A Cabinet Minister Has Said Families Should Use “Personal Judgement” When Making Plans For Christmas
Robert Jenrick suggested the government would not scrap the measures despite rising pressure to do so (Sky News)
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said people should use their “personal judgement” during the five-day relaxation of coronavirus restrictions over Christmas despite pressure for it to be scrapped.
It comes after Keir Starmer called on the Prime Minister yesterday to convene an emergency Cobra meeting to review the measures which will allow three households to join together for five days from December 23.
The Labour leader said he was “increasingly worried about the lifting of restrictions” amid rising coronavirus cases across the country.
But, speaking to Sky News, Mr Jenrick suggested that the government was not planning to reverse the measures, saying he hoped that “the legal framework will continue”.
He stressed that families should “think carefully whether this is the right thing for their family and come to their own judgement”, but appeared to rule out scrapping the five-day window.
“My view is that the government can set a legal framework, and then it's for people to use their good judgement.
“You can't legislate for every eventuality, particularly something as sensitive as Christmas where people will come to different judgments based on the vulnerability of their own family, and how important this is to them.
“Because there are many people, as I say, who have been longing to get to the end of a very long and difficult year, and I think we have to respect the fact that people will come to different conclusions.”
However, two leading medical journals issued a rare joint plea to the Prime Minister on Tuesday warning that the "rash decision" to allow household mixing over Christmas could lead to a third wave in cases that could swamp NHS resources in the new year.
According to their projections, the easing could lead to as many as 19,000 patients hopsitalised with the illness by New Year's Eve.
"This figure, derived by extrapolating a straight line from December 5 to December 14 through to December 31, would be almost exactly the same as the 18,974 peak of the first wave on April 12," they wrote.
"Since the UK’s first lockdown in March, the government has had one (perhaps only one) consistent message — protect the NHS,"
"Now, with the number of hospital patients with Covid-19 again on the rise, and a third wave almost inevitable, the new year is likely to see NHS trusts facing a stark choice: be overwhelmed or stop most elective and non-urgent work. Rather than lifting restrictions over Christmas as currently planned, the UK should follow the more cautious examples of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands."
But health secretary Matt Hancock had insisted on Monday that the government would stick to the current proposals, despite concerns around a sharp rise in cases that had pushed London into Tier 3 restrictions.
Writing to the Prime Minister this week, Sir Keir said: “It has become increasingly clear over recent days that the Tier system you introduced two weeks ago has failed to control transmission of Covid-19.
"Sadly, it does now appear that the government has - once again - lost control of infections, putting our economy and our NHS at grave risk in the new year."
He added: "I understand that people want to spend time with their families after this awful year, but the situation has clearly taken a turn for the worse since the decision about Christmas was taken. It serves no-one for politicians to ignore this fact.
"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.
"If you conclude with government scientists that we need to take tougher action to keep people safe over Christmas, then you will have my support.”