Sadiq Khan urges ministers to rethink relaxing COVID rules over Christmas


Sadiq Khan has called on the government to rethink its relaxation of coronavirus rules over Christmas.

“What I’d say to the government is I’m not sure you’ve got it right, in fact I’m sure you haven’t got it right in relation to the relaxations over Christmas,” the London mayor told Sky News.

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‘Balance to be struck’ over Xmas guidelines

Under plans agreed with the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, up to three households will be able to form a “Christmas bubble” and meet between 23 and 27 December.

Mr Khan added: “If they don’t change the rules, my message to your viewers is we’re under no obligation to do all that’s allowed, there’s no reason you have to kiss or hug an older relation.”

It comes after a minister told Britons they should “do the minimum” if they visit family over Christmas, despite the COVID-19 rules being relaxed.

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Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay told Sky News that people “shouldn’t misinterpret” what the guidelines say.

“It’s not saying that people must go and see family,” he said.

“It’s saying that where families want to see each other, they won’t be criminalised for doing so.”

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Rising infection rates in some parts of the country, including in London, have caused some to question the festive relaxation.

Critics of the government’s approach have also queried why the capital is being moved into Tier 3 – the highest level of coronavirus restrictions – just days before the rules are relaxed again over Christmas.

Asked if these plans were being reviewed, Mr Barclay told Sky News that “all things are always kept under review”.

But when asked if Christmas could be “cancelled”, he replied: “No.”

Mr Barclay said there was a “balance to be struck” as “many families have not seen each other all year”.

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Hancock defends easing restrictions over Christmas

“It is important for people’s wellbeing, for their mental health,” he said. “We don’t want to criminalise people for coming together as family over Christmas.

“But, it is important that people do the minimum that is possible. So, people will be making their own judgments.”

Mr Barclay said he would not be seeing his parents over Christmas.

Professor Devi Sridhar, chairwoman of global public health at Edinburgh University, told Sky News it is a “bad idea” to relax restrictions for Christmas.

“Scientists can only put forward that evidence… and in the end it’s up to political leaders to balance that against other considerations,” she said.

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Families look to minimise Christmas COVID risk

Professor Sridhar added that “mixing at Christmas is a terrible idea and that should be the message”, adding: “We’re going to pay for this at some point.

“It’s not like it can just happen and that we won’t bear the consequences in January and February.”

Professor Stephen Reicher, of the University of St Andrews, said: “Right now we are heading towards disaster.

“Given high levels of infection across the country and the increasing levels in some areas [such as London] it is inevitable that if we all do choose to meet up over Christmas then we will pay the price in the new year.”

England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, has admitted that the relaxation of rules will lead to a rise in infections.

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“All of this is about balancing the wider needs of society with the need to keep the virus under control,” he told a Downing Street news conference on Monday.

“The relatively modest, actually, relaxation over Christmas will, undoubtedly, put upward pressure on the virus.

“We know that… but the feeling was this is a very important time for many families.”

Professor Whitty urged people to use the relaxation of COVID rules over Christmas in a “minimalist, responsible way” in order to keep the number of cases down in early January, adding: “The key thing is people have just got to be sensible.”

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