Christmas relaxation will go ahead, but UK Government to issue stronger warnings

The planned Christmas relaxation of the coronavirus restrictions will go ahead, but with stronger warnings issued.

Talks between the UK Government and leaders of the devolved administration have backed the planned relaxation despite a series of warnings from medical experts.

After a meeting on Wednesday morning between senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove and leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the plan remains the same.

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They are now understood to be working on a joint statement, suggesting that a four-nations approach will continue.

The Christmas relaxation will go ahead but UK Government set to issue stronger warnings
The Christmas relaxation will go ahead but UK Government set to issue stronger warnings

Today at Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson explained the plans were not changing and accused Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer of wanting to cancel Christmas.

He said: “We don't want to criminalise peoples long-made plans, but we do think it's absolutely vital that people should at this very tricky time exercise a high degree of personal responsibility.

"Not by endless lockdowns or cancelling Christmas, as he seems to want to do.”

This was contrary to the advice issue in Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon stressed her "strong recommendation" that people "spend Christmas in your own home with your own household" and to only mix one of the five days.

She stressed case levels in Scotland were “at the moment lower than in other nations”, but explained they must consider the “evolving situation”.

The FM also stressed the need to limit numbers, saying: “In short, if you have to form a bubble, keep it as small as possible.”

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Mr Johnson’s claims came at a time the First Minister of Wales was announcing Christmas bubbles would be reduced to two households, breaking away from a four-nation approach.

Mark Drakeford said: “Here in Wales, the position is that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during the five-day period.

“The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.”

Earlier Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted that it would be up to people to make a “personal judgement” whether they wanted to meet up with vulnerable family members.

He suggested that some families may decide to “keep it small” and put off larger gatherings until the spring, adding: “Easter can be the new Christmas.”

The devolved administrations also met yesterday, but were unable to come to an agreement.

A YouGov poll on Tuesday showed that a majority of the UK public would accept the relaxed period being scrapped.

It comes after a joint editorial published by two leading medical journals called the decision to ease coronavirus restrictions at Christmas, agreed to by the Scottish Government, a “major error that will cost many lives”.

The article, penned by Alastair McLellan of the Health Service Journal, and Fiona Godlee of The British Medical Journal, said the four-nations approach, which was backed by the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations, was a “blunder”, arguing that NHS trusts faced being “overwhelmed” by a third wave of cases.

The extraordinary intervention is only the second joint editorial in the 100-year history of both publications.

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