“Although we are encouraged to return to the workplace to support jobs, cafes and so on, we need to do so responsibly.

“As we approach the autumn and winter there is going to be even more responsibility on all of us to keep following the guidelines. Nobody wants to see a return to full national restrictions of the kind we had earlier this year.”

The comments came after Professor John Edmunds, a member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), had suggested Christmas activities could be at risk.

Prof Edmunds said: “The epidemic continues to increase and then we have Christmas. And that is very difficult. What is Christmas? Well, it’s meeting with your family very close. Restaurants and pubs and stuff like that. It’s all high risk, and it’s all indoors.”

He told ITV’s Robert Peston that the UK was in a “risky period” with the ‘R’ rate of the virus above one and added: “We can see the epidemic is taking off again. So I don’t think we’ve hit that sweet spot where we’ve been able to control the epidemic and allow the economy to return to some sort of normality.”

On Monday, England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van Tam, said: “People have relaxed too much. Now is the time for us to re-engage and realise that this is a continuing threat to us.”

He warned that the UK is in for a “bumpy ride” over the next few months if people did not stick to social distancing rules. 

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