IT is important, said Health Secretary Matt Hancock at yesterday evening’s Downing Street briefing, that the “brilliant local media echo the public health messages”.

So we urge our readers to be “careful and cautious” over Christmas, to use Mr Hancock’s words.

We appreciate that the Government is trying to strike a very difficult balance and get its timings precisely correct.

But the media at yesterday’s briefing seemed to be ahead of Mr Hancock, questioning time and again why, when the virus is not under control, the Government is still effectively allowing a five day free-for-all over Christmas.

No one wants to hear the Government dictating to citizens who they can and cannot see, but it is ministers’ duty to set out guidelines for people to follow as best they can.

A very sensible one to come out of the briefing was that if you are planning on travelling from a Tier 3 area to see an elderly relative over Christmas, you should be beginning a period of self-isolation about now, and yet Mr Hancock side-stepped it. That is the sort of public health message that the Government could be putting out to assist people in having a safe Christmas.