Millions of families across the UK have had their Christmas plans plunged into chaos after a huge government U-turn will ban households from mixing.
Boris Johnson said last week it would be “inhumane” to scrap the five-day relaxation of restrictions for Christmas but today he did just that.
The prime minister warned “infections would soar, hospitals would become overwhelmed, and many thousands more would lose their lives” without action to contain a new and highly infectious strain of the coronavirus.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “When the virus changes its method of attack, we must change our method of defence. And as your prime minister, I sincerely believe there is no alternative open to me.”
No household mixing in tier 4
The new strain of the virus is believed to be up to 70% more transmissible than other variants and has seen London and huge swathes of the south east put into a new tier 4. In tier 4, households will no longer be allowed to meet-up or permitted to mix over the Christmas period, except within support bubbles.
New rules for the rest of England means the five-days-three-household-bubbles will now only be permitted on December 25 in England.
“Yes, Christmas this year will be different, very different,” said Johnson. “We’re sacrificing the chance to see loved ones so we have a better chance of protecting their lives, so we can see them at future Christmases.”
‘Inhumane and against the instincts of many’ – the PM’s own words
The Telegraph refers to “fresh draconian lockdown measures” for tier 4 that come into effect tomorrow (Sunday) with the closure of non-essential shops, gyms, cinemas, bowling alleys, salons and hairdressers all shut for at least two weeks. People will be restricted to meeting up outdoors with one person from another household. Travel into and out of tier 4 areas will be banned.
Just three days ago Johnson told a press briefing: “I want to be clear, we don’t want to ban Christmas, to cancel it, I think that would be frankly inhumane and against the instincts of many people in this country.”
Starmer: ‘Country needs clear, decisive leadership’
Labour leader Keir Starmer responded to the news, tweeting: “Millions will be heartbroken by this news, having their Christmas plans ripped up with less than a week’s notice.
“At this time of national crisis, the British people want clear, decisive leadership. All we get from Boris Johnson is confusion and indecision.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports “significant policing is being planned for New Year’s Eve”.
Wales and Scotland announce new restrictions
The first ministers of Scotland and Wales have also announced changes to their Christmas rules with tighter restrictions being put in place.
Mark Drakeford said the whole of Wales will go into a lockdown from midnight with people told to “stay at home” to combat the new strain of the virus. As in England, household mixing will only be allowed on Christmas day, with Drakeford commenting: “While we all want to avoid further disruption to businesses and plans for Christmas, our overriding duty is to protect lives here in Wales.”
Nicola Sturgeon confirmed a travel ban between Scotland and the rest of the UK to try and keep the mutated strain of the virus out of the country. Sturgeon said travel across the border “for all but the most essential purposes is not permitted” and that all of mainland Scotland will enter level 4 restrictions from December 26 for three weeks.