U.K. to Set Out Tougher Holiday Guidance as Covid Cases Soar

Boris Johnson’s government will set out stronger guidance for families gathering over Christmas as soon as Wednesday after a rise in Covid-19 cases highlighted the risk of allowing households to mix for five days next week, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Doctors called on Tuesday for Johnson to cancel the planned relaxation of rules, which would see families crossing between nations and regions. The British Medical Association said allowing people to mix is a “recipe for catastrophe.” Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer asked the government to rethink the rules.

The number of people testing positive for the virus rose by 30% in the last seven days across the U.K. and talks between ministers in London and the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to find a common approach to Christmas were due to continue on Wednesday.

Ministers are unlikely to change the rules but are expected to set out stronger guidance, according to the person, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick used a series of TV and radio interviews on Wednesday morning to urge people to use common sense when making Christmas plans.

He told BBC TV he had changed his mind about visiting his own parents, both in their eighties, and would wait for them to be vaccinated. “Easter can be the new Christmas for some people” Jenrick told Sky News.

“We all need to use our own personal judgment thinking about our own families whether we have particularly elderly or clinically vulnerable relatives who might be round the Christmas table,” Jenrick said. “Thinking of some of the examples we can see internationally like Thanksgiving, for example, where lots of people coming together did have consequences after the event.”

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove will meet with his counterparts in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast on Wednesday to try to agree a U.K.-wide approach after talks failed to reach a united position on Tuesday.

Johnson has faced growing demands to rethink his approach over Christmas after the surge in cases, particularly in London and southeast England.

Ministers are also set to review tier allocations across England by the end of Wednesday, with an announcement expected Thursday. London and surrounding parts of southeast England moved into the strictest tier 3 on Wednesday, earlier than planned, after a spike in infections.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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