Boris Johnson Is Telling Families To Keep Christmas Small, But Won't Harden The Rules On Festive Mixing
Boris Johnson said the government would not alter the existing law on relaxing coronavirus restrictions for Christmas (Sky News)
Boris Johnson has urged people to have “a smaller Christmas”, but is refusing to change plans to ease restrictions over the festive period despite a significant rise in coronavirus infections.
The Prime Minister said the regulations, which allow three households to mix indoors for five days from 23-27 December, are “maximums” and “not targets to aim for”.
“We are keeping the laws the same – but we all want to send the same message: a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas," the PM told the televised press conference.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 restrictions currently mean that the majority of the country is complety prohibited from being indoors with anyone they don't live with.
But after fears any changes to relaxing those rules now would criminalise those who had already made plans, or cause larger numbers of people not to comply with the rules, Mr Johnson said they were keeping the law the same.
Instead the message has been toughened, urging people not to simply run with the Christmas regulations and mix with three households for five days, just because it is technically allowed.
As well as saying people should aim not to spend all the time available together, the PM asked Brits to “avoid staying away from home overnight if you can”.
Mr Johnson held a Downing Street press conference after a series of emergency meetings with the leaders of the devolved administrations and their respective chief medical officers following pressure to rethink the Christmas rule relaxation in light of rising infections.
He said: “Having looked at the latest data – with our colleagues in the devolved administrations, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have decided that the overall situation is alas worse and more challenging than we had hoped when we first set the rules.
“So while it would not be right to criminalise people who have made plans and simply want to spend time with their loved ones, we are all collectively across the UK, governments at every level, asking you to think hard and in detail about the days ahead and whether you can do more to protect yourself and others.
“We are keeping the laws the same – but we all want to send the same message: a smaller Christmas is going to be a safer Christmas, and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
"When we say three households can meet on five days, I want to stress these are maximums, not targets to aim for. And of course it is always going to be safest to minimise the number of people you meet.
“And that means that if you are visiting others over Christmas, we are asking you – in the five days beforehand, as early as this Friday - to reduce the number of people you are in contact with to the lowest possible because this virus spreads from human contact.
“If possible don’t travel from a high prevalence to a low prevalence area and avoid staying away from home overnight if you can.”
It comes after the Scottish and Welsh governments have already announced a range of sweeping changes to the existing Christmas plans.
He added: “Remember, the vaccine is on the way and our aim is to inoculate everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable or elderly in the early months of next year.
“So if you’re elderly, the best way to minimise your personal risk is to wait to be vaccinated before spending time indoors with others.
“And if you have an elderly relative, you might want to delay seeing them until they’ve been vaccinated.”
He added: “So have yourselves a merry little Christmas. And I’m afraid this year I do mean little.”
Later Johnson claimed that "cancelling" Christmas would be "frankly inhuman and against the instincts of many people in this country".
Appearing alongside him the chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said the virus had forced authorities to make "really hard choices" between "two bad options".
On the impact of relaxing the rules at Christmas he said: "Any kind of period where people come together in groups that otherwise wouldn't meet leads to an increase in risks and that will lead to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths.
"That's been consistently what we've said will happen, not just scientists but political leaders, but what we've tried to do is to then find out what are the things you can do to reduce the risk.”
He added: "This is the equivalent of us saying these are icy and treacherous conditions, if you wish to have a driving analogy, we should be doing the minimum necessary still within the law.
"Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
"Obviously if everybody pushes it right to the limit in every single household that would be a significant problem but I think it is very unlikely that will happen."