Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is to hold a call with officials from the UK’s devolved administrations at 5pm this evening to discuss UK-wide Christmas arrangements.
On 24 November, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed on a common set of eased restrictions over a 5 day period between 23 and 27 December.
Under the eased restrictions, people would be able to form Christmas ‘bubbles’ with up to two other households during the five day period. Travel restrictions across the UK would also be lifted during the period.
However, ministers have been facing calls to rethink the easing of restrictions, with cases of COVID-19 currently rising in many parts of the UK.
Yesterday, it was announced that parts of South East England including Greater London will face the highest tier of restrictions in England (Tier 3) from 00:01 on Wednesday. In Wales, rises in cases following the end of the country’s fire-break lockdown period has led to curbs on the hospitality sector and other entertainment settings.
In a joint editorial from the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal, the plans to ease restrictions at Christmas and allow households to mix indoors have been described as ‘rash’. The editorial said, “We believe the government is about to blunder into another major error that will cost many lives”.
The journals have said ministers should “follow the more cautious examples of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands” over the Christmas period.
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the UK Government to rethink the decision. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Sir Keir said: “It is my view that you should now convene COBRA in the next 24 hours to review whether the current relaxation is appropriate given the rising number of cases.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also called for a rethink of the rules.
However, the Labour First Minister in Wales, Mark Drakeford has said that changing rules at this point would be very difficult, though he has previously reminded people that the plan for eased restrictions over Christmas is not ‘an instruction to meet with other people’.
On Monday, Nicola Sturgeon said that she did not regret agreeing to the four-nation approach over Christmas, however, she did not rule out a possible change to this agreement.
There are fears that people may ignore the rules if they are restricted from seeing their loved ones over the Christmas period, however, rising case numbers are leading to an increasing number of calls for the advice and measures for the festive period to change.