Close contact with relatives across three households is allowed between December 23 and 27 for the first time since the start of the pandemic – but Whitty said touching them was not a good idea “if you want them to survive to be hugged again”.
He told a Downing Street press briefing: “Would I encourage someone to hug and kiss their elderly relatives? No, I would not.
“It’s not against the law, and that’s the whole point. You can do it within the rules that are there, but it does not make sense because you could be carrying the virus, and if you’ve got an elderly relative that would not be a thing you want to do in a period when we are running up to a point where actually we might be able to protect elderly people.
“So I think people just have to have sense.
“And I think this is very much what I think people will do: the fact that you can do something, this is true across so many other areas of life, doesn’t mean you should.”
Vallance added: “It’s not going to be a normal Christmas. If you want to make those connections with family, it has to be done in a way where you try and make sure that you don’t increase the risk. I think hugging elderly relatives is not something to go out and do.
“It will increase the spread to the vulnerable population.”
Boris Johnson argued that people would have celebrated Christmas even if the rules had not allowed it and insisted the country’s leaders had struck a “sensible balance”.
The PM said: “It is an incredibly difficult decision. You’ve got to strike a balance between people’s strong desire to celebrate a family holiday, perhaps one of the most important family holidays of the year – which they frankly are going to do anyway – and the need to keep the virus under control.
“What we’re trying to set out...