The Covid Christmas

The Covid Christmas

Boris Johnson last week defied calls to cancel the five-day relaxation of Covid-19 rules over Christmas, but urged the public to keep gatherings small, short and local. He said there had been “unanimous agreement” at a meeting of the leaders of the four nations of the UK that they shouldn’t “criminalise people’s long-made plans”. However, the UK-wide approach to the festive season broke down soon after the meeting. In Wales, the number of households that can form a “Christmas bubble” was cut from three to two, while Scots were urged to meet for just one day and to avoid overnight stays. Wales and Northern Ireland announced strict post-Christmas lockdowns.

With Covid cases rising across most of England, ministers moved several more local authorities in the east and southeast into Tier 3, a state of “very high alert”; and there were growing reports of hospitals running short of beds. Services were reported to be coming under particular strain in London, where researchers predicted that one in 86 people would be infected with the virus by Christmas.

The plans for a Christmas reprieve were drawn up a month ago, said The Independent, “during one of the Government’s periodic episodes of unwarranted optimism”. The assumption was that November’s lockdown and the tier system would have brought infection levels sufficiently under control by now. Alas, they did not, and it’s clear that relaxing the rules is misguided. “A rethink is needed,” agreed The Guardian. The UK should heed the example of Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, which have all had second thoughts about their planned easing of restrictions over Christmas.

On the contrary, said The Daily Telegraph, the right approach is the one taken by Johnson: to make families aware of the risks and trust them to use their judgement. For once, the Government is prepared to rely on people’s “good sense”. Besides, the review of the tiering system showed that the incidence of Covid is actually falling in some parts of the country. And if the PM called off Christmas at this late stage, said The Sun, who would enforce all these strictures? Johnson can’t win on this one, but he has taken the most sensible path by choosing “simply to reinforce what most responsible people will do anyway”.