A Conservative former health secretary has said Boris Johnson should have scrapped plans for lockdown easing over Christmas.
Andrew Lansley, who was health chief under David Cameron, admitted his view may make him sound like the Grinch.
But he said it was "wrong" for household mixing to be allowed for five days over the Christmas period.
Asked if he thought the loosening of restrictions was an error, he said: "Yeah. Makes me feel like the Grinch. But I think the short answer is yes, I think it was wrong."
He added: "Well, in truth, I wonder whether we might not have been better, having perhaps a relaxation on things like non essential shops and so on, as he's planned and enabling hairdressers in gyms and other some other services to be open.
"But maybe subsidising the hospitality and leisure industry and accepting that they maybe have to close down."
Lord Lansley said allowing households to mix over Christmas puts the elderly and vulnerable at unnecessary risk.
He said: "Really what it's about is avoiding mixing between households. And mixing between generations.We've got to protect old people. And it really is difficult, I think, to suddenly just say Christmas, well, let's not do that. Let's allow people to mix.
"Why would we do that? We are potentially only maybe weeks, well, perhaps months, but not many months away from the point at which we may be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable and our oldest population? Why? Why expose them to any risk in that period?
"Why allow transmission, potentially to accelerate even for a short period?"
Under the new rules, up to three households can create a one-off ‘Christmas bubble’ for five days from December 23-27.
But grim SAGE papers show the government’s advisors are braced for cases to rocket under the five-day truce announced this week.
Experts warned: “Any relaxation over festive period will result in increased transmission and increased prevalence, potentially by a large amount.”
Even under the special rules, one top advisor said: “This is a spreading event. You can’t avoid that."
The guidance has emerged in SAGE papers from earlier this month, which advised the government on how rules might be relaxed.
The scientists said a fixed bubble system - like the government has created - would reduce the risk but not eliminate it.