CUMBRIA'S health chief has advised people to minimise social contact over Christmas - as debate rages over whether a festive relaxation of Covid restrictions should still go ahead.

Colin Cox said he was concerned about the potential of a third wave of the virus following a loosening of current restrictions of Christmas.

For five days, between December 23 and 27, three households will be allowed to mix indoors and stay overnight in a Christmas 'bubble'.

The British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal joined forces in an editorial to call on the Government to reverse the decision to allow household mixing this, describing it as ‘a major error that will cost many lives’.

Mr Cox said: "We have a high infection rate going into the Christmas relaxation. That doesn't bode well.

"But we can still do something about it.

"Ideally keep your socialising down.

"I know we will be allowed but please think very seriously.

"Think very carefully - particularly if there are vulnerable people in your family."

South Lakes Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron is among those to question whether the Christmas relaxation of the rules should go ahead.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said: “Here is the thing that concerns me: we are close, potentially, to seeing light at the end of the tunnel and we can almost sense people beginning not to dip for the tape but to just let their guard drop.

"On behalf of everyone in this Chamber and beyond, I just want to say that this is the moment for utmost vigilance.

“My dad was sharing that very thought with me the other day and he made the analogy with those tragic people who fell in the hours before the guns stopped on 11 November 1918. What a particular tragedy it was to be those who died at the end when the end was in sight.

“That is what we have ahead of us now, which is why if we need to tighten up restrictions over Christmas, miserable though that may be, we must think, for pity’s sake, don’t we want our loved ones to see summer? Aren’t we prepared to make some restrictions now?”

Barrow MP Simon Fell said: "Clearly any additional mixing is a concern - and we've seen rates rising in both Barrow and South Lakes recently - but providing people adhere to the guidance and remember 'hands, face, space' then families shouldn't be overly concerned."

England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty echoed calls for vigilance, saying people should not meet at Christmas just because they can.

He told the No 10 press conference: “The point of this (relaxation of rules) is for, under certain circumstances, families who wish to, to get together, but they really have to be very, very careful."