Ministers will announce on Thursday which areas in England will be in each tier when the country’s lockdown ends on 2 December.
The aim – subject to agreement from the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – is for a UK-wide relaxation of rules, reportedly from 22 to 28 December, so that several families can join in one “bubble”.
It is also likely that, under the “four nations” plan, families will be allowed to attend Christmas church services and that pubs and restaurants may be able to open for a limited period over the holiday period.
The prime minister, still isolating in Downing street, will chair a rare Sunday afternoon cabinet meeting, and then on Monday he will make a Commons statement to MPs and publish his “COVID Winter Plan”.
Foreshadowing the PM’s Commons statement, Number 10 said: “It will also set out how people will be able to see their loved ones at Christmas, despite ministers being clear this will not be a normal festive period.”
Ahead of the cabinet meeting, First Ministers Arlene Foster, Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford held a meeting with Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove “on a UK-wide approach to celebrate Christmas despite COVID19”.
Ms Foster, Northern Ireland’s first minister, disclosed that during the meeting she outlined the need for extra flexibility to help those travelling in either direction between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In his statement to MPs, the PM will confirm that England’s national lockdown will end on 2 December, but the country will move back into a three-tier system of regional restrictions, which was in force from 14 October until 5 November.
But Downing Street has also confirmed that while some local measures will be similar to those in place previously, the tiers will be strengthened in some areas to safeguard gains made during the national lockdown.