UK coronavirus live: allowing mixing at Christmas ‘major error that will cost many lives’, say health experts

Good morning. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has been touring the broadcast studios this morning and he has been urging the government to rethink its decision to relax Covid restrictions over Christmas. This is what he told the Today programme:

We heard from Matt Hancock [the health secretary] yesterday that it appears the government is looking at this again. I would encourage them to do so if they are. The concern is this – the rules have been relaxed for five days, allowing household mixing for up to three different households and inevitably when people are in their own households, they tend to be less vigilant. And my concern is that many people may have the virus and not realise it. They could pass the virus on to older relations.

And he went even further on Sky News. When the presenter, Niall Paterson, invited Khan to be a “Grinch” and to say that it would be best to cancel Christmas, and to close the five-day window opened by the government, Khan replied:

You’re not being Grinch at all. I think what you’re doing is following the science. And actually what we’ve seen across the Europe, and across the world, is those countries that are more effective at dealing with this virus having shorter more restrictive measures that help health and wealth.

So look at Germany and the Netherlands; they’re not for relaxing the rules over Christmas allowing three households to mix with unlimited numbers.

Khan studiously avoided saying what he would like the rules for Christmas to be. But in saying that they should be tighter than currently planned, he is only echoing what scientists, medics and some Conservative MPs are saying. This is likely to be an increasingly difficult question for the government over the next few days. According to today’s Daily Mail splash, urgent talks on this are already underway in Westminster.

BBC News (UK)

Tuesday’s Mail:
“Christmas in jeopardy?” 
 #BBCPapers #TomorrowsPapersToday

December 14, 2020

Of course, this is not just a UK government decision. The four nations of the UK agreed a common approach because families travel across the country to meet up at Christmas. But when the rules were announced Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, and Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, were notably cautious, stressing that what people were allowed to do and what people should do were not the same. At the time UK government ministers were less downbeat, although that is now changing.

Downing Street is saying it has “no plans” to change the rule, although it is not firmly ruling out tighter restrictions. The Welsh government said yesterday that, notwithstanding the four nations approach, it might have a rethink.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Boris Johnson chairs cabinet.

9.30am: The ONS publishes its weekly death figures for England and Wales.

10pm: Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, gives a speech to a Child Poverty Action Group webinar.

12pm: Downing Street holds its daily lobby briefing.

12pm: The Department for Education publishes its latest school attendance figures.

12.30pm: Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, makes a Commons statement about the online harms bill. As my colleague Alex Hern reports, social media companies will need to remove and limit the spread of harmful content or face fines of billions of pound.

2.20pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, gives a statement to MSPs about coronavirus.

Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, like Brexit, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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