Prof Edmunds warned that a “circuit-breaker” would be needed across the country or at least in areas where Covid incidence is high, saying: “The only way that we can have a relatively safe and normal Christmas is if we take radical action now to reduce incidence – at the very least in high incidence areas – and keep the incidence low across the country by implementing a package of measures to reduce social contacts.

“The notion that we can carry on as we are and have a Christmas that we can celebrate normally with friends and family is wishful thinking in the extreme.”

His comments came after the Treasury minister Steve Barclay failed to say whether families would be able to see each other during the Christmas period.

Asked how he would describe the chances of people having a “normal Christmas” despite Covid restrictions, Mr Barclay said: “The ability of families to spend Christmas together – that is something we all hope to do. All of us want to be able to enjoy Christmas with our families, and that’s why there is a common purpose here to get the virus down. It is a common endeavour.”

Meanwhile, as Wales entered a 17-day lockdown on Friday, the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said the action was “about saving lives, not saving Christmas”.

He added: “We think it will work in Wales to this extent. Not that it will magic the virus away, not that we will emerge on November 9 not needing to worry about it, but that it will reset the clock and allow us to get through to Christmas without needing to see a period of such significant restraint.”

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