Government Urged To Scrap COVID Relaxation Rules At Christmas

The government is being urged to revise its plan to relax COVID-19 restrictions for five days around the Christmas period, with two prominent medical journals making a joint appeal for the policy to be scrapped.

Much of the pressure to scrap Christmas Covid freedoms comes via a joint editorial statement from The British Medical Journal and The Health Service Journal.

The statement by the journals highlights the value of fast interventions in combating the spread of Covid, and cites the Government being too slow to respond earlier this year.

The joint statement on to warn of the consequences of not reversing the Christmas rules in saying: “It (the Government) should now reverse its rash decision to allow household mixing and instead extend the tiers over the five-day Christmas period in order to bring numbers down in the advance of a likely third wave.”

The warnings predict that not cancelling the Christmas relaxations would see a third wave of Covid-19 overwhelm the NHS in the New Year.

The joint statement highlights that if current transmission rates persist, hospitals in England by New Year’s Eve would house 19,000 Covid patients. The same number reached during the peak of the first wave on 12 April. These predictions are based on the existing Covid environment and do not consider any impact from increased household bubbles and increased travel to see extended family during Christmas.

The government has said there are no plans to reconsider the plans, however, health secretary Matt Hancock, warned on Monday he could not rule out “further action” after placing millions of people in the capital and southeast into the toughest Tier 3 restrictions.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan this morning called on Government to reconsider the plan to relax rules over Christmas, and is being joined by others.

As the Government’s primary objective at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic was to avoid the NHS being overwhelmed at all costs. Being now warned in advance that their worst fears could be realised has led many Conservative MPs in voicing concerns to Cabinet colleagues.

Opposition leader Keir Starmer urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urgently convene a meeting of the government’s COBRA emergency response committee, and said he would support any decision to toughen up restrictions at Christmas.

“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,” Starmer said.