra person attended a Christmas gathering, she said: ‘No, I’m not going to go there Nick … I think (the public) have exercised great judgment throughout the year when it comes to following the regulations.’
Pressed on whether the police were needed in the case of ‘one extra grandma or uncle’ at a gathering, Ms Patel said: ‘We do not need to get involved in any of that at all and we’re being clear about household bubbles for the Christmas period, the public will exercise their judgment and do the right thing because they want to protect each other.’
A YouGov poll has suggested that a quarter of Britons would be willing to break Christmas Covid rules, despite Chris Whitty’s grim warning that mixing households over the festive season could lead to a spike in deaths.
Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that the UK-wide plans for a five-day easing to allow three households to mix were going ahead
The research for the Times suggested 22 per cent of Britons believe it is acceptable to breach the rules ‘slightly’, by forming a Christmas bubble with four households, rather than the permitted three.
Some 33 per cent would also be willing to have an extra day with family members – beyond the Government’s five day window.
England’s chief medical officer delivered the stark warning last night that Christmas mixing will lead to more coronavirus deaths in the new year, as he declared ‘this is not a moment to relax at all’.
He bluntly stated that the virus will kill more Britons due to the looser rules over the five-day break between December 23 and 27, and likened the situation to driving at 70mph on an icy road – saying that while it was legal, it was not ‘sensible’.
Striking a sombre tone alongside Mr Johnson at a Downing Street press conference last night, he said: ‘Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn’t meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths.
‘This is the equivalent of saying these are icy and treacherous conditions… just because you can doesn’t mean you should… This is not a moment to relax at all. Quite the reverse.’
It comes as daily coronavirus infections yesterday spiked by 50 per cent in the UK, with health chiefs recording 25,161 cases in the last 24 hours.
Covid-19 deaths have also risen 14 per cent week-on-week, with 612 new victims reported today compared to 533 a week ago.
Mr Johnson warned that the coronavirus case numbers were much higher than hoped when the festive easing had been designed – but insisted the law would be kept the same to avoid ‘criminalising’ families who were desperate to see each other.
The PM said the permission for three households to mix over five days was a ‘maximum’, advised people to decide their bubbles by Friday and isolate beforehand if possible, as well as avoiding elderly relatives. He also cautioned against travelling from high infection areas to lower ones, staying overnight with family, and flocking to high street sales on Boxing Day.
Quoting the classic festive tune, Mr Johnson said: ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas but this year, alas, preferably a very little Christmas.’ But the united front across the UK was in tatters tonight as Wales announced that it will change the law to say only two households can mix between December 23 and 27 – as opposed to three in England.